Last year on December 3, when Elise Harmon, a TikToker posted a video of herself unboxing a Chanel product, little did anyone know just how much attention the French luxury house or Harmon would receive over her posts. The item in question was: an advent calendar.
It happened to be the first ever produced by the brand, but as Harmon’s videos revealed, post by post, content (online and offline) is everything. And what Chanel’s advent calendar lacked was the strategic nous demonstrated by many of its peers to meticulously curate and beautifully package every single item so that they quite simply, “spark joy” for those who get to open them.
Nearly every child that celebrates Christmas can remember the simple joy of opening an advent calendar. The number indicating which door to open, the chocolate hidden behind each little door, the joy you felt when it was your turn to choose.
Some would argue that these novel treats are a long way off the first Advent Calendar, used by Lutherans in the early 19th Century. Focused on religious education to count down the days to the birth of Christ, children opened the doors to find verses of the bible, not sugary little treats.
Fast forward to the year 2022 and those expectations have changed, dramatically. Forget about your novel 25 chocolates, if there isn’t at least a scented Jo Malone candle and an Augustinus Bader Rich Cream sample tucked behind the door of a beauty Advent Calendar, then what’s the point?
As early as September each year, my industry starts to leak previews and invitations to sign up to waitlists for Advent Calendars that are meticulously curated, months in advance, by brand and retailer marketing teams.
And while I’m certain that there is some debate as to which beauty company was “the OG” in terms of one of the most lucrative marketing initiatives of the season, from my own 12 years of experience in the industry, it is the retailer Liberty London that undoubtedly deserves the credit.
The original Liberty beauty calendar, launched in 2014, continues to see high demand with 2022 quantities up 30 percent compared to 2021. It is the fastest-selling product of Liberty’s 150-year existence – it even has its own launch party attended by industry glitterati. This year’s calendar launched on 28th September and retails at £245, with a value of £1065. Boasting 25 drawers and containing 30 products - twenty of which are full-sized from desirable brands such as 111Skin and Sunday Riley. It has shown that time and time again, consumers want that tangible route into luxury.
Beauty’s reinvention of the Advent Calendar and its continued success demonstrates just how important this marketing ploy is for luxury brands, as it provides a triple-win situation for customer, brand and retailer. In the prolific digital age where consumers are bombarded via display ads, pay-per-click, YouTube, Meta ads, and so forth... the physical desire to have a tangible route into luxury beauty has never been greater.
Internal budgets increase year on year for digital marketing channels, however, the ye olde tradition of basic sampling remains a key conversion strategy. Statistics, from sampling companies such as Odore and Bazaarvoice, show between 50-60 percent customers of whom receive samples continue to purchase the full-sized product. Advent calendars provide exquisitely packaged and lucrative opportunities for placing 25 product samples directly into the willing hands of paying beauty consumers.
It's a win for brands, who get to shift their samples into the hands of their ideal prospect audience, benefitting from strong visibility across retailer channels and social media. The mass reach of #gifted influencers creating engaging unboxing content, that is consumed and digested in under 30 seconds, is never in vain.
It’s a win for retailers, who save money as the majority don’t have to pay the brands for samples. Their costs lie purely in the packaging and fulfillment. Retailing the calendar for £200+ provides a solid margin for that golden quarter we refer to as Christmas retail.
And it’s a win for consumers, who get to awaken their childhood nostalgia in a more bougie, adult way. Their gain is experiencing the surprise and delight every day in the lead-up to Christmas, not to mention “the saving”.
The strategy appears relatively straightforward. And yet, even one of the world’s most storied luxury brands can get it wrong, clearly. String bracelets, stickers, and dust bags are not what makes the mark in today’s day and age. Brands must ensure their content provides authentic surprise and delight through products that offer value and that their customers actually desire.
Beauty often leads the way forward when it comes to innovation, and we are seeing other industries regularly appropriate the road that it has paved, such as liquor, coffee, and even jewellery.
So, whilst we wait for the next evolution and revolution to come, please see my selection of the most luxurious Beauty advent calendars this year. From the exquisite packaging, to the sensorial and weighty contents; experientially from start to finish, they are the perfect excuse to evoke that same self-indulgent, excitement from youth – even for the most mature adults.