Frank Pöstges-Pragal, Managing Director of First Christmas. Credit: First Christmas
Feature | Opinion

How important is Christmas in times like these?

“Christmas as an opportunity, especially in difficult times, to give people what they are longing for so much: happiness, the memory of the best moments of their childhood, heart-warming feelings and emotions.”

By Frank Pöstges-Pragal

Well, in my family anyway, very much. My four children have been talking about Christmas for weeks, what they want, how we decorate the tree and much more. They feel an incredible anticipation–even in times like these. And, if I’m honest, with my wife and me it’s no different. It’s this deep longing for Christmas, brought back from childhood, that you don’t lose your whole life long. 

When I was Managing Director of Europe’s largest shopping and leisure center, CentrO Oberhausen, I experienced many great times, but also crises, such as the financial crisis and September 11. But even then, we never cut back on Christmas activities. Rather, we saw Christmas as an opportunity, especially in difficult times, to give people what they are longing for so much: happiness, the memory of the best moments of their childhood, heart-warming feelings and emotions. True to the motto: “Okay, the world has become difficult. However now it’s Christmas, and we will give people extraordinary moments just right now.”

At CentrO we have always reviewed our marketing plan in times of crisis and adapted it to the situation. Every day we asked ourselves the same question: “How can we achieve the same successes as before with significantly less budget?” That was a special incentive! When we did spectacular campaigns with large budgets in good times, we received Solal Awards in Europe and even ICSC Maxi Awards in the USA. That was nice–but the greatest reward for us was always when we were similarly successful in difficult times with less funds and were also awarded for this. This is how “efficiency marketing” evolved. Well, I can certainly understand budget cuts–but the challenge is to use creativity in order to be as successful and emotional as before. 

My first big project after my studies at an event agency was the creation and organization of the Hamburg Christmas parade! Now, many years later, I’m back in Hamburg, running one of the most amazing companies for Christmas decorations of shopping places. And as soon as I took the job, Corona broke out! A reason to despair? No, on the contrary! Just like back then at CentrO, today’s crisis must lead to even more thinking, more innovative, finding even better solutions and giving people even more what they are longing for right now: Cohesion, hope, and moments of joy and happiness. 

So, Christmas in corona times, as crazy as it may sound, is also an opportunity. Those who can now come up with really intelligent solutions will not only survive, but even be able to improve their position in the market. Here is an idea how this can be achieved: Why not simply create a “Tree of Hope”? A subtly beautiful decorated Christmas tree, the sight of which gives people a little bit of hope and joy. Through an implemented charity campaign, visitors can unite with the center to raise funds, for example for the nursing staff of local hospitals. In this way, the symbolic “Tree of Hope” creates a true and unique sense of community between the center and the people. If we could even manage to realize this jointly with all other centers on a national scale, a nationwide media buzz on all channels would surely be created.

I wish you every success in this endeavor and look forward to working with all of you on exciting concepts that can set a special sign, especially in times like these.

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