When I was a child, around this time of the year, my mum would put catalogues from toy companies and stores on the kitchen table and my sister and I, armed with scissors and glue, would cut and collage our way to a Dear Santa letter. I am not sure we believed Father Christmas would read it but I retain fond memories of this early Advent tradition, which was usually accompanied by the sound of soup stewing in the pressure cooker. It meant “Christmas is coming” more surely than the festive lights being switched on in the city or the trees in display windows.
Although I definitely do not believe Father Christmas will read my Christmas wish list anymore, I have been trying to find a more elegant way to send gift ideas to my family than an email with loads of hyperlinks.
I settled on a Pinterest board for a few reasons:
1) It somewhat reproduces the feel of my childhood Dear Santa letters by being mostly visual-based. Pinterest could develop the concept by offering alternative backgrounds to its uniform grey, especially during the Festive season. Some users have already created Dear Santa boards, though they are more for photos of actual letters to Santa rather than present desires.
2) It is easy for the board recipients. Say you are after an Alex Monroe necklace (a random idea, of course). You can pin it straight from the site where it is sold. If members of your family live abroad, you can find it on a site which delivers to the country where you will spend Christmas together. You can even add prices to pins so everyone knows what they are getting into. It takes away part of the fuss of gift purchasing; making the chore easier probably increases the chance of you getting what you want. It might not be a LEGO set anymore, but this is the aim of the Dear Santa letter.
3) It can be updated throughout the year and only shared in the run-up to Christmas. This avoids the “Mum do you remember that thing I said I wanted for Christmas back in July? No? Me neither” conversations. Unless it’s my mum of course, she is so organised she would have actually bought that thing in July.
A pinned Dear Santa letter isn’t without a few issues. Making your board available to others could reveal, for instance, an interest in a cheesy 1970s French TV series about a Nordic princess falling in love with an ambassador (another random idea, of course), which you might not want the whole world to know about. The secret feature Pinterest launched this time last year to enables users to track present ideas discreetly, but what happens if some family members are not on Pinterest and don’t want to join?
Another issue, if a board is shared with multiple family members, is how each person will know whether a present is still available to purchase. We can assume some will talk to each other, but it would be helpful if Pinterest could create an easy way to signal something is taken, ideally without forcing them to sign up to the site. On a much larger scale, this could be useful for wedding lists, a huge Pinterest demographic.
Since Pinterest has been working towards monetising its platform, for instance with promoted pins, how can brands integrate the Dear Santa concept in their marketing strategies and drive sales in the process?
1) Pinterest contests have become a part of most self-respecting social media strategy with user generated content. In June, jeweller and luxury watchmaker Piaget, celebrated its Rose collection, Piaget, by asking customers to follow Pinterest.com/PiagetBrand, its official profile on the site, and create a new board called “La vie en rose”. The result? Additional followers and conversation generated across social media. The concept could easily be adapted to Dear Santa letters: pin everything you want from brand X for Christmas, maybe with the added incentive that a few users could win the contents of their board. Or, there could be evolutive boards: a brand encourages followers to pin articles, to take photos of the present being unwrapped, and then of themselves using it. This could provide good cross-platform user engagement in combination with Instagram and Twitter.
2) For a company, having an item pinned is one thing, but the real money comes with conversion. Pinterest represents over a quarter of all social media sales, and in 2012, the average order value was nearly double that of Facebook. Although brands might be happy you want their product for Christmas, the actual spenders, in this case, are your family members. This is a unique chance to convert them to the brand so initiatives like free shipping for customers coming from Pinterest would be appreciated.