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3 Ways Marketers are Getting You to Feast on Thanksgiving

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When you hear the words “Thanksgiving” and “marketing” in the same sentence, chances are that you think immediately of Black Friday promotions, stores opening on Thanksgiving evening and the rush to capture the Christmas market. That’s not unreasonable. Thanksgiving isn’t a traditional gift-giving occasion, and is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas—two huge retail events. In 2014, 87 million early shoppers took advantage of Black Friday, and 127 million shopped Cyber Monday.

But, gearing up for the Christmas/Hanukkah shopping season isn’t the only option for brands hoping to draw some Thanksgiving attention.

Nordstrom Does Nothing, Wins Thanksgiving

Upscale retailer Nordstrom is attracting a lot of attention this Thanksgiving—as it has in past holiday seasons—by declining to decorate for Christmas after Halloween and by keeping its doors closed on Thanksgiving. In a stroke of public relations genius that may even reflect the corporate leadership’s values, Nordstrom stores post tasteful signs explaining that they won’t be decorating for Christmas until after Thanksgiving because we should all enjoy one holiday at a time. That message resonates with the shopping public, who offer accolades in social media. Despite the huge number of people shopping Black Friday weekend, 65 percent of consumers surveyed by RichRelevance said they disliked or hated the trend toward retailers opening on Thanksgiving.

Nordstrom may miss out on some early shoppers by refusing to open on Thanksgiving. However, the company’s failure to jump on the bandwagon, coupled with its understated messaging of its position aligns the brand with a large sector of consumers. And, the retailer subtly conveys the message that squeezing every last drop of profit out of Thanksgiving weekend is less important than the things most of us value, such as tradition and time with family.

Outdoor clothing and gear retailer REI is taking the idea one step further, opting to remain closed on Black Friday as well. The company’s website prominently reminds visitors that along with the website, the outdoors is always open.

The Power of Positive Association

Since Thanksgiving is a lower-key holiday focused around friends, family, food and drink, it’s no surprise that those companies not skipping straight to Black Friday are falling back on those associations to promote their products. America’s largest retailer, Walmart, which is also a major player in the Black Friday games, gives us tasteful Thanksgiving preparation ads in which families (including that of The Pioneer Woman) prepare dinner in warm, inviting conditions that almost allow you to smell the pumpkin pie in the oven.

Though we can assume that the retail giant would like viewers to purchase their foodstuffs, tablecloths and other Thanksgiving supplies in their stores, the only such signal in the feel good ads is the appearance of a bright blue Walmart shopping bag in each kitchen.

For Walmart, More is More

Tasteful Thanksgiving advertisements notwithstanding, Walmart is going all out in the quest to capture the retail holiday market. While companies like Nordstrom and REI are attempting to step back the frenzy, Walmart is whipping it up with earlier, more aggressive offerings. Since Nov. 6, the company’s website has featured at least 10 new specials per day, touting “Cyber Monday-like prices”.

Just as Nordstrom isn’t alone in attempting to reclaim Thanksgiving, Walmart doesn’t stand alone in its efforts to expand the Black Friday frenzy. Amazon’s Countdown to Black Friday Deals commenced on November 1, with new deals every day.

The difference between the Nordstrom approach to the holiday season and the Walmart approach affirms one of the fundamental tenets of marketing: know your market. Neither will appeal to everyone, but each is carefully targeted.

Do you know your target audience? Marketing Architects can help you figure how to effectively reach them through a thoroughly engaging direct response marketing campaign. We have 18 years of experience using all media channels to help our clients connect with the right people. Give us a call today and we’ll help you start to plan your next big Thanksgiving Day promotion.

Chuck Hengel

By Chuck Hengel

Founder & CEO

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