How Far Can You Push Your Creative?

Final Christmas Card Collage

Lessons from some crazy Christmas cards

“I want my Christmas card to be something different, that will stand out in the mail and make people laugh.” That was the direction Bob Wamhoff gave us six years ago as we prepared to develop our first Christmas card for his firm, Wamhoff Financial Planning & Accounting Services. How far could our creative team go to give people a chuckle? How far would the client be willing to go?

Probably farther than you would think.

Over the years, we’ve dressed Bob and his team up as Noah and the animals from the Ark, the characters from A Christmas Story (complete with re-enactment of scenes), Sugar Plum fairies, super heroes, wild west characters, and more … all to get that engagement and laugh from the clients and friends each year.

With the bar set high, the Wamhoff Christmas Card becomes a complete team effort in coming up with an engaging concept, and mapping out the best execution for that concept.

Take the 2014 card as an example.  We held a brainstorming session and came out with three solid concepts to present to the client, along with a rough direction for how we would execute the piece. The concept chosen was “Ugly Christmas Sweaters.” On the surface, you may hear that and think the concept is overdone. That’s where creative execution is key.

Instead of just having the Wamhoff team wear ugly sweaters, the card was presented as a JC-Penney-style catalog. The  storyboards were used to direct the photo shoot. All 24 Wamhoff team members posed in over-the-top, cheesy scenes.


Best of all: The team really got into it, which meant the photos are hilarious! Copy was artfully crafted in a near J. Peterman tone, inspired by blaring Christmas music in the office. Design and copy were married into a piece that felt so much like a catalog that at first glance, you may think it to be just that.

These funny, over-the-top cards are a hit for Wamhoff, but is this approach right for your brand? Here are some things to consider:

  1. Does it fit in with your brand and culture? While you wouldn’t immediately think that crazy things like this would be appropriate for a financial firm, their brand, personalities, and how they interact with clients makes it work.
  2. Do you have the time and budget for it? We typically start working on the Wamhoff cards in August. It takes time to storyboard the piece, get photo shoots done, and create the right copy and design. And because the pieces can be pretty elaborate, we also need time (and budget) for print production, creation of custom dies, and other work that may be required.
  3. Are you going to stick with it from year-to-year? Once your audience sees something this creative, it’s hard to go back to the traditional Christmas card. They’ll expect it next year and be disappointed if they don’t get it.
  4. Are you OK with some people not liking it? When you do something this creative, somebody isn’t going to like it. But they took notice. Your piece stood out to them. Are you comfortable getting some negative feedback?

Remember, these tips can apply to any marketing or communications piece your company creates. Asking yourself hard questions allows for the kind of creativity to help you stand out.

So how are we going to top the 2014 card for 2015? Stay tuned … the Kolbeco team already has some crazy ideas.

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