For many people, the year-end holidays are the most joyful time of year. The traditions tied to this period bring up feelings like excitement, nostalgia, and gratitude — I.e. the sentiments we commonly see in ads from November to January until they switch to gym memberships and sugar detoxes.
But for many, the cultural saturation of merriment and festive messaging at this time of year can have an alienating effect — especially if their own values and experiences don’t fit the conventional models reflected by the media. This is an ongoing challenge and a great opportunity to realign holiday campaigns to incorporate Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB) practices that broaden audience reach and connect with the spirit of the season.
This year, go beyond the seasonal status quo and center the experience of belonging when developing those holiday campaigns. Take a moment to assess the inclusivity of your work and the impact your brand can make at this powerful time of year. Here are some key identifiers to help you create more modern and inclusive holiday work.
1. Expose Christmas visuals in disguise
The holiday season is deeply entwined with cultural and religious traditions. Practices and customs can be so entrenched, their origins and intentions often go unnoticed.
In today’s global culture, we are more aware of the many observances and celebrations at this time of year and the media has made progress in broadening coverage of celebrations like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Lunar New Year, Diwali, Solstice, and more. Still, however, the terms “festive holidays,” “holiday season,” etc. often refer specifically to Christmas, a predominantly Christian celebration.
The opportunity here is to ensure your visual and written messaging encapsulates that progress by auditing campaign pitches and visuals for unconscious bias and hidden Christmas favoritism. Look for the usage of Christmas icons and signifiers in your visuals like decorated trees, stockings, Santa, or reindeer, and see where you can integrate more elements from other celebrations like big dinners, lighting candles, bonfires, and bells.
*Pro tip: Try filtering results by searching a holiday term and clicking Curated to see the assets selected by our creative team. With an eye for authenticity, originality, and fresh perspectives, they may uncover something uniquely festive you hadn’t thought of.
2. Showcase secular and religious holiday harmony
Religions and spiritual belief systems can build community and create a sense of deep and meaningful belonging. But, when those worldviews are adopted by brands, they can create a divide between them and those who don’t share the same faith.
Opting for belonging through the use of non-denominational imagery and avoiding religious symbols and colors ensures that your holiday messaging appeals to a broader audience, irrespective of their religious beliefs.
Try focusing on emotional experiences to convey the relationships and moments shared between loved ones. Or opt for more universally recognized holiday elements like bright stars, dance parties, peace symbols, cozy gatherings, or acts of kindness to resonate with a wider array of people. Imagine creative color pairings or holographic hues that elevate ads and unique designs. This approach ensures that individuals from various cultural backgrounds or beliefs can connect with your brand on a personal level, fostering a stronger emotional bond and promoting a more united, inclusive holiday message.
*Pro tip: Try exploring our hand-curated photo, video, and illustration Collections like “Family Feast” for big dinner celebrations or “Holiday Raw Cuts”. Stocksy Collections can provide the exact stock photo or video you are seeking as well as offer inspiration for alternative angles on current campaigns and incite new ideas for future projects. Browse all our helpful Collections here.
3. Represent festive families of all kinds
Traditional holiday campaigns have often perpetuated an idealized image of the “perfect” family, typically characterized by a pleasant, nuclear family structure. However, this representation can inadvertently alienate individuals and families who do not conform to these traditional norms. By shifting focus to celebrate diverse family structures, including non-traditional, mixed, extended, and chosen families, brands can take a progressive step toward inclusivity and foster belonging. From grandparents teaching grandchildren their recipes to step-siblings sharing gifts, stories can reflect that connective moments matter most.
Highlighting diverse connections beyond the scope of traditionally defined family units is also crucial for holiday campaigns as many find this time of year to be challenging and even painful. Friendships, pet companionship, bonds with colleagues, plant pals, and involvement in community groups are all meaningful relationships that can be recognized and celebrated to acknowledge more shared experiences by those forging new happy memories.
Incorporating these varied connections into holiday campaigns fosters an inclusive representation that reflects the realities of modern society, where love and belonging are not limited by conventional definitions but are abundant in countless forms.
*Pro tip: Use Stocksy search filters to isolate results based on the number of people and age range in your photos and footage. These parameters can offer more visual interpretations of family and community structures outside the current norm.
4. Shed light on socioeconomic equality
Many holiday advertisements tend to paint an idyllic picture of affluence and material abundance, inadvertently excluding people from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Visuals that showcase excessive gift-giving, lavish shopping sprees, and exotic, jet-setting vacations can be balanced with accessible activities for a more inclusive approach. By shifting the narrative to prioritize photos and videos that touch on themes of connection and love in approachable settings, brands can resonate with a broader audience, fostering a sense of unity and belonging across various socioeconomic groups.
*Pro tip: If you find an image, video, illustration, or collection that resonates with your creative direction, try exploring Stocksy creative search tools like “Deeply Similar” “Visually Similar” and “Conceptually Similar” for alternative AI search results. Learn more about “more like this” discovery tools here.
5. Remember that winter holidays are also summer holidays
The term “winter holidays” often evokes images of American and European festivities, which can sideline the celebrations that take place across the world. Brands can expand their perspective by embracing climate and seasonal diversity, recognizing that year-end celebrations vary greatly based on geographical locations and climates. For example, people in southern hemisphere regions, like Australia, are more likely to celebrate with big lunch barbecues, holiday hikes, and prosecco on the beach. By expanding your global representation, you can foster a more inclusive and contemporary narrative that highlights diverse celebrations and customs that resonate with a broader international audience.
6. Demonstrate how diversity is more than decoration
A significant challenge in holiday campaigns is the scarcity of quality content that authentically represents diverse families, communities, and individuals. By exploring varied celebrations and showcasing the myriad of ways people observe year-end festivities, brands can better diversify the people cast in visual communications and also how they interact with the season.
Think along the lines of a diverse representation of people engaging in activities like rest, close-to-home travel, self-care, or solo time. You can try getting specific by asking colleagues what their unique traditions are. Perhaps it’s an annual football game, a sandcastle competition, or maybe a weekend at the spa. Any activities that create connection and a sense of belonging are a shoo-in for seasonal showstopping work.
*Pro tip: For more ideas on how to find unique traditions and creative holiday activities with diverse representation, get in touch with our Creative Research team. They are intimately involved with the Stocksy Collection and can work with your specific campaign and project needs to find that perfect photo series or UGC video. Let us help you make your seasonal campaign extraordinary. Reach out at [email protected] or learn more here.
7. Show the socially solitary that they belong
Getting together and spending quality time with loved ones can be a welcomed aspect of the season. For many, however, the best part of the holidays is when the social gathering ends with the promise of the quiet solitude of an empty house.
Being introverted or preferring time alone during the holidays doesn’t necessarily correlate with distaste or avoidance. It may be a cherished time spent with one’s self. Perhaps it looks like reading that book that’s been longingly waiting on the shelf, doing some holiday baking, or going on solo adventures to reflect on the year. When creating your holiday campaigns, remember to consider the myriad of solitary experiences that let us know we all belong, regardless of who we do or don’t hang out with.
*Pro tip: Check out our Take Care curated collection for more introvert-friendly ideas or use Stocksy Search Filters to return single subject results.
The power of belonging lies in representation and inclusivity. By decentering dominant traditions, celebrating diverse family dynamics, prioritizing connection over consumerism, and recognizing the diversity in how we celebrate, brands can foster a sense of belonging and make a truly positive impact during the holiday season.