Sams Club_Merry Express 2023_gift claw

Holiday Activations: 14 Brands that Made Festive Season Sparkle

The holiday season is full of hustle and bustle—look no further than Nestlé’s mall “speeding tickets” for a sign that we all need to slow down—but it’s also brimming with fun, festive brand experiences that take the edge off of searching for the perfect gift and facing the in-laws. Grab a cup of cocoa and spin through 14 holiday activations that jingled all the way.


The espresso martini has become a hallmark of holiday festivities in recent years, a trend that spirits brands Absolut and Kahlúa have been leaning into for obvious reasons. This year, the pair celebrated the holidays and cemented their partnership with the release of Blend No. 83, their very own fragrance, developed with perfume specialists at Imaginary Authors. To introduce the limited-edition perfume to consumers, the brands hosted a three-day pop-up experience in New York City’s Hudson Yards shopping center, where they could purchase the product and explore the history of the cocktail while, of course, sipping on a sample of the Absolut x Kahlúa Espresso Martini.



To get consumers into the holidays spirit, and its latest furniture lines, Ashley teamed up with none other than Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix on a Listening Rooms pop-up tied to the release of the group’s latest “The Greatest Christmas Hits” album. (Check out the full case study here.)

Hosted at L.A.’s The Grove Storefront over two days, Nov. 2-3, the experience featured three themed spaces where consumers could listen to a selection of songs from the holiday album in three different forms—vinyl, headphones and surround sound, while trying out Ashley’s newest furniture and motifs.

“Our goal with these types of pop-ups or experiential moments is to create a unique brand moment for our guests to enjoy Ashley products in a new or unexpected way, aside from the typical way they would in a brick-and-mortar store,” says Liz Dufresne, senior manager-brand activations at Ashley. “From there, we wanted to leverage a partnership element that’s a bit different from what we’ve done in the past that could surprise and delight our guests.” (Agencies: FlyteVu; CNC Agency)

Ashley x Pentatonix_Listening Rooms_2023_yule log room full scene

Photo credit: Will Yang

More Holiday Activations: Pinterest and Anthropologie Host a Trendy Holiday Showhouse Based on User Data Ashley’s Shoppable ‘Listening Rooms’ Pop-up in L.A. Gets the Pentatonix Treatment More Holiday Activations:


Anthropologie decked the halls early this season, bringing its “Making Merry” campaign to life in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood from Oct. 27-29 with The Making Perry Gifting Pop-Up. There, shoppers could explore products like ornaments, candles, mugs, beauty products, cold weather accessories and slippers, all divided into five categories: Self-Care, Holiday Décor, Neon, City and the Zodiac shop. Each category was inspired by a persona type, like the hostess, the astrology lover and the traveler. A stylist was additionally on hand to help customers find exactly what they were looking for, whether for a loved one or themselves. Keeping consumers fueled up as they shopped were exclusive, complimentary cups of coffee from La Colombe and sweet treats from L’Appartement 4F.



To mark the 12th annual Candle Day (yep, it’s a thing), Bath & Body Works dropped its “biggest candle yet”—a 10-foot-tall “’Tis the Season” replica of its popular holiday product that was on display in New York’s Herald Square from Nov. 30 to Dec. 1. The installation served as part of the brand’s broader “Come Back to Your Senses” platform, which encourages consumers to embrace moments of pause.

bath & body works holiday activations Candle_Day_2023_NYC2

To usher in Candle Day, Bath & Body Works dropped its “biggest candle yet” at Herald Square in New York City.



If rooftop ice skating is your idea of holiday cheer, then Disney’s “The Santa Causes Winter Wonderland” experience at The Rooftop at Pier 17 in Manhattan, open through Jan. 7, is right up your alley. The activation, which highlights the brand’s “The Santa Clauses” TV series, features the city’s only rooftop rink, wintery projection-mapped scenes, hot chocolate and themed drinks from Judy’s hot cocoa-inspired café, and a Santa’s Living Room photo op beside a roaring fireplace. (Partner: Bucket Listers)



Snow globe installations are a time-honored winter tradition in the industry, and Ghirardelli upped the ante with a larger-than-life strategy this season. On National Peppermint Bark Day (Dec. 1) and the day after, New Yorkers were invited to experience the “first-ever human-size snow globe” at Hudson Yards. The life-sized installation allowed consumers to literally step inside a branded snow globe for a festive photo op. Ghirardelli also distributed Peppermint Bark Squares and Peppermint Hot Cocoa on both days. The following week, the snow globe was transported across town to engage passersby at Pershing Square in Midtown Manhattan. (Partners: MELT; Event Permits)


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by MELT Atlanta (@meltatl)

During National Peppermint Bark Day on the other coast, the brand hosted a family- and pet-friendly event at San Francisco’s Ghirardelli Square, with the Ghirardelli marquee sign decked out in Peppermint Bark colors and plenty of Peppermint Bark Squares samples to go around.



Champagne brand Perrier-Jouët’s House of Wonder exhibition at Hudson Yards was a dreamy (ticketed) installation for consumers over the age of 21 featuring a curation of art-, nature- and champagne-inspired experiences, all built with sustainability in mind. To create an enticing exterior for the exhibition, Perrier-Jouët commissioned artist BKFoxx to craft an interactive mural that translated the message “it all starts with a flower.” Brand partner FLOWERBX, a sustainability-focused, female-led floral design company, used all compostable and recyclable flowers within the space.

The campaign also included a partnership with delivery service Cocktail Courier, which, together with FLOWERBX, provided a distinctive champagne and flower arrangement to New Yorkers who purchased a bottle of Perrier-Jouët champagne between Nov. 30 and Dec. 2. All arrangements were delivered sustainably in Manhattan, same-day, by DoorDash on branded, flower-powered bikes.

Perrier-Jouet House of Wonder 2023 Bar



Following a Holiday Showhouse campaign produced in partnership with Anthropologie (check out the full case study here), Pinterest again leaned into its user search stats. This time, the information was used to inspire the first-ever Pinterest Predicts Shop, a collection of shoppable items that, based on user data, are likely to be on-trend in 2024. The shop is available to users online and also served as a five-day pop-up Pinterest Predicts retail activation from Dec. 6-10 in New York City.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Pinterest (@pinterest)


kitchen_cranberry mayo_merry food cart 2023 holiday activationsPRIMAL KITCHEN

Recognizing that mayo is a key condiment used in the making of holiday leftover meals, CPG brand Primal Kitchen debuted a Cranberry Mayo ahead of Thanksgiving that was available as a limited-time product at select stores and online. To promote the condiment as the superior way to enjoy seasonal leftovers, the brand launched in-person activations in Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, supported by digital and social extensions.

The program kicked off on Black Friday in Chicago, where Primal Kitchen rolled up to the Shops at North Bridge with its “Mini Merry Mayo Mobile” to provide shoppers with complimentary turkey sandwiches made by local favorite Fat Shallot, and featuring the Cranberry Mayo. The brand and its merry cart then stopped at a flea market in Brooklyn, NY, on Dec. 2, and the Mar Vista Farmers Market in L.A. on Dec. 17.



Sam’s Club invited families to board its Merry Express over the season, an activation anchored by a larger-than-life train installation that pulled into Sam’s store parking lots in 53 cities across the U.S. Consumers could stop by for festive food, games, gifts and a visit from Santa.

When they arrived on-site, attendees checked in at a ticket booth where Sam’s Club activated their digital passport. The document unlocked access to photo ops, complimentary food samples, a giant claw-style gift machine and a Reindeer Ring Toss game hosted in the “Burt’s Bees Caboose.” Those who earned a passport stamp at every stop received a special gift at the end of the experience. (Agency: Momentum Worldwide)



Shipt debuted “5 Days of Delight” on Dec. 4, a holiday activation featuring a festive, celebrity-curated collection of themed product lists, expert tips and daily deals designed to showcase how it helps customers tackle their holiday to-do lists. Alongside brand partners and industry tastemakers Tan France (decorating) and Meredith Hayden (hosting), the company hosted a holiday event for key media at the SoHo Grand Hotel in New York City. Attendees were welcomed to a holiday suite to explore the products from the collection in stylized vignettes and learned holiday hacks from France and Hayden during decorating and hosting demos, and enjoy holiday F&B. (Agency: Factory360)

Photo credit: Arturo Holmes/Getty Images for Shipt



It was hard to miss intimate apparel brand Soma’s festive holiday box truck as it spun through two New York City locations flaunting the brand’s holiday apparel with a glass wall. Stopping at the Hearst Building and NYC’s SoHo neighborhood, Soma invited consumers to step inside its showroom on wheels to explore its holiday fashions and enjoy personalized bra fittings. Attendees were additionally treated to a complimentary bra and panties set, F&B and a branded bag. (Agency: CNC Agency)


the athlete's foot_holiday 2023 Sneaker Giveaway holiday activationsTHE ATHLETE’S FOOT

The Athlete’s Foot set out to bring cheer to families and sports enthusiasts from Dec. 1-12 in Georgia, Louisiana, Illinois and North Carolina with the 12 Days of Giving, a community-forward campaign that encompassed providing special Christmas meals and gifts for children under 18, plus NBA ticket giveaways and opportunities to win one of four pairs of premium sneakers, like the Women’s Air Jordan 11 “Neapolitan” and Men’s Air Jordan 3 “Fear,” to consumers via social. (Partner: Talent Resources)



Podcast publisher Wondery went above and beyond (to the heights of Mt. Crumpit, to be exact) to promote its ‘Tis The Grinch Holiday Podcast. Throughout the holiday season, the weekly series, created in collaboration with Dr. Seuss Enterprises, invited consumers to come along for the ride as The Grinch, played by “Saturday Night Live’s” James Austin Johnson, aimed to “dampen” Christmas cheer and convince his celebrity guests to join him in his quest to “quash all the noise, noise, noise” of the holidays.

To make some of that noise for the podcast, Wondery activated a delightfully Grinchy pop-up at the Westfield Century City in Los Angeles and invited fans of all ages to stop by and sample the show at listening stations, write letters to The Grinch and his faithful dog Max, courtesy of event sponsor Purina, and have their photos snapped with the curmudgeon himself. Green-colored snacks, giveaways and other photo-worthy touchpoints were also on the menu. (Agency: Stacey Ruiz Events)

Kait Shea
Posted by Kait Shea

Kait joined EM in 2015 and today enjoys her role as senior editor, digital content. When she’s not in reporter mode, rocking mermaid pants at Comic-Con or running laps at MWC Barcelona, you can find her at home listening to music.
View all articles by Kait Shea →

Receive the latest news and special announcements from Event Marketer


© 2024 Access Intelligence, LLC – All Rights Reserved. |