Hallmark Channel’s mission is to bring Christmas to its customers wherever they may be, whether that’s online, on air, at the grocery store or at the local Christmas tree lot.
“We’re building on what we established last year. We want to be where our customers are during Christmas and continue to surround them with the holiday. We’re doing that at pretty much every turn,” said Lara Richardson, chief marketing officer, Hallmark Media and Promax board member.
To that end, Hallmark has created partnerships with broad consumer brands such as Chex, Hershey’s M&Ms. This year, Chex will debut its Countdown to Chexmas with a Hallmark-branded promotion on boxes of rice, corn, wheat and chocolate Chex as well as a sweepstakes. Spending $5 on select M&Ms products will grant purchasers two free weeks of streaming on the Hallmark Movies Now app. And Hershey’s is back with a baking contest, the winner of which gets a walk-on role as a baker in one of Hallmark’s original Christmas movies.
It’s also working with more niche gourmet brands such as Bissinger’s and The Republic of Tea, both of which offer Hallmark-branded “Countdown to Christmas” products, including popular advent calendars. New for this season is a hot chocolate bomb from Bissinger’s and Gingerbread Cookie and Cardamom Cinnamon collectible tens of flavored teas from The Republic of Tea that are available both online and at Cost Plus World Market.
“I have never worked in a place where so many brands approach us,” said Richardson. “We have a lot of partnerships but we are very picky about what works for our brand. We always ask ‘does this super serve our fans?’ Is this a product or experience that helps enhance the Christmas movie experience for our fans. That’s how we determine what works.”
Viewers who want to enjoy their holidays movies with a slightly stronger beverage can grab bottles of Holly, Jolly, Joy or Jingle wine from Hallmark Channel wines, which they can buy by the bottle or join the Hallmark Channel Wine Club, which also grants them other benefits, including a month of Hallmark Movies Now.
Other products include a “Countdown to Christmas”-themed Monopoly game, a coffee-table book, new Christmas-themed books from Hallmark Publishing and a range of Christmas gifts, from ornaments to sweaters and much more.
Christmas fans can also experience the holiday out in the world with Enchant, a Christmas-light spectacular that this year will travel to eight cities and set up in nine sites in Dallas; Las Vegas (two sites); Nashville, Sacramento and San Jose, Calif.; Scottsdale, Ariz.; St. Petersburg, Fla., and Washington, D.C.
And again this year, Hallmark is partnering with Christmas tree lots in smaller towns to reach viewers who don’t live in big metropolitan areas.
For viewers who are staying in to watch a movie while sipping cocoa, the Hallmark Channel’s website serves as sort of Christmas Central, with information on programming, contests and sweepstakes and more.
This year’s “Countdown to Christmas” look is all about staying cozy, with lots of knitted and crocheted textures both in backgrounds and on objects.
“This year, we latched on to the idea of a cozy Christmas,” Richardson said. “Last year, we found a woman who crocheted sweaters for cars for us. People loved it so we thought it would be fun to do a whole package around that, featuring various crocheted items. It appeals to nostalgia but it’s also trendy, young and cozy.”
Christmas has become a cut-throat time for many cable networks – including Freeform, Great American Family and Lifetime – all of whom are chasing Hallmark to attract viewers to their own Christmas-themed programming.
“There is a lot of competition out there. We have to continue to remind people why we’re the OG. It’s feeding the desire for what’s new, so we have to continue to expose people who maybe haven’t experienced the Hallmark Channel or who have an old image of who we are,” Richardson said.
To that end, Hallmark Channel is expanding its programming to appeal to diverse audiences. This season, an original movie will feature a same-sex couple, and there’s a movie in which the characters celebrate Kwanzaa instead of Christmas. This fall, Hallmark launched original programming that draws from its 30-year old brand, Mahogany, to tell stories that appeal to Black viewers. Hallmark Channel on Tuesday also announced a new partnership with Canela Media to air its original movies on Canela’s Spanish-language ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) service, Canela.TV.
“We always want to make sure that we’re not diverting from our core brand – the pillars of which are joy, positivity, happiness and community. We’re still the Hallmark that they know and love but we’re including everyone and doing it at a pace that is tangible and comfortable for our audience, business and brand,” Richardson said.
Hallmark’s “Countdown to Christmas” kicks off Friday, October 21 with its original movie: Noel Next Door, starring Natalie Hall and Corey Sevier. After that, the channel offers new Christmas-themed movies every Friday, Saturday and Sunday night through Sunday, December 18.