The decorated trees and massive wreaths are already dotting malls and shopping districts around the country, signaling the official beginning to the holiday season. Your inbox pegged the start back in September, as that’s when many retailers began promoting Christmas shopping in their emails. You can’t blame them. A recent study found that 20% of US consumers had begun their holiday shopping even before October, so for retailers it is a case of demand fueling supply. Season-creep is inevitable, and is particularly strong this year.

But what if you are not a retailer and your brand really has no connection to the holidays? You could just assume the holidays are irrelevant to your marketing program and proceed as usual, but the email activity from retailers and travel companies and every other brand tapping into the festive spirit creates a major obstruction leading into the inbox. Your brand may ignore the holidays, but your audience cannot. As a consequence, every brand needs a holiday email strategy, including those that just want to steer around all the traffic that’s blocking their normal route.

Here are some ways to avoid the holiday inbox rush if yours is not a holiday brand:

1. Don’t co-opt a holiday theme: Trying to weave a seasonal theme into your membership renewal programs or conference promotions can backfire as often as it succeeds. On the one hand, it’s disingenuous (unless some of your subscribers really do want to Give the Gift of a Free Webinar). Secondly, your message will only blend into a crowded holiday-themed inbox, instead of standing apart. You should have the same brand year-round, as that makes it easier for your subscribers to understand and trust you.

2. Avoid mailing on peak email days: Just as you’d really rather not try to get on an airplane on the day before Thanksgiving, your email program should stay at home on the busiest email days of the year. The week leading into Black Friday and the weekend preceding Cyber Monday are going to be a veritable promo-storm in the inbox. Go ahead and send your regularly scheduled newsletters and dailies of course, but suspend any promotional messages that you’re expecting to drive revenues or other actions until the storm has passed. (If you must mail, monitor your engagement metrics carefully and consider re-sending to the subscribers who ignored them once the inbox settles down again.) The other big day to avoid is December 23rd, which is expected to see a spike in advance of all the post-Christmas sales that retailers need to squeeze in before the crucial Q4 comes to a close.

3. Work holiday avoidance directly into your programs: Have you ever noticed how few conferences are in August? If your company or association produces them, you know it is because aggregating an audience then is challenging, as many people take a week or two of holiday at the end of the summer. With 15% of all holiday shopping expected to happen online this year (that’s almost $70 billion), and the brunt of the promotional activity for all channels taking place in the inbox, we have reached an inflection point where it will make sense for many brands to avoid scheduling any programs that need to compete with holiday email in order to succeed. Associations that have membership renewals due at the end of the year should consider pushing the deadline to late January; conferences scheduled for early January should slide back a good three weeks; new product announcements and other programs that rely on email for communications should likewise slide back, or accelerate so they precede the inbox clog.