Holiday marketing can be tough. You've got to figure out your target market, what kind of content to create, what promotions will bring in customers... and, of course, how to beat your competitors.

Some of the coolest holiday marketing campaigns of years past can prove instructive, so we've identified five campaigns, along with takeaways, to help your holiday marketing achieve better results.

1. Stroke your customers' egos

Holiday shopping for family and friends can sometimes seem an Olympic sport, especially if you have a large family. You want to buy everything that your loved ones want, and you want to do it fast and cheap. And if you can manage that, you'll be the hero of the family.

Target's 2011 holiday campaign included "The Christmas Champ" online, in video, and in print, and poked a little fun at zealous holiday shoppers. One thing is for sure: There was some truth in the persona of that mom who worked out, researched sales, and mentally prepared for shopping, and many Americans identified with her intensity.

How to stroke your customers' egos? Targeting. Study the traits of your target market and develop content that identifies with their personalities or needs.

2. Solve a genuine problem

Getting just the right gift for someone has always been an issue with holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations. Receiving the dreaded animal-print knit sweater from grandma has always been a fear made fun of by gift recipients.

eBay appealed to buyers by advertising that they have everything on your loved ones' lists—but cheaper than elsewhere—so customers don't have to worry about being the "worst gift-giver" this holiday season.

How do you solve a genuine problem for your customers? Demonstrate the "why" of your product or service. Find an issue or need that your customers are having, and place your product in that slot.

3. Play to spirited competitors

Santa brought you a set of legos last year? Well, guess what, mommy just got you a Playstation 4 and that's waaaay better. Who's No. 1 now? Best Buy's "Game on, Santa" campaign gives all the glory to shoppers who get the best electronics from the retail chain.

How do you ignite the competitive spirit in your customers? Try price comparisons to show that you're the lowest, or availability of in-stock products while others are sold out.

4. Customize and personalize

OfficeMax's long-running "Elf Yourself" campaign (starting in 2006) resonated with its audience because it was customizable, personalized. and shareable. Not to mention funny! It was also free of blatant product advertisements or selling points, which made it a genuinely likeable piece of holiday content marketing.

How do you customize your holiday campaign? Allow your prospects to infuse themselves into your campaign somehow, or base your marketing materials on their recent purchases.

5. Sprinkle a little magic inside

Macy's continuing Believe campaign is filled with philanthropy and social good: "For each and every stamped letter dropped off in a Santa Mail letter box through Christmas Eve, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million, to help grant wishes for children who have life-threatening diseases."

This campaign is a reminder that the holidays aren't always all about us, and taking the time to make sure someone else has a magical holiday season is worth more than presents. Macy's campaign was magical because it made dreams come true for kids, with an interactive online experience that was based on Christmas traditions.

How can you do it? It could be as simple as decorations in your brick-and-mortar store or a holiday refresh of your online graphics. If you find a charity that resonates with your brand and your community, tis the season for giving, so don't hesitate to give.

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What are some of your favorite holiday marketing campaigns? Have you created your campaign yet? Share with us below!

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image of Stacey Acevero
Stacey Acevero is the social media manager at Vocus and PRWeb. Stacey blogs at Vocus on influential marketing and social media, and she blogs at PRWeb on public relations and SEO.