There is no denying that 2020 has been one rollercoaster of a year. After the coronavirus pandemic, a recession, and one very stressful presidential election, a lot of Americans need holiday happiness, and they need it now.
This year has been responsible for some heavy stress triggers. To recap on some of them: deaths, lockdowns, job losses, evictions, storms, protests, looting, canceled weddings, canceled graduations, canceled holidays, and a crazy amount of cabin fever. The “season to be jolly” really could not have come fast enough as people reminisce about friends and family gatherings.
Last month e-commerce giant Amazon helped to kick off the holiday shopping season when it delayed its annual Prime Day sale from July to October because of COVID-19. Even before Prime Day, many people had already been searching for Christmas shopping gifts for months prior.
Back in July, image sharing company Pinterest reported Christmas-related searches were seeing a major increase even months out from the event. Holiday searches on Pinterest jumped 77% YoY in April, which included a 3x increase in searches for “Christmas gift ideas.” Other queries like “holiday recipes” and “Christmas” were also up more than 90% and 80% respectively.
Facebook had also published its new Christmas Marketing Guide for 2020 in July. The 26-page guide provides a range of resources to help marketers get their holiday campaigns on track. Per Facebook: “This Christmas shopping season will look different compared to years gone by. However, it’s going to be more important than ever for people to come together and share gifts with their loved ones.”
If it were any other year people might cringe hearing “Jingle Bells” playing in early November, but not this year. This year the sound might be the sweetest sound to many who are aching for a semblance of normalcy to lift their spirits. For others, it may just be an urgency to finish this year once and for all.
Radio stations across the nation have been jumping into the spirit and have been turning over to holiday formats these last several weeks. In fact, small stations like WWIZ in Youngstown, Pa. already flipped to seasonal tunes back in September. Bigger stations in key cities such as Los Angeles’ KOST made their switch last week.
“Because of what 2020 has been like we went earlier than most years,” remarked KOST program director John Peake. “We did a pretty exhaustive survey with listeners asking, ‘Is it OK to go early, do you want Christmas or holiday music early this year?’ And it was a resounding ‘Yes.’” The KOST station went all-holidays at 8 a.m. last Thursday.
“I was just back in the studios with Ellen K. when we flipped this morning, and the response has been bigger than any year we’ve experienced. People were saying, ‘I need a break this year, 2020 has been such a struggle in many ways that I need the escapism.’ I was expecting it to be a well-received event this morning. I don’t think we anticipated how people went sort of bonkers like they did,” explained Peake.
According to Radio consultant Lance Venta, who owns and publishes RadioInsight.com, over 50 stations have flipped to holiday music as of last week. Stations are looking for ways to boost their ratings after losing so many listeners during the pandemic said, Venta.
KOST’s Peake has admitted that every year when the KOST station flips over to holiday music, they see their audience size double. The station is one of the early major market adopters of an all-Christmas format, which they introduced in 2001.
Some stations even tried turning to the holiday music back in spring, says Sean Ross, the VP of music and programming at Edison Research. The traction was not great as most people hated associating Christmas with quarantine.
There are plenty of people who think even now may be too early for holiday music, but according to Ellen K, this year was different when the station made the flip. “I didn’t hear from any of them this morning. It was all, ‘Let’s go.’”