As 2017 comes to a close, so begins the tradition of holiday campaigns and sale extravaganzas. But some brands seem to be taking a more subtle marketing approach this year.
One such is S'well, a NYC-based water bottle company that generates $100 million in annual revenue. But S'well won't be offering slashed prices this holiday season. Instead, it will maintain price points and collaborate with charities and companies to sell new, limited-edition products. (In the past, the company has worked with designers like Anna Sui and Lilly Pulitzer.)
While S'well will feature a few select promotions, it will mostly offer speedy shipment to guarantee that gifts make it in time for the holidays, says Kristin Morseman, the company's senior VP of global e-commerce.
"For us, the [holidays are] more about offering beautiful, elevated unique products," she says. "We feel this creates elevation and desire, instead of just offering a percentage off."
Focusing on value, convenience, and giving back
On October 1, S'well launched its Swarovski crystal bejeweled bottles. One item from the collection, the Brilliance Jolie bottle, is covered in 6,000 Swarovski crystals. While it retails for $1,500 (a steep hike from the normal price range of $25 to $50), 100 percent of net profits goes to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
Another item is the Radiance, which has 500 crystals on the cap and sells for $150. Twenty percent of net profits will go to partnering charities like UNICEF, (RED), and the Swarovski Waterschool. Since 2015, S'well has committed $800,000 to UNICEF to provide safe drinking water to communities in need.
But other water bottle companies are also taking the charity route. Bkr, S'well's closest competitor, also partnered with Swarovski this year. The company makes glass bottles wrapped in silicon rubber, and markets itself to a fashion-conscious consumer.
How data played a major role in S'well's new strategy
S'well has certainly tried its fair share of common holiday marketing strategies in past (those mostly relied on email campaigns during peak shopping times). But this year, the company will release a holiday gift guide featuring limited designs that customers can find only on the website. Morseman says the goal is to create consumer "desire" for S'well's new products.
In mid-September, for the first time since Sarah Kauss started the company in 2010, S'well launched a new line of "hydration fashion accessories"--which is how Kauss refers to her water bottles. The pre-holiday collection includes the Traveler, a larger, different shaped bottle with a wide mouth, and the Tumbler, which is a metal cup.
Morseman says that using big data and analytics helped the company fine-tune its product strategy. For instance, it found that consumers were more likely to purchase multiple bottles as gifts before the holiday season began, which hinted September as the best time to launch the collection.
Two (or more) is better than one
On November 21, S'well will release six new bottles designed by Liberty London Fabric, a high-end U.K. department store, sold exclusively through Starbucks.
Kendra Peavy, VP of corporate communications, says releasing six new limited-edition bottles to be sold through one of S'well's most important partners will boost holiday hype. "Partnerships and collaborations are a key component to our business and how we think about providing something new and different to our customers," says Peavy. "It is a differentiator for us."
Of course, hundreds of thousands of companies are hoping for big holiday sales. James Thomson, a partner with BuyBox Experts and former head of Amazon Services, says companies need to focus on driving traffic to their websites and Amazon pages, despite a holiday promotion strategy.
"It's a brutal world out there," says Thomson. "You can talk about the story, the emotional connection customers have with your brand, but at the end of the day, a product is a widget and there are hundreds of millions of products out there. Even if you have a loyal customer base, you need to work hard to make a customer engaged."