Merry Christmas Versus Happy Holidays in Your Headlines – Does it matter?

Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays in your headlines - Does it matter

We live in a politically correct society today. So, does that ever have you wondering about your copy and your headlines?  Do you ever wonder if your text is off-putting to people or just what the fuss is all about?

In this article, let’s look at Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays in your headlines and ask, “Does it matter?”

First, we’re going to tell you upfront that this is ultimately your decision. You know your target audience best, and if you don’t, you should.

What we are going to do is present a case for both sides, and then you can decide where you fall. So, let’s get to it.

The Starbucks Decision

Here’s a bit of background as to why your headline decision is so important.

You might remember that Starbucks started its very own controversy last Christmas when it debuted its red holiday cup.

Since the iconic Christmas cup debuted in 1997, it’s had several winter-themed designs. Coffee drinkers would have seen snowflakes, reindeer, snowmen and ornaments at one time or another.

Yet, in 2015, Starbucks launched a dark cranberry cup with a very minimalist design. While some users liked it, others called it the “War on Christmas.”

The cup was described as a “two-toned ombré design with a bright poppy color on top that shades into a darker cranberry below.” And, there wasn’t a Santa or a reindeer in sight.

Many Starbucks users were infuriated, while Starbucks simply said they wanted users to add their own doodles to the cup. One unhappy customer went so far as to tell the barista his name was Merry Christmas so it would end up on the cup.

So, what’s all the fuss? It turns out we live in an era of increasing attention to political correctness.

You just might be wondering if you’ll set off a firestorm like Starbucks did by writing a headline, or even an email subject line that says Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays. You’re sure to offend someone, right?

The Case for Merry Christmas in Your Headlines

According to a Pew Research poll, nine out of ten Americans celebrate Christmas. So, you might wonder why so many people care about the terminology.

It appears that in this day and age, someone is bound to take offense if you use Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas in your headlines.

The war on Christmas seems to arrive earlier and earlier each year. The question is though, “Who is at war?”

After all, Christmas is a very public holiday, and not everyone ties it to religion.

Websites all over the Internet feature trees, Santa, reindeer and gifts. Basically, everyone you meet wants to tell you something, whether it be Happy Holidays or Merry Christmas.

If you decide to use Merry Christmas in your headlines, you just might be all right because to many people Christmas isn’t Jesus, it’s holiday parties, presents and ugly sweaters.

Before you decide to forgo the words Merry Christmas in your headlines ask yourself if you’re being overly cautious. Are you trying so hard not to offend a few that you’ll end up offending many?

Several retail giants throughout the last few years like Lowe’s, Home Depot, Sears, WalMart, Target, Best Buy and the Gap have tried to abandon the word Christmas for more mundane terms, and the backlash has been swift and vocal.

If your business can’t afford the customer push back, and you aren’t concerned with political correctness, and the words, Merry Christmas, mean a lot to you and your business, by all means use them in your headlines.

Finally, while no one is suggesting your brand get religious, you do have to be careful of marginalizing the world’s faithful by throwing them into a land of political correctness with your headlines.

Can your online business afford the negativity if you don’t use Merry Christmas?

The Case for Happy Holidays in Your Headlines

On the flip side, there are many today who would say banish Merry Christmas and only use Happy Holidays. They see no gray area and are quite adamant about their decision.

To many people, Happy Holidays is simply the acceptable term. Yet, with it affecting so few, why even bother deleting Merry Christmas?

You’ll find the answer to that question is, “It’s the right thing to do.”

People today want to be inclusive of all cultures, all religions and all belief systems. They believe Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings encompasses this for the world at large.

You might find some people telling you to use Happy Holidays in your headlines because you should want every customer to feel welcome when shopping or visiting your website.

Using Merry Christmas as a headline will exclude about 25% of your audience, unless it’s a “Merry Christmas” group.

Happy holidays lets you cater to all of your paying customers.

Final Thoughts

Do you know why your headline text matters? The father of advertising believed it to be the most important thing on your page.

David Ogilvy, ad expert, said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

That being said, we’ve presented you with both sides – Merry Christmas versus Happy Holidays in your headlines.

A Public Religion Research Institute survey asked a group of Americans if retailers should use Happy Holidays or Seasons Greetings instead of Merry Christmas. Surprisingly, the yes and no answers were very nearly split in half.

Yet, it also turns out that people’s preference depends on what part of the country they live in.

What do you think? Are you going to go out on a limb and use Merry Christmas as your landing page headline, or are you going to play it safe with Happy Holidays in your headline text?

Or, are you going to do what we recommend over and over again – test your landing pages – one headline says Merry Christmas, and the other says Happy Holidays.

But, wait, what about all of those people who celebrate nothing at all during the months of November and December? In a world gone wild for political correctness, one has to ask, “Aren’t you leaving them out by using either term?”

Perhaps that’s another topic for another time…

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Image: Jez Timms

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