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And so this is Xmas..

Posted by Michael Bloch in online world (Sunday December 25, 2005 )

My 36th Christmas, and as I have done for 2 decades, I try my best to ignore the day :). It’s a little unfair on the rest of the family I know; but as my loving partner says “I yam what I yam”. They are off celebrating it with other family members, which I’m pleased about – while I hide away here. Everyone wins :).

I think I’ve even managed to escape explicitly wishing anyone a “Merry Christmas” this year. I’m getting better at it as I get older.

Why am I like this? It’s a long story which I won’t bore you with and the pile of reasons gets higher each year.

It’s been a challenge as an online business owner and marketer to try and dodge it each year, given the obligations to crank up the hype during the buying season. But there are ways around it as I suggest in my Christmas marketing article.

Hiding away is definitely not as easy as it once was. Everywhere you turn, there’s the marketing; especially online. Aside from the Xmas email viruses and usual holiday season related spam, including some spammers drawing a parallel between pills and how happy I can be on the day if I just use X, there’s sites covered with fat men in red suits, reindeer, snowmen and empty slogans.

I’ve had dozens of emails from companies I’ve purchased from attempting to spread yuletide cheer – and to sell me stuff of course.

One that was in particularly bad taste was a brief email that basically comprised of these elements:

– A “happy holidays” type greeting
– Thanked me
– Told me how good they were
– Contained a religious image
– Tried to sell me a product

All that within a space of less than a dozen lines – plus the image. Talk about conflicting messages. I guess they thought they were being smart and covering all bases. All it did was offend me.

I’m by no means religious, but I do understand and respect the roots of Christmas. I think it’s high time that more companies did as well. We also tend to forget the types of pressures put on struggling families at this time of the year. Many bad things happen to good people on this day each year as a result of our marketing efforts and how we’ve twisted what Christmas is all about.

What’s the answer? I really don’t know. Perhaps the focus should be on giving to those who have very little. Instead of buying loved ones and associates gifts, we could ask them who their favorite charity is and donate cash or goods to that organization instead. It would be a gift to the charity on behalf of them. Or perhaps leave an anonymous gift to a family we know is struggling. This is already done by some, there just needs to be more of it. Retailers could still make their cash through purchases for donations, and the needy could also benefit greatly.

Sure, under my utopian vision, retailers in many sectors may not turn the usual profits at this time of the year, but perhaps there would be some equilibrium – there’s plenty of other opportunities to create a spending frenzy in market segments. Little Johnny would just get his iPod on another date.
Perhaps those online businesses that could potentially suffer under this hypothetical arrangement could actually *make* more money. Allow me to explain…

Heading into the holiday season, retailers pour a heap of cash into marketing, not to mention thethinner profit margins they experience while they compete with every other retailer doing the same. Perhaps if the traditional Christmas spending/buying frenzy were obliterated, things would just all balance out over the year?

I do understand that successful marketing isn’t just about addressing need, but creating it. Christmas is a perfect example of it. The origins of Christmas had nothing to do with giving gifts to each other – the marketers invented that; we created that need.

I just feel that there’s got to be a better way to turn a buck without turning a day of spirituality and family for many millions of people into yet another instance of rampant consumerism, overindulgence and debt. Our species is in big trouble, we need days like December 25 to focus on what is really important.

Until the day comes that Santa Claus and all his trappings is shunned by the majority of the western world, I will continue in my anti-xmas attitudes. So many times I hear people say “oh, how I hate Christmas” – and yet they continue to fall for what we as marketers tell them they must do in order to properly celebrate the day.

And here’s something else to think about – what’s one of the first lies we tell our children? It’s the concept of Santa Claus.

I’ve often been accused of trying to ruin Christmas for people – I don’t, that’s already been done. This rant is my gift – using my online presence to hopefully make one or two people stop and think. If you feel the same way and have a site or the blog; don’t be afraid to voice your thoughts – the more of us that do so, the better the chance of a sweeping change to attitudes.

In closing, while I won’t wish you a Merry Xmas, I do *sincerely* extend my best regards to you and your family and wish you all prosperity; but more importantly – peace in 2006.

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