The Advertising Miracle of Advent Calendars
Advent calendars have been around for a long time, from the original countdown 2,000 years ago, up to the first known physical advent calendar created in 1908.

A tradition that started as the hanging of devotional imagery each day leading up to Christmas has evolved into brands creating custom product calendars full of daily gifts. Consumer interest has increased +92% since the 2020 holiday season, and our CultureTap team anticipates brand advent calendars will continue to trend during the 2023 holiday season.


Here are some key learnings to consider when planning your brand’s future advent calendar…

Get in the Holiday spirit EARLY!

Consumer searches for advent calendars start as early as September but tends to ramp up each year as Halloween ends. Google, Pinterest and TikTok search queries for Advent calendars see a +25% increase from October 31st to November 6th year over year. Search queries increase by an additional +30% during the week of Thanksgiving but quickly decline after December 5th.

It’s important to make sure consumers are aware of your upcoming advent calendar. Brands like Cult Beauty and Thames & Kosmos announced their 2022 Advent calendars in August and brands like ASOS , Beauty Pie, Williams Sonoma, Dermstore, Godiva, Life Extension and more quickly followed with September announcements. Early announcements earned up to 60% higher engagement rates than the average post in 2022… which highlights consumer excitement and genuine interest.

Count on Your Calendar Getting Reviewed on Social Media

Mentions on social platforms like Instagram and TikTok increased over 40% from 2020 to 2021 and are seeing continued growth from 2021 to 2022. With over 4B Advent calendar video views on TikTok, it’s clear that consumers love to share these purchases on social. Not only do consumers love to share their “unboxing” style videos, they like to watch and engage with the videos. In the past 30 days alone there have been 60K videos about advent calendars shared on TikTok—the topic is currently at 97% peak viewership.

While consumers might love the calendars, they don’t love when the bang isn’t worth their buck. Brands who plan to create them should learn from the mistakes of brands who received not-so-positive feedback. Last year luxury brand Chanel received backlash on their $825 calendar. Consumers called out the sample product sizes. Reviews plummeted when items like a small snow globe and branded stickers were revealed. The people of TikTok were quick to point out that the true value of the calendar was around $250. After receiving the high-volume of negative reviews, the brand removed themselves from the TikTok platform. [Read more in this article by Slate.com.]

In 2022, luxury brand Dior released two advent calendars. The brand marketed their high-priced calendars as “exceptional,” and similar to Chanel in 2021, it didn’t take long for consumers to disagree with this claim.

The brand’s beauty Advent calendar sold for $650. It was filled with fragrances, makeup, skin care products, and signature sent candles. While consumers did give the brand props for the variety of the contents, most reviews were from frustrated customers who claim all the products were “freebies” that Dior customers typically get with a standard purchase. Many videos shared on TikTok are full of negative sentiment, sharing disappointment (example here).

While the reviews of the beauty calendar were less than satisfactory, Dior’s $3,500 “home” advent calendar racked up even worse reviews. Influencer Jackie Aina purchased the high-priced calendar and shared her unboxing experience with her 1.8M followers on TikTok. Jackie posted multiple videos revealing the contents, with her most engaged with video earning over 3.2M views and nearly 450K engagements. While engagement rates were high, the comment section was primarily negative, with consumers calling out Dior for being “cheap” and “stingy” with this high-priced, “luxury” calendar. This video featured Day 6 of the calendar, which revealed the lid to the candle from Day 4. If a consumer were to purchase a candle directly from Dior, the candle and lid would come together… separating them outraged consumers. The most liked comment on the video was “Not the lid coming on its own day 💀💀🤣”, which received over 67K likes. Not only did the brand get flooded with negative reviews on TikTok, the video became so big that the NY Post shared an article about the outrage in the beauty and fashion communities.

Chanel and Dior are not the only brands that have been dinged for their advent calendars, many brands in 2022 were criticized for similar reasons. If your brand plans to create a calendar, remember:

  1. Make sure the sticker value is less than or equal to the contents inside… consumers WILL do their research and share their thoughts on social.
  2. Include a variety of products within the calendar. Many brands this year were roasted for having the same product featured in multiple days, which consumers claimed was boring and “stingy”.

Thinking Outside the Advent Calendar Box

What if your brand doesn’t have tangible items to fill an advent calendar? It’s time to get creative. Here are brands who found unique ways to engage with the advent calendar trend in 2022…

  • HBO Max released their countdown to Christmas Advent calendar that housed 24 “surprise” holiday inspired movies for each day leading up to the holiday.
  • DIY Brand, Rust-Oleum, inspired their customers by promoting a “DIY Beer Advent calendar”.
  • Americas Test Kitchen, a popular series on PBS, released an Instagram-based advent calendar that shared kitchen hacks and tips with their fans. In this video the brand teaches followers how to soften brown sugar after it hardens.
  • Smoothie King promoted their app by creating a 25 days of discounts via a digital, app-based Advent calendar.

The Countdown Is On

Let’s learn all we can from 2022 because the countdown to Advent 2023 starts now. Your brand’s marketing can tap into the cultural moment to make your calendar a true delight to your customers – and your revenue goals. And if you want an extra advent advantage, call us. CultureTap will be there with (jingle) bells on.

Down with MTA, Long Live MEA
Many of us remember the good old days of Multi-Touch Attribution through the likes of Adometry, Convertro, and Visual IQ.

It was a simpler time, with a more open web and rampant stacked and piggybacked cookies to allow for easier user tracking across ad exposures. Even then, many of us will also remember, MTA didn’t often work. Long and complex deployment windows preceded long read-out windows, with anticlimactic culmination around uncertain and often unactionable “insights.” The promise was great, but the performance was not.

Then those MTA independents were swallowed up by tech and measurement giants. They became part of monolithic (and monopolistic) tech stacks and lost all their agility to deal with a less open (more secure) web, the mobile shift, signal loss, and the inevitable rise of walled gardens.

Yet some people still pursue the MTA dreams of their childhood. It would be so cool if it actually worked! Every day forward will be even harder to fulfill the promises of MTA than the days past. Its time to let go.

Marketing Mix Modeling is still great, so keep that to move the big rocks around. For those smaller rocks, one bet is on a shift to what we’re calling MEA, or Multi-Experiment Attribution.

Multi-Experiment Attribution is enabled by the world of precision targeting we live in across most marketing channels today. MEA comes to life with test and control deployment through the use of microtargeted geographies, 1st party data activations, or panel-based marketing activations. Experimental design allows for a better understanding of what really matters – incremental lift. Does that thing you did incrementally drive the business?

Running multiple experiments at one time is much more possible today than it was in the past, when we lived in a broadcast world and needed to cobble “matched” markets together and stare at them for 12 weeks in a row to see if we could get a readable result. Today’s tech, data, and precision marketing tools make things easier with the right marketing science deployed in tandem.

MEA, over time, leads to a solid foundation for understanding the levers of marketing performance. Even better, when used in combination with mix modeling, it offers the ability to validate or calibrate those models accordingly for scenario planning and simulation.

The best news for those of us beating our heads against the MTA wall for over a decade, is that MEA is a future-proof, privacy-compliant alternative to understanding the incremental lift of different channels, channel combinations, and tactics within those channels. Really, that’s what matters most in the never-ending quest for better performance.

Kroger’s Albertsons Acquisition
Kroger and Albertson’s have an agreement in place that would allow the former to acquire the latter for $24.6 Billion. The proposed acquisition is almost double what Amazon paid for Whole Foods Market and its roughly 460 locations back in 2017.

The acquisition would push Kroger’s physical location count to roughly 5k (Kroger currently has roughly 2.8k) and bolster its presence most notably in the northeast while also furthering its penetration into urban markets. The inclusion of Albertson’s and its brands would push Kroger’s annual revenue to upwards of $210 billion.

Reasons for the Acquisition

Footprint/Market Share
With the acquisition, Kroger will grow its revenue, footprint and market share. The combined revenue total of Kroger and Albertson’s would rival that of Walmart, the nation’s largest grocer, making the grocery space that much more interesting.

Growth of Online
Online shopping’s trajectory has come back to earth recently, but it’s potential can’t be denied. Grocery benefited from the strictest days of the pandemic. Store closures were mounting, but consumers still needed to fill their pantries. They turned to online delivery, BOPIS, etc. to fill those needs.

The lessons learned during the pandemic have carried over post-pandemic. Kroger’s recent investments in online order fueled automation (both warehouse and in-store) are further proof.

Retail Media Clout
On the surface, Kroger’s acquisition looks to be footprint focused. But dig a little deeper and one can understand how information plays a part as well. Yes, Kroger will nearly double its location count, but it will also gain access to an additional consumer data source. The markets these Albertson’s locations reside in represent mostly untapped first-party data streams for Kroger.

Pulling all this consumer information into a single repository will be daunting. For reference, the combined reach of both brands would sit at roughly 85 million households. but if accomplished, it’d likely represent the single most comprehensive grocery-focused consumer data set available.

How the Largest Grocery Players Now Shape Up

Kroger’s Growth
Kroger’s footprint, customer base and revenue will increase aggressively if this deal becomes official. Their ability to reach consumers will also benefit. Once relegated to only specific markets, Kroger will now have a near nationwide footprint. It’s something they’ve been laying the groundwork for (and building capabilities around) for some time now.

Despite not having a national store-based presence prior to this deal, Kroger had been building up awareness and capabilities via their online-only efforts. Utilizing technology from UK-based Ocado Group, Kroger has been developing and realizing a series of automated warehouses focused on easing the online ordering and fulfillment process.

Using such automation, they entered the Florida marketing back in Q2 2021. But instead of opening a cache of physical locations, they opted to go the online, delivery-only route. They built out a 375k sq. ft. delivery hub in Groveland, FL with smaller “spoke” locations in Tampa Bay, Miami and Jacksonville.

At these hubs, more than 1k robots move across a giant 3D, automated grid. The technology behind this – dubbed The Hive – has been likened to an air traffic control system. The grid itself contains totes automated bots fill with products from orders, then pack for delivery. The spoke sites, which measure from 50k-70k square feet, are designed to extend Kroger’s reach. Providing logistical access for their same-day and next-day grocery delivery in areas where stores may not currently exist.

Kroger is also bringing advanced technology to their physical locations. For example, they’ve invested heavily in curbside automation. This technology – labeled the BrightDrop Trace Grocery Cart – is designed to aid employees focused on curbside activation. The mechanized cart, containing multiple, temperature-controlled compartments capable of holding 350 lbs., can be filled then wheeled out to the curb by a single employee. The initial roll-out (pun intended) will be limited, but if successful, Kroger plans to go wider by 2024.

Kroger’s ability to adapt with consumer needs is going to be pivotal to their upcoming expansion. They’re a brand whose identity has historically been heavily tied to in-store interactions. Their willingness to evolve as consumer needs shift is a positive sign, but investing intelligently will be key as well. They can’t outspend rivals like Amazon or Walmart, so their investments related to online, curbside, etc. will need to hit more often than not.

Amazon’s Advancements
While Kroger is focused on getting smarter beyond its four walls, Amazon is looking to drive further intelligence within them. They’ve beefed up their Dash Cart functionality by adding:

Increased Capacity: doubled the carts storage capabilities while making it lighter weight
Weather Resistance: it can now travel to the consumer’s vehicle regardless of conditions
Improved Tracking: More precise grasp of cart location/nearby products and deals

They’ve also added their frictionless checkout offering Just Walk Out to their Amazon Fresh locations in the past year. With this technology, Amazon customers simply:

Enter: Scan a barcode or insert their credit card at entry to open the Just Walk Out gates
Shop: Go about their normal shopping while the virtual cart tallies what’s added
Exit: Once ready to leave, scan or insert the same method they used to enter when exiting

Last but not least, they’ve gone the in-store tracking route with their newest offering – Store Analytics. This capability, released during the second half of Q2, is probably the most ambitious. It works in tandem with the previously mentioned technologies and, as Amazon notes:

Provides brands with aggregated and anonymized insights about the performance of their products, promotions, and ad campaigns in Just Walk Out technology and Amazon Dash Cart-enabled Amazon Go and Amazon Fresh stores in the U.S.

Store Analytics was designed to help answer the age-old question of how consumers shop by providing insight into their path to discovery, consideration and purchase within physical locations. This information can then be accessed (in an aggregated, anonymized fashion) via secure dashboard and used to inform things like product selection, online promotions and advertising investment.

• Were consumers who viewed our display ad more likely to purchase in-store?
• Did our in-store digital signage drive the sales lift we were aiming for across specific locations?
• Were consumers who put our products back on the shelf more receptive to retargeting ads?

Amazon has always been a top destination for advertising dollars within the retail media landscape. But they’ve had one gap in their ability to drive outcomes – a lack of in-store presence. Unlike Walmart or Target, they can’t consistently tie ad exposure online to purchase in their physical locations.

But these technological advances, teamed with aggressive expansion of their footprint, could enable them to check that box. Proving out even more value in comparison to other retail media networks.

Walmart’s Size
Even with Kroger’s potential acquisition of Albertson’s, Walmart would still be the largest grocer by revenue in the U.S. It accounted for more than one-quarter of all grocery revenues in the United States with FY22 sales of $467 billion. This includes more than $73 billion dollars in sales via Sam’s Club. Together, Walmart and Sam’s Club’s total store count exceeds 5.3k. A mammoth number.

Walmart also has the advantage of being seen as a lower cost option. Something that has struck a chord even more with consumers as inflation soars and talk of recession looms. Budget-conscious consumers continue turning to Walmart as price tags continue to rise across everyday staples.

And despite the recent growth seen across the online grocery format, Walmart is one of several retailers that continues to invest heavily in their brick-and-mortar locations. These updates are meant to not only make the in-store experience even better, but to aid omni-channel interaction as well.

What It All Boils Down To

Kroger has been vocal about envisioning their brand beyond local grocery. They’ve long viewed the Amazon’s and Walmart’s of the world as their top competitors, not other grocery chains. The waters they’d swim in if this acquisition becomes official would solidify that. They’d be fighting for share against the largest retailer – and the largest online retailer – in an even more direct fashion.

The acquisition would also shift Kroger’s consumer base – immediately making it much more diverse by infusing a healthier mix of both Hispanics and Asians. The added portfolio via Albertson’s would also be 25% more likely to reside in an urban area.

And as their consumer profile shifts, so does their approach to audience data. A more inclusive aggregate consumer means more opportunity for brands to diversify their media efforts. It also opens the door for different brands looking to reach these audiences via retail media.

With a merger of this size, it’s interesting to think of both the niche (and not so niche) interactions and adjustments Kroger has to account for. From the overarching need to fend off the likes of Walmart and Amazon in an online setting, to the effort required to build an improved in-store experience for underserved populations in their newly acquired physical locations. There are going to be many needs – both big and small.

Kroger has always viewed themselves – in a positive way – as something bigger than what they currently are. So, when these challenges truly arrive, one has to assume they’ll be up for it.