Summer Marketing Essentials: Strategic Calendars, Event Ideas, and Understanding Buying Behaviors

Geraldine Lee
July 4, 2024

This summer, more than a third of shoppers plan to outspend their 2023 budgets, according to Optimove’s latest survey.

In our previous blog post, we talked about how important it is to leverage promotional sales for tours and attractions, especially during the summer months. Now, let’s build on that.

In this post, we’ll dive into the best summer marketing campaign ideas to help you make the most of your ticket sales.

Best Practices for Summer Marketing

1. Leverage Social Proof

Did you know that warm weather influences purchasing behavior? When the temperature is hot outside, consumers tend to stick to popular trends because they’re less willing to take risks.

Use this to your advantage by showcasing popular products and customer reviews in your marketing. Research shows that people need that social proof to make decisions when it’s warm, so highlight those best-sellers and glowing testimonials.

2. Promote Gift-Worthy Products

Here’s an interesting tidbit: people are more likely to buy gifts for others when it’s warm. A study found that 54% of participants in a warm environment chose gifts for friends, compared to just 25% in cooler settings. 

So it’s time to spotlight those unique, summer-themed gift packs! Make sure your marketing emphasizes these gift-worthy items to catch the eye of summer visitors.

Whether it’s adorable plush sea creatures, educational toys, or exclusive aquarium memorabilia, highlight your special products to attract shoppers looking for the perfect summer gift.

3. Highlight Refreshing and Cooling Products

When it’s hot, people crave refreshing and cool products. While summer makes us think of barbecues and grilling, consumers actually prefer less savory things like ice cream and icy cold drinks.

A promotional example from Wild Water Adventure Park

So, if you’re promoting your waterpark, emphasize those exhilarating water rides, icy cold slushies, and shady lounge areas. Highlight the crisp, cool adventures that help people beat the heat and make their visit unforgettable.

4. Focus on Health and Wellness

Summer is also the season when people pay more attention to their health and wellness. With the warm weather, there’s a spike in interest in outdoor activities and health-conscious food options.

If you’re offering anything related to fitness, healthy snacks, or wellness activities, now’s the time to highlight those benefits. Promote your zoo’s nature trails for walking and running, fresh fruit stands, and interactive wellness programs.

Align your marketing with these health and wellness trends to attract the summer crowd looking to stay active and feel great while enjoying their visit.

Strategic Timing: Start Early

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” – Benjamin Franklin said it best, and it’s a mantra that holds especially true when it comes to summer marketing.

Planning early not only reduces stress because it shifts your focus to execution but also taps into the eagerness of early shoppers.

Why Early Planning Matters

Did you know that some Black Friday deals kick off as early as October? Early birds are out there looking to snag these deals, and summer is no exception.

With 16% of US consumers starting their holiday shopping by June, according to June 2024 data by CivicScience, there’s a clear advantage to getting in front of customers early. This number has nearly doubled from the 9% who started in July 2019.

Leverage Summer Events and Themes

Summer isn’t just a season; it’s a vibrant atmosphere filled with specific themes and events that can be leveraged to enhance and personalize your marketing strategy:

1. Summer Weather

Promote products that enhance outdoor experiences, like picnic essentials or outdoor games. Think of setting up special picnic spots or outdoor activity areas to attract visitors looking to enjoy the sunshine.

2. Barbecue and Summer Foods

For zoos, consider setting up a Farmer’s Market within the zoo grounds, offering fresh local produce and summer treats that visitors can enjoy while exploring the exhibits.

You could also host a BBQ at the Zoo Day, featuring delicious barbecue options with local food trucks and family-friendly activities to create a festive and engaging atmosphere for your guests.

Here's an example of Fun at the Adelaide Zoo for the Variety Kids Picnic, in May 2023.

3. Vacations

The United States is the world’s largest domestic travel market, with $1 trillion in annual spending according to McKinsey’s The State of Tourism and Hospitality 2024 report.

Tap into this massive market by promoting exclusive vacation packages, discounted tickets, or travel-related merchandise to domestic travelers coming from out of state. Highlight special vacation packages, bundled experiences, and discounts on tickets to attract visitors looking for memorable summer trips.

4. School’s Out

Target families looking to fill their newfound free time with fun and engaging activities. This is a golden opportunity for waterparks to attract families with teens who have too much time on their hands.

Offer special family packages, teen discount days, or interactive water activities to keep everyone entertained.

5. Shark Week

If you didn't know before about Shark Week, now you do! Happening every year in July or August, Shark Week is a yearly, weeklong grouping of shark-related show episodes on Discovery - which means it's a golden opportunity for special promotions and themed content.

Aquariums can tap into the exciting Shark Week events, featuring educational programs, special tours, and shark-themed merchandise to draw in visitors and enhance their experience.

For Shark Week at the Saint Louis Zoo in 2019, visitors got free admission to Stingrays at the Caribbean Cove when they come to the zoo dressed as a shark!

Image source: Saint Louis Zoo

Starting early allows you to align these themes with your marketing messages, ensuring that when these summer events are on your customers’ minds, your brand is already there. Next, let’s dive into your marketing calendar to keep your strategy on track.

Living by Your Marketing Calendar

Staying on top of your marketing game means planning your email campaigns thoughtfully and spacing them out to avoid overwhelming your audience.

While it’s essential to stay top of mind, sending too many emails can backfire. Having a marketing calendar allows you to forecast and space out your communications effectively.

Why a Marketing Calendar is Essential

Email remains the top choice for consumer communication, cited by 52% of respondents, according to a survey. However, sensitivity to consumer preferences is crucial.

In Optimove’s 2023 survey on Marketing Fatigue, two-thirds of consumers (66%) expressed a desire for fewer marketing messages, and 27% felt bombarded by them. A well-structured calendar helps you strike the right balance.

Important Dates in July, August, and September

Planning your marketing around key dates and events can help keep your content relevant and engaging. Here are some notable dates to consider:

July

July is packed with events that resonate deeply with festive summer vibes. It's the perfect month to ramp up your marketing and connect with your audience during some of the hottest days of the year.

  • July 1: Canada Day (Canada)
  • July 4: Independence Day (US) – Check out some of the best campaigns for inspiration.
  • July 5: National Bikini Day
  • July 7: World Chocolate Day
  • 3rd Sunday in July: National Ice Cream Day
  • July 17: World Emoji Day
  • July 20: National Moon Day
  • 3rd Thursday Each Quarter: Get to Know Your Customers Day

Month-long Themes:

  • National Grilling Month
  • National Picnic Month
  • National Independent Retailer Month
  • National Blueberry Month

Here's an example of a social post for the 4th of July from Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours, which has tours that set off from both Niagara Falls, ON and Lewiston, NY:

Bonus Marketing Campaign Ideas:

Summer Olympics (July 26th to August 11th) - As the world tunes in to celebrate top-tier athleticism and unity, it’s the perfect time for adventure parks to highlight their own thrilling athletic challenges.

Offer Olympic-themed promotions, like discounts for anyone who can beat set times or scores on certain courses, or host mini-Olympic events where guests can compete in friendly competitions.

Amazon’s Prime Day - Known as the Black Friday of Summer, Prime Day in 2023 pulled in a whopping $12.9 billion during its 2-day summer sale, marking a 6.7% increase from the previous year.

Ride this wave with your own "High Tide Sale" email campaign. Consider featuring weekly "Captain’s Choice" tours or sunset cruise specials that showcase the best views and experiences your tours offer.

August: Savoring Summer's End

As August rolls in, we start to feel that subtle shift from laid-back summer vibes to the buzz of back-to-school prep. It’s a unique time when families are trying to squeeze in those last memorable outings before the school year kicks into high gear.

  • Beginning the 1st Saturday in August: National Farmers Market Week
  • 1st Friday in August: International Beer Day
  • August 8: International Cat Day
  • August 10: National Lazy Day
  • August 12: International Youth Day (Global)
  • August 19: World Photography Day, World Humanitarian Day
  • August 26: International Dog Day

Month-long Theme: Back-to-School Month

With back-to-school spending reaching over $41 billion in 2023, there's a clear opportunity not just for retailers, but for tours and attractions as well.

This month, why not highlight educational yet fun tours that can double as learning experiences for kids? Or promote special family packages that help create those final summer vacation memories?

Check out San Diego Zoo did with their Wildlife Explorers Basecamp, where it's both educational and fun outdoors for young explorers!

September: Embracing the Fall Transition

September brings a fresh start and a host of fun, thematic opportunities for tours and attractions. As we wave goodbye to summer, it’s time to embrace the cooler, vibrant start of fall—a season packed with potential for memorable experiences and events.

  • 1st Monday in September: Labor Day/Labour Day (US and Canada)
  • 1st Sunday after Labor Day: Grandparents’ Day
  • September 8: International Literacy Day
  • September 12: National Video Games Day
  • September 15–October 15: National Hispanic Heritage Month
  • September 27: World Tourism Day
  • September 22 or 23: Fall equinox (first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere)
  • 3rd week in September: Pollution Prevention Week, National Indoor Plant Week
  • A Tuesday in September: National Voter Registration Day
  • September 30: International Podcast Day

For Grandparents’ Day, maybe you could offer special discounts or themed tours that encourage multi-generational family outings. Take this ad by Dunkin' Donuts for example.

You only ever see the doughnuts once in the opening of the ad, but it's the emotions that you feel from watching the ad that makes it memorable.

Think about how you can create memorable moments for grandparents and their grandchildren when they come to your attraction. That's how you can create effective marketing is authentic and heartwarming.

Setting the Stage for a Stellar Summer

Wrapping up, summer is not just a season—it’s a golden opportunity for your marketing to engage and delight your audience. By understanding seasonal buying behaviors, aligning with significant summer events, and starting your campaigns early, you can maximize your impact and truly connect with your audience.

Remember, the essence of successful summer marketing lies in anticipation and timely execution—qualities that turn ordinary campaigns into memorable experiences.

Stay tuned for Part Two, where we’ll dive deeper into segmenting your audience and cultivating loyalty to keep them coming back season after season. Make this summer not just successful, but unforgettable.

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Marketing
Geraldine Lee
Content Marketing Specialist