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From gingerbread dive bars to singing lasagna, The Drum’s favorite holiday stunts so far


By Kendra Barnett, Associate Editor

December 6, 2021 | 6 min read

For many brands, holiday sales are the gift that keeps on giving. But getting consumers’ attention during the most wonderful – and bustling – time of the year is no easy task. That’s why you’re seeing everyone from Nestlé to Heineken up the ante with special-edition offerings and playful stunts. Here are five of The Drum’s favorites thus far.

Miller High Life gingerbread dive bar

Miller High Life’s gingerbread dive bar is just one of countless cheeky holiday stunts this year

1. Miller High Life invites fans to build gingerbread dive bars

Miller High Life gingerbread dive bar

Move aside, gingerbread house; the gingerbread dive bar is here. Miller High Life has rolled out a limited-edition gingerbread kit complete with teeny peppermint barstools, a pool table featuring pretzel cues, colorful gumdrop lamps, a gingerbread bartender and, yep, beer-infused gingerbread cookies to serve as walls and a rooftop. Available as of this week, the kit retails for a cool $50.

Miller isn’t the first to launch its own spin on the Christmas tradition – Nintendo fans can purchase their own Super Mario gingerbread castle; Lego’s Creator line launched a plastic building blocks version of the sugary structure; and just last year Ikea rolled out patterns for consumers to assemble their own gingerbread versions of popular Ikea furniture, including the Strandmon armchair and the Jokkmokk table.

2. Panera has a laugh with ‘ugly’ holiday cups

Panera cups

Forget ugly holiday sweaters. Fast casual café chain Panera Bread has teamed up with TikTok phenomenon Emily Zugay to create ugly cups. Zugay has become a viral sensation thanks to her comedic video series in which she satirically redesigns popular brand logos. Her refreshed versions, which are often reminiscent of Microsoft Paint- and clip art-era designs, have caught the attention of the biggest brands in the world, who flock to her videos to request redesigns.

Jumping on to the classic limited-edition holiday cup bandwagon made mainstream by Starbucks, Panera has partnered with the Michigan-based creator to bring consumers a line of four specially-designed reusable cups featuring Zugay’s ‘ugly’ designs. One cup features misshapen gingerbread people, while one pays homage to Santa’s ‘Raindeer.’ The company’s chief brand and concept officer Eduardo Luz said in a statement that the holiday cups “send a friendly message that while we may focus on décor, gifts and holiday cards during this busy season, it’s important not to lose sight of the things that come from within – joy, family, memories, traditions and, of course, the Panera coffee that will power you through the holidays.”

3. Nestlé targets cookie ads to Santa

Nestle banner ad offering Santa free cookies

Nestlé is targeting Santa – not with third-party cookies, but to sell its own cookies. Since Saint Nick is of course the perfect target audience for any and all cookie products, Nestlé Toll House kicked off a new geotargeted ad campaign. Using geofencing technology, the brand specifically targeted consumers in the North Pole, deploying banner ads reading: “Hey Santa! Give yourself a break. Grab a free cookie from Nestlé® Toll House® Café® by Chip® Dec. 4th.”

In honor of National Cookie Day on December 4, participating Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip locations offered a free chocolate chip cookie to anyone wearing a Santa hat or other Kris Kringle-inspired apparel – though the company’s chief executive Ziad Dalal said he hoped Mr Claus himself would drop by. Dalal said: “We know Santa is a busy man, but we’re hopeful he’ll be scrolling through his favorite websites during some downtime this week and see our ads that invite him to visit one of our stores.”

Whether or not Santa made an appearance at a Nestlé Toll House Café by Chip last Saturday was unknown at press time.

4. Supply chain issues? No problem. Heineken offers beer IOUs

Heineken is giving holiday shoppers a sigh of relief amid ongoing supply chain disruptions and shortages. Starting December 10, the beer brand is releasing Heineken IOUs, a placeholder gift box to present to friends and family whose other holiday presents are stuck in transit.

Available in a handful of select US cities, Heineken gift box IOUs will be issued to consumers ages 21 and up who can provide a screenshot of a delayed shipping notification. The gift box includes six bottles of Heineken and a personalized message explaining to recipients that their real holiday gifts are on their way.

Businesses across the globe continue to experience significant supply chain and logistics problems as a result of the pandemic. Small businesses have been especially impacted; recent research indicates that nearly 39% of US small businesses experienced supply chain delays due to Covid.

5. Stouffer’s creates caroling lasagna

Lasagna in box by Stouffer's

Frozen foods favorite Stouffer’s is expanding on its ongoing ‘Happyfull’ campaign with a new, unexpected seasonal activation. Bringing Christmas caroling to the frozen food aisle, the brand is rolling out special singing packaging.

Throughout December, Stouffer’s ‘Party’ and ‘Family’-sized boxes of Lasagna with Meat & Sauce and other lasagna and mac & cheese products will feature a special button that shoppers can press to hear 15 seconds of an original jingle.

“This time of year is all about gathering around the table with family and friends, so we wanted to add a little extra cheer to the Stouffer’s experience,” said Megan McLaughlin, Stouffer’s brand marketing manager, in a statement.

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