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Change your plans. Your audience already did.

Brands love reaching their most passionate customers. As a former retail CMO myself, I get it. When you reach early planners, you reach the CEOs of the household—an audience that buys and spends more. Reach them first, and you have a shot at being their first choice when it’s time to shop.

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And yet, for as long as marketers and advertisers have been prioritising planners—the early, a-types—they’re making some seriously incorrect assumptions about this key audience right now. I heard from a CMO recently: “I’m holding all of my holiday planning. Nobody is thinking that far in the future yet.” Right?

Wrong. Our latest research suggests the opposite. People on Pinterest aren’t delaying. They’re starting earlier than ever this year. That’s saying something, because at Pinterest, we’re used to early.

This year, Pinners are starting to search for holiday ideas even earlier than ever before. Historically, people on Pinterest start making holiday plans in September. This year, they started searching and saving for holidays… in April. Holiday searches jumped 77% in April 2020 vs. April 2019. That trend included a three times increase in searches for “Christmas gift ideas”—eight months before December.

Why the shift? First, there are the rational reasons. People are worried about the pandemic’s impact on preparations they used to take for granted. As one Pinner put it, “I’ll be starting to look online much earlier than normal because shipping delays are quite likely at the moment. You don’t know exactly when you’re going to see the products.”

But there are also more emotional reasons. After a tough year, consumers are craving the comfort of the holidays. And the early planning that once felt like a chore now feels extra special, and imbued with new meaning. One participant told us: “I really want it to be super Christmas-y and kind of over the top this year… I’ll be going above and beyond with tons of decorations and a tree and activities.”

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Our research also shows that Pinners are explicitly looking for help from brands this year in navigating the shifting holiday climate while still making their celebrations feel special. As you develop content, think about designing specifically to meet customers’ early planning needs. For example, our research shows that Pinners who plan are also more likely to self-gift. This year, we predict they’re also more likely to host for the first time. Consider these different planner archetypes when crafting your content—from the self-gifter and the traditionalist to the shipping-first shopper and rookie host.

When we published our research this week, I shared it with the CMO mentioned above. Her reaction? “Look, we follow their lead. If our audience is early, we’ll be early, too.” Don’t be late to the party. Be the brand they discover first. Show up on time for the earliest holiday planning season ever.

Andréa Mallard is chief marketing officer at Pinterest