By Kristi Kanitz

Summer tends to be a time that everyone slows down and takes time off. This is true for businesses as well. With employees taking vacations and sales dipping, many businesses question the need for summertime advertising.

So, should a business spend the time and money to advertise in the summer of sun and fun? You would be surprised to know the answer is “yes”! Here are some of the many reasons.

1. Captive audience. When consumers aren’t out enjoying the weather, they are spending more time in their air-conditioned homes. This means a relatively captive audience for your messaging. And since your competitors are likely taking a break, advertising competition is not as heavy in the summer. This makes it a great time to get your brand front and centre.
That isn’t to say direct mail marketing to this audience is always easy. People can be more distracted as the summer starts, so you need to work to get their attention. However, attitudes are more relaxed so many consumers will tend to make purchases without as much research. To use this to your advantage, put your information within easy reach in your direct mail piece. There are more impulse purchases and many prospective purchasers are out and about, from tourists looking for gifts or unique finds to locals stocking up on essentials at bricks-and-mortar locations. Place products or services attractive to these groups prominently in your advertising. Consumers also tend to spend more on themselves versus the winter when they tend to do more shopping for others1, so keep that in mind as well.

2. DIY and hobbies. Many folks tend to plan projects in the better weather, from do-it-yourself (DIY) inside and outside the house to starting new hobbies. Home repairs and renovations are most often scheduled in this season. See if you can tweak your advertising to tie into this, for example a spa/fitness facility could advertise their services as a way to deal with reno-stress. Local stores and restaurants can promote delivery service as a benefit to homeowners too tired to cook after finishing endless yardwork.

3. Families with children. This group tends to have the most disruptions in the summer. Routines are displaced by playdates, sports and other activities so shoppers tend not to be as organized. A U.K. study shows 60% of consumers with children change their shopping routines for essentials in the summer. They tend to shop in larger quantities less frequently (probably to avoid having to take the kids!) and saving money is a priority2. If families with children form part of your target demographic, be sure to keep the advertising focus on easy purchase options and lots of attractive deals.

So, what are people shopping for in the summer? Seasonal items are obvious: furniture and equipment for outdoor activities and gardening, vacations and convenience food and drinks, as well as things to keep the kids entertained and active, such as camps and amusement park tickets. There is a higher level of consumables purchases: think sunscreen, snacks and propane for the BBQ. There is less planning and structure and more reacting based on factors such as the weather, activities and vacations

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Ads, mailers, marketing that works
With these factors in play, how does the savvy marketer grab the attention of prospective customers when they are busy with the summer? Here are some suggestions tried by advertisers:
Summer-themed ads (or contrast by making it winter-themed) to showcase the warmer months and focus on how your products can make the summer better.

Offer unique summer deals; Die-cuts with fun and funky shapes to stand out in the mailbox; Advertise local events to connect your business with the community and add to the shelf-life of your printed piece; If your company isn’t summer-related, partner with one that is. For example, a car dealership could offer golf packages at a local course as an incentive for test driving;
Share a recipe related to the summer: it will make your company relatable and customers are more likely to keep the piece; Focus sales on the holidays (Canada Day, Civic Holiday, Fête nationale, Labour Day) and back-to-school; and Connect with life events that tend to happen in the warmer months: graduations, vacations and weddings.

The summer is a great time for catalogues and flyers, making your information easy to find and keep for busy shoppers. Be sure to target your mailings too, using demographic data to laser-focus on your best customers. While things are slower, it is a good time to explore new social media for your business or consider a rebranding before life gets hectic again in the fall. And if you are part of the back-to-school season, be sure to send your direct mail pieces early and often!

The summer season is short, especially in Canada, and that means we do our best to take advantage of every warm moment. But the warmer weather doesn’t mean customers aren’t paying attention to the marketing messages around them. Direct mail pieces that are relevant, targeted and with a seasonal twist will deliver return on investment (ROI) even as the population focuses on barbecuing and relaxing. As well, with other businesses scaling back their advertising for the season, your brand might be only one representing your industry in the consumers’ mailboxes.

So, should you consider direct mail in the summer? Absolutely.

Kristi Kanitz is the general manager of Flagship Software Ltd. (www.flagshipsoftware.com) and the chair of the board of directors of the National Association of Major Mail Users (NAMMU), (www.nammu.ca) the Canadian mailing industry association. Kristi has been in the mailing industry for more than 20 years and is a frequent presenter at industry events.

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