How COVID holiday plans can be a win for CPG brands

As we (finally) barrel towards the end of 2020, marketers across industries are bracing for what’s to come of a pandemic-laden holiday season. In order to thrive, marketers need to get strategic and focused with their digital holiday campaigns.

While industries like retail and travel are attempting to nudge people back to their behaviors of years past, CPG brands are uniquely positioned to embrace new audience behaviors and actually increase revenue for the remainder for the year.

In this blog, we’ll uncover how consumer behavior during COVID-19 has shifted, creating an opportunity for CPG marketers this holiday season, and provide quick-turn recommendations to make the most out of their campaigns.

Traditions are off the table, but consumers are adapting

This year, we’re all going to have to alter our holiday plans in some way. For many, this means staying home, hosting get-togethers in limited groups and more people cooking at home. Here’s what we’re expecting to see:

More hosts, smaller gatherings

With the pandemic still in full swing, 51% of Americans said they are going to avoid large gatherings or events—especially when indoors. Large holiday gatherings are going to become fragmented, with more people hosting smaller events.  

Less travel

This holiday season, there are an expected 31 million fewer travelers than last. That is a monumental shift towards staying home. 32% are not planning any travel at all for the remainder of 2020. One-third of Gen Z and Gen Y canceled travel plans for the year.

More cooks in the kitchen

According to Epsilon’s Shopper’s Voice data, almost 40% of consumers are cooking at home more often. Not to mention, 63% of consumers are looking for recipe or meal ideas (pumpkin pie, anyone?).

Less eating out

Consumers have been conscious about the safety of restaurant dining and takeout during the pandemic. 33% consumers will feel safe to go back to restaurants when there are no new cases for a few weeks—which is not likely until a vaccine is widely available.

According to Epsilon’s Shopper’s Voice data, almost 40% of consumers are cooking at home more often.

This shift in consumer behavior has created unique opportunity for CPG brands. More cooks, more gatherings and less eating out means more opportunity for CPG brands to help make the holidays special (even during a pandemic). This is because many of us have followed the same holiday traditions for years, if not decades. Think about where you’d normally be on each holiday this season and the dishes that each person usually brings. Also, Each spin-off dinner from a traditional gathering will require a new cook or host—someone to plan and prepare the meal. Those shoppers will need inspiration, and CPG brands should be on standby ready to give it to them.

Ultimately, CPG marketers have the opportunity to deliver an idea or product that makes a difficult holiday season something to look forward to. But part of getting that right is zeroing-in on the right audiences and activate to reach those valuable new cooks and hosts.

The new key audiences: How to reach the entertainers, cooks and those creating new traditions

To find the right in-market customers discussed above, we recommend focusing your messages on three key audience segments:

  • Entertainers. Consumers with browsing behaviors focused on food, decorating and entertaining during the holiday season. If a person is searching for Pinterest holiday party ideas or fun holiday punch, they’re looking for inspiration.
  • Cooks. Consumers with browsing behavior indicating meal preparation for a holiday dinner, great appetizers and sweet desserts.
  • Those with disrupted traditions. Consumers that have booked a hotel or dined out during Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years of last year. There’s a high probability they will celebrate at home based on COVID-19 restrictions and the current lack of travel.

But there’s a caveat—the success of this new addressable audience truly relies on good data.

CPG marketers need visibility into things like consumer browsing behavior and purchase history in order to best predict their roles this holiday season.

Make sure to prioritize a digital media strategy with strong identity resolution capabilities and a foundation of first- and third-party data in order to meet busy customers where they are, across all their devices.

Idahoan serves up the perfect message for the holiday season

Who doesn’t love a great side of mashed potatoes with their holiday meal? Idahoan recognized the potential to appeal to cooks—or really anyone looking for a creative way to use pantry staples—and focused their messaging on quality and convenience.

This thanksgiving, the CPG giant is ready to engage customers with eye-catching video display, aiming to ease people’s concerns about cooking pre-packaged potatoes for their big meals. Positioning Idahoan as an easy—and quality—option for the iconic side dish, the ads successfully engage the cooks and entertainers looking for inspiration.


These communications are that much more effective when they’re relevant to the audience. In addition to cooks and entertainers, Idahoan is leveraging purchase-based audiences to reach people who buy other pre-packaged side dishes but haven’t tried their potatoes yet.

Their holiday campaign is not the first time this year that Idahoan has pivoted their strategy to reach people in a post-COVID world. They have been quick to connect with people who are cooking at home and are on the hunt for simple recipes or suggestions, like pairing flavored potatoes with the right dish or combining with other ingredients to make a casserole.

Taking a page from Idahoan, by fully aligning consumer data with retail and first- and third-party sources, you can offer recipes (or how-tos, DIY videos, etc.) that appeal to your new audience segments like the entertainers, cooks, and those with disrupted traditions looking for inspiration this season.

The time is now for CPG brands

The holidays are fast approaching, and consumers will soon begin adapting their long-standing traditions to fit this new way of life. While many industries are scrambling, CPG brands find themselves in a unique position to make a real impact this holiday season. With more cooks and hosts staying home and eating out less, marketers should be prepared to take advantage of this reinvigorated audience.

Interested in learning more about how people are shopping during COVID-19? Check out our report, Consumer sentiment during COVID-19, for more insights into how the pandemic is impacting the CPG industry.