Tis the Season for Consumerism: 3 Ways Companies Exploit the Holidays

It’s November 1st everyone! Aka: The initial day where society tells people that it’s acceptable to not only finally set their radio presets to the holiday music stations, but also that it’s time to begin to fill their everyday mindsets with thoughts of spending, spending, and more spending until the New Year rings in.


Although I have made the personal decision to avoid going into full on holiday mode  and getting in the spirit of emptying my wallet until Thanksgiving rolls around, it seems that every year companies start their period of pushing their definition of “holiday cheer”, or extreme consumer advertising, to begin earlier and earlier.

Everywhere we turn during this season, from our holiday Starbucks coffee cups, to ads promoting holiday sales on Pandora between every song, companies influence us to begin to activate our holiday mindsets. Corporations advertise this period as a time for showing your gratitude for your loved ones, and highlight that the only acceptable way of doing so is purchasing the hottest brand name items on the market for them as a token of your love.

When society dives into the holidays, instinctively families begin to take part in seasonal traditions. During this time, companies administer strategic festive rituals of their own, to engage the public and encourage the idea that consumerism and the “most wonderful time of the year” go hand in hand.

christmas marketing

Here are just a few of many ways in which companies exploit the meanings of the holidays and associate their brands with the season’s festivities:

  1. The “Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade”

Families gather around the TV in the living room, surrounded by the company of their cherished ones while taking in the scent of a cooking turkey lurking through the house, the morning of Thanksgiving to tune in to this annual celebration of holiday festivities and dominating brands. Children watch as their favorite Marvel and Disney characters soar through the air as balloons, and their consumer brains are stimulated as they begin to fill up their mental holiday item lists. Millions of viewers watch entertainment unfold as their favorite companies showcase characters singing and dancing in the name of the holidays through the streets of Manhattan.


2. Black Friday and Holiday Sales


This tactic of assigning one day for consumers to make all of the holiday wishes of their loved ones come true is strategy at its finest. This annual tradition, which promotes the biggest blowout sales of the season and attracts madness across department stores and shopping malls worldwide, is less than discrete in masking corporations’ roles in the holiday season. Retailers and companies advertise this day of ruthlessly spending with the promises that all of their lists will be checked off in one trip, so that families can then devote the rest of the season to pursuing the “true meaning” of the holidays.



        3. Holiday Movie Specials

One of the most memorable parts of the holidays for me, and a majority of consumers, is  counting the days down to Christmas through viewing the most classic films of the holiday season. Networks who air holiday movie specials, such as Freeform with the “25 Days of Christmas” stimulate repeat viewers with weeks of nightly binge watching to encourage the action of families coming together to carry on a yearly tradition and to get them into the holiday spirit. Networks use these positive messages of bringing families closer during the holiday season as a tactic to boost their ratings.



Embracing the joys of the holidays and Christmastime should ideally be centered around giving thanks, showing gratitude, and spending time cherishing loved ones. Companies will use and abuse this message to their advantage, and try to incorporate their brands as being an essential part to the meaning of the holidays. Now I’m not trying to “Scrooge” the holidays and say to take all of the fun out of the season of giving (and spending), or boycott multiple viewings of “Frosty the Snowman”. I instead am suggesting that during this holiday cycle, you simply take a step back to be mindful of the motives behind this seasonal advertising, and try and figure out if you would define the true meaning of the holidays as the time to break your banks over material items and put your year’s earnings into the pockets of the big name corporations.

-Jordan Flaherty