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Year-round relevance: 5 ways brands can engage during their off-season

From hot chocolate in the winter to school supplies in the fall, there are certain times of the year when it seems like your products could simply market themselves. However, during the off-season, when consumers would rather buy coats than your brand’s swimsuit line, finding ways to keep your brand relevant becomes a challenge. Here are a few creative ways brands have engaged with their customers — even during parts of the year when they might not exactly be top-of-mind:

1. Sponsor or host an event.

During the summer, Iceland enjoys a bustling tourist season. In 2012, 47 percent of Iceland’s international tourists visited during the summer months. However, during the winter months, Iceland’s tourism industry experiences a lull. One way that the city of Reykjavik and Icelandair have drawn tourists to the area during the off-season is by holding a major music festival, Iceland Airwaves, that spans the entire city of Reykjavik in November. The festival has been going strong for 15 years and usually sells out of its 8,000 tickets, but the online buzz it inspires is the real benefit. Coverage from tourism and music outlets like Lonely Planet and popular indie music blog Pitchfork have helped put Reykjavik on the map as a notable music destination, even in the colder months.

2. Extend your season.

Believe it or not, there are solutions for marketing even highly seasonal products like Christmas trees during the off-season. One way that Thomas Harman, founder of California-based Balsam Hill Christmas Tree Co., extended his season was by marketing his trees a month early. The company has since been named one of the fastest growing private companies in Silicon Valley. Early bird prices and promotions can also broaden opportunities beyond the reach of standard calendar months.

3. Stay active on social media.

Sports teams especially have to find creative ways to engage fans during the off-season when games aren't creating natural buzz. One hockey team, the Tampa Bay Lightning, has successfully built an active social media community of over 500,000 followers that's engaged regardless of the time of year. Their social media manager Caity Kauffman says that capitalizing on obscure holidays has been an unexpected avenue for engagement. "Our digital team has this minor obsession with obscure holidays," she says. "Beverage Day? Bring it on. Lefthanders Day? We've got plenty. Frankenstein Day, I'm coming for you."

4. Circle back to customer personas.  

One way that marketers can keep customer interactions relevant and ongoing is to set up personalized email and mobile campaigns. Segmenting customers based on their purchases and behavior data can provide fodder for off-season email and mobile content. For example, a customer who has purchased winter skiing equipment may be interested in information about how to stay in shape for skiing during the off-season and what products and activities can help that.

5. Curate user-generated content.

In the summer of 2012, to get consumers excited about the upcoming snowboard season, Nike Snowboarding started a “Get Laced Up” campaign that encouraged fans to share their stories about what gets them excited for the winter. Nike collected stories and shared photos on social media of fan snowboarding gear, keeping enthusiasts excited about snowboarding during the warmer months.

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