What can life science marketers learn from Christmas on the high street?

22nd December, 2022

It may seem strange to compare Christmas in retail with life sciences, but here at ramarketing we take learnings from everywhere and often look to other sectors for inspiration and best practice. And, with our Senior Commercial Manager, Jason Green joining us after a long career working in UK retail, it makes sense for us to take a look at what the high street can teach us about marketing that we can apply to the pharma and life science space.

Jason reflects on his time as a Store Manager, working in sales and most latterly in retail brand & marketing roles…

“In retail, there is one constant. Christmas. Referred to as ‘The Golden Quarter’.”

Fail to plan, plan to fail

Planning for the “next Christmas” starts 364 days before the big day itself. Retail teams are kept busy 24/7 capturing sales and ensuring the most detailed reports are completed – from layouts to reds and greens, to staffing services. Marketing teams produce Director packs on advertising campaigns, promotions and competitor activities many months before the season begins. 

Fast forward to spring and conversations move on to creative discussions about the new christmas campaign and visual mockups, including how each department fits into the campaign. Buying teams would frantically pull together product lines to compliment the brand theme. 

Commercial focus

I remember my first year as a Marketing Manager selecting commercial lines but also seeking out unique products and sales opportunities – desperate to find a new trend before it hit the mass market. 

Moving on to the summer and in-store visuals would be at sign-off stage, we’d photograph Christmas assets and the TV Christmas campaign would be developed. Always fun, but hard work and very long days. 

‘The golden quarter’ starts in the fall and runs over 12 weeks. It culminates in Christmas Eve shopping, before a one day reprieve for the Christmas Day bank holiday and then starts all over again on Boxing Day (26th December), which then leads into the new year sales. And before you know it the whole cycle starts all over again!

Seasonal sales can make or break your year

Christmas is an intensive and valuable time of the year for retailers, and for marketers it can make or break your annual targets and your team’s profile within the business. It’s high pressure with high rewards at stake.

Same but different

There are clearly marked differences and similarities between retail and life sciences. The commercial products and routes to market are obviously different. Pharma and the outsourcing space doesn’t splash out on expensive seasonal ads designed to tug at our heart strings and stir up childhood nostalgia, but both sectors can appreciate audience targeting, product placement, carefully planned marketing strategies and campaign activities backed by research to inform messaging and branding.

The customer is king

Whether we refer to our audience as customers or clients, both sectors put them first. They are our main focus and our activities are developed to raise awareness, stimulate engagement and to convert interest into sales no matter where people are in the buying journey. Brand experience and customer engagement is crucial to both sectors and organizations working across the globe to align BD and sales with marketing to improve communications, audience touchpoints and engagement opportunities.   

Marketing = sales

Whether you work in B2C or B2B, marketing supports sales no matter the sector or the product/service. We stimulate intent, by addressing a problem and demonstrating how our product solves the issue, delivers better value, offers USPs, differs from the competition or improves ROI. 

So, what can we learn from the high street? We can take away a couple of pieces of best practice – from planning early (364 days early), to engaging internal stakeholders and bringing them on the marketing journey, to monitoring our campaign activities and making informed decisions to achieve our targets.    

Seasonal pace

In my current role working in business development, the Christmas period is traditionally quiet as prospects and clients busy themselves wrapping up the year and preparing to take some vacation time. However, this year my colleagues and I have seen a significant increase in clients wanting marketing support for their organization and getting the jump on 2023 with strategic projects alongside digital and PR activities. The pace is not quite the same as Christmas on the high street, but it’s certainly keeping our specialist life science marketers busy!

A notable and positive difference working in an agency is the concept of time off over the holidays. A couple of years ago, having time off during the golden quarter and over Christmas would be seen in retail to be on a par with committing a serious crime! So this holiday season I will be raising a glass to my fellow marketers in retail working hard to keep the cash registers ringing – whilst I enjoy a day or two off over the holidays!

Ready for 2023?

Here at ramarketing we’re ready to support ambitious companies looking to get noticed in life sciences in 2023. Our specialist marketing, PR and design services are rooted in research and are ideal for companies operating in the pharma and biotech space. Contact our friendly team for more information.