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Brands’ Holiday Marketing Is Getting Weirder—& Young Consumers Are Into It

These 3 brands’ crazy holiday products have all sold out, as celebrating brand fandom becomes part of celebrating the holidays for young consumers…

Remember the days when holiday marketing meant a sappy commercial about family togetherness, or catalogs full of discounts? Well, it’s 2019 now—and holiday marketing has gotten weird. Of course, there are still tear-jerker ads (though now they’re going viral internationally), and discounts are everywhere (with Black Friday morphing into a “state of mind” instead of a day). But to get young consumers’ attention, brands are now also celebrating the holidays with very unique merch featuring their products and logos. And these out-of-the-box items are selling out.

In our recent winter holiday survey, 80% of 13-37-year-olds told YPulse they like when brands offer holiday-themed packaging / products—and brands are more than happy to oblige, with one offering more unusual than the next. The rise of Brandoms is helping to fuel this trend. These days, as social media has leveled the playing field for building an avid fan base, young consumers are repping everything from their favorite streetwear brands to their go-to fast food restaurants. Companies large and small are answering the call with unlikely fashion and product collaborations, and their own merch drops. Just last week, McDonald’s opened a new online shop for brand fans who want to sport cute hats, shirts, notebooks, totes and umbrellas decorated with Big Macs and fries. And the holidays have become a hotbed of these branded product releases, with a festive twist of course. Here are three brands that have created their own weird holiday merch for young fans, and been rewarded with sold out stock:

Popeyes’ Chicken Sandwich Ugly Sweater

The Popeyes’ chicken sandwich launch turned into one of the biggest marketing stories of 2019, going massively viral online, sparking a brand feud with Chick-fil-A, and inspiring the chain to invest completely in digital marketing. And for the holidays, they’ve made their most successful product into yet another in-demand item: an ugly Christmas sweater. The sweater is festooned with trees and, of course, chicken sandwiches and Popeyes’ logo. For the record, a quarter of young consumers planned to attend a holiday ugly sweater party this year, according to YPulse’s research—and that’s not taking into account the number who will don an ugly sweater just for fun themselves. An ugly sweater that allows them to ironically celebrate a brand—or even better a meme like the chicken sandwich—is catering to a few trends with one product. Brands like Pillsbury, Taco Bell, and have been releasing their own ugly holiday sweaters for a few years now—Coke and Jack Daniels did their own back in 2013. The marketing trend is clearly lasting for a reason: Popyeye’s Chicken Sandwich Ugly Sweater sold out within mere days.


Taco Bell Scented CrunchWrapping Paper

For a second year, Taco Bell Canada released their limited edition “CrunchWrapping Paper,” printed to resemble the layered ingredients of their popular Triple Double Crunchwrap (seasoned beef, cheese, lettuce, tortilla, etc.). This time they added the scent, so that presents will smell like, well, Taco Bell. According to the brand, the product was brought back “by popular demand”—and the enthusiastic comments on their Instagram announcement show that there are indeed many who were excited for the unique holiday gift wrap. Vice reports that the wrapping paper sold out immediately. According to YPulse’s brand data, Taco Bell is a top favorite chain restaurants for Gen Z and Millennials, and they’ve made an entire mini-industry of hawking merch to their brandom. For those brand fans not in Canada, Taco Bell’s online shop is full of other holiday merch, including a Taco Bell snow globe, Taco Bell holiday pajamas, and a six-foot tall inflatable spice pack wearing a Santa hat (yes, you read that right).


KFC 11 Herbs & Spices Firelog

Taco Bell isn’t the only releasing a food-scented holiday item. CNN reports that KFC has bringing back it’s 11 herbs and spices scented log for the holidays, a limited-edition firelog that “smells like fried chicken.” That’s right, throw this log on the fire and your house will smell like a crispy bucket of legs and thighs. Like Taco Bell, the brand is bringing back the unusual item because of high-demand. According to The New York Times, KFC was “getting ‘weekly calls’ from fans desperate for its return.” It was first introduced last year, when it sold out in three hours. The log was available exclusively at Walmart, but you know the end of the story: the KFC chicken log has quickly sold out again.