All you have to do is head to your local grocery store to notice Thanksgiving is almost here. There are turkeys everywhere and all of the essentials for a Thanksgiving Day meal. There is nothing quite like walking into a store and smelling pumpkin or pecan pie baking in the bakery, and my stomach grumbles at the thought of delicious food that my family plans to make. I’m sure you’re in the same boat!

It is a great day to give thanks, spend time with family, and also offers a unique marketing chance for all companies (if done correctly). I am going to take a look at the history of Thanksgiving, what it has morphed into in the modern age, and the some brands who have incredible marketing strategies! Don’t worry; I’ll also give you some great tips for your Thanksgiving content and marketing.

The Story of Thanksgiving: A Brief History

It’s hard to miss the basis of Thanksgiving Day history when you head to your kid’s school or the local library. You see tons of adorable little pilgrims and Native Americans in their paper gear, giggling and showing off their cornucopia drawings. What is the full history, however?

In 1621, the Pilgrims celebrated a day of thanksgiving to show thanks for the crops and harvest they had. They were taught how to grow crops on the land by the now infamous Squanto who helped them not only with crops, but also by being a translator between the pilgrims and his tribe. His tribe leader even donated food to the pilgrims for their festival. Historians believe it lasted three days as many harvest festivals in the 1600s did. Three days? Can you imagine three days of turkey, stuffing, and pecan pie? That would be a great tradition to re-kindle, don’t you agree?

After the initial day of thanksgiving, there were a few more celebrations in later years, but it was never officially recognized as a civic holiday until the 1800s. In 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared that there needed to be a national day of thanksgiving and remembrance, and thus Thanksgiving Day was born. To make things easier on everyone (much to future generations approval) the celebration is the fourth Thursday in November.

While we still celebrate Thanksgiving Day on the fourth Thursday of November, the day has seen a lot of changes. Some of our traditional foods aren’t entirely traditional to the feast the pilgrims had, but it is still fun to celebrate this long lasting holiday here in the States. Let’s take a look at the modern times Thanksgiving!

Current Day Celebrations: My, My, How Time Changes

There have been many changes to the holiday, namely that of football and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade. People gather around the TV to watch these festivities, which is a far cry from what the holiday used to be – family sitting around a table together. People still do this, and many families have rules that the TV must go off at a certain time in order to be together and talk. However, television plays a major part in many Americans’ Thanksgiving celebrations.

The hallmark aspect of Thanksgiving is obviously giving thanks for what we have. It started out as a religious holiday where people gave thanks to God for all that he provided. However, it has steadily changed from being religious to something where families discuss what they are thankful for, without attending religious services. Some local churches may have events, but nowadays the most important aspect of Thanksgiving is spending time with family. Many times this incorporates a lot of traveling whether driving or flying to meet with extended family.

There are many amazing traditions that we now have in the modern era of Thanksgiving, and many hope to never see these go away. These are:

  • Eating turkey baked in the oven with sides of mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans in different forms, pie (lots of pie), and stuffing. The meal changes from family to family and depends on the location. The South has seen more people deep-frying turkeys and many on the East Coast seem to prefer cranberries with their meals.
  • Turkey Day football! What makes the American Thanksgiving uniquely American is the fact that we can watch our favorite sport – football.
  • We love parades, and there is never a shortage of those leading up to and on Thanksgiving with the most famous being Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
  • Donating to charity and feeding the homeless on Thanksgiving Day. This is something many families will join together to do on Thanksgiving and celebrate the day together at a later time. People hand out Thanksgiving meals to those in need, providing amazing charity.
  • And of course, the day after Thanksgiving – Black Friday. The name doesn’t harken to the Grim Reaper, but to where businesses’ budgets will be after shopping is finished.

Now that you know the history and how it morphed into our modern day celebration, I am going to look at a few brands that have marketed for Thanksgiving in perfect ways.

The Top 6 Brands Who Do Excellent Thanksgiving Content

1. The NFL. No one can out-do the NFL when it comes to Thanksgiving Day marketing. They know that this holiday is a big day for them and they make sure to put their best forward. The NFL makes sure to use every channel of social media they can push their Thanksgiving Day games and provides schedules as soon as possible for viewers to plan out their day.

In 2013, the NFL knew that if they were going to reach an audience quickly, they needed to be on Instagram. In fact, the social media site announced that it had some of the highest traffic on Thanksgiving, which makes sense as everyone wants to show off their meals. The NFL published a schedule on their Instagram account, making it accessible to their followers. Such a neat idea! This is a great example of knowing where your client base will be on social media and how to market directly to them.

2. Oreo Has a Great Idea for Leftovers. Another genius ad campaign that is still relevant was Oreo’s suggestion with what to do with Thanksgiving Day leftovers. It created the Leftover Dessert Taco, which included bits from your favorite desserts from the day and the Oreo filling. All you have to do is simply take out the filling, add your desserts and fold – there you go, your own Dessert Taco! This provided a great DIY lesson while also promoting the brand without making people feel that they were being forced into buying Oreos.

3. Starbucks to the Rescue! The holidays are always a fun, yet exhausting time, which makes Starbucks a prime candidate for coffee lovers everywhere. The chain knows this and makes sure to market as much as possible. While not a Thanksgiving trend, the chain released their red cups early, which, of course, brought in several coffee lovers who love those red cups! They also provide people with the ability to buy a Thanksgiving Blend coffee that is perfect to drink why giving thanks and celebrating. No matter the season or holiday, Starbucks does its best to meet the needs of their clients and bring in some pretty snazzy revenue!

4. Of Course, There’s Always Betty Crocker. Thanksgiving is a holiday that Betty Crocker never takes from granted, providing people with recipes that are perfect for the day. They have an entire section of their website dedicated to Thanksgiving and various recipes people can use. They make sure that you know you can use Betty Crocker products, but still make it easy for everyone. Betty Crocker also makes sure to take social media by storm, and utilize the one channel that people readily scour for last minute recipe ideas – Pinterest. They have a whole Pinterest board dedicated to Thanksgiving, giving people a great selection of recipes to choose from when using their smartphones. Quite the smart idea, don’t you agree?

5. We All Know About Macy’s and the Parade. Everyone loves the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and many people tune in, in the morning while starting to bake and cook. There are many people who countdown to this event, which means Macy’s can really benefit from it! In fact, they have an amazing interactive website helping people know what to expect, the route and the lineup.

This is great for people who plan on attending, but also great for those at home who want to plan their day around it. While it might not seem like a genius marketing move, many people look on the name of Macy’s with a sense of happiness, making many people willing to purchase items from the store. When you see a Macy’s store, you might think of Thanksgiving and Christmas, simply because of their genius campaigns over the years.

6. TJX Corporation is Closing Their Doors on Thanksgiving. In recent years, more and more stores are opening earlier and earlier for Black Friday. However, this has sparked a lot of controversy as many don’t believe companies should be open and have sales on holidays.

While closing on Thanksgiving isn’t some grand Turkey Day marketing campaign with emails, newsletters, and decorations, it is a great move for the TJX Corporation and is a smart bit of marketing. In fact, many people are saying they plan on shopping at TJ Maxx and Marshalls more, especially before Thanksgiving, and on Black Friday. This will undoubtedly bring in a lot more revenue for the company.

What can you learn from this for your Thanksgiving marketing? Always encourage your customers to spend time with their family. Avoiding doing sales pitches on Thanksgiving Day, and save it for the days and weeks before or the day after. This shows you care about your customers and employees, which is a great way to promote your company in the minds of customers!

How Can You Get Stellar Thanksgiving Content?

While these are major brands, it is possible to get some stellar Thanksgiving content for your campaign. You don’t need to wait until next year to start some of these ideas, either! They go hand-in-hand with the Christmas holidays as well. A few ideas to take into consideration are:

1. Encourage People to Give. One thing that sets the holiday season apart, especially Thanksgiving, is how much people are willing to give and volunteer. Consider finding a few non-profits to sponsor for Thanksgiving and encourage your client base to donate time or money. At first, this may seem like something that could lose you money, but many people view businesses that help non-profits or charities in a very positive light, impacting your revenue in big and amazing ways. When you encourage people to give, offer it in an easy way for them to access the website to give donations. If you are a storefront business, ask people when they check out if they’d like to donate and consider having a jar nearby to place the money in.

2. Give Out Thanksgiving Day Relevant Content. When you create content around Thanksgiving, make sure you make a few pieces more Thanksgiving oriented. You can say what your company is thankful for, have designs of turkeys and other traditional Thanksgiving décor, and highlight various charities. You can find numerous ways to make content that is relevant to the holiday while also helping to promote your business. You might even find more people that are willing to shop with you if you have some sort of tie-in with the holiday. Relevancy is everything in content, and what is more relevant on Thanksgiving than pie and turkey?

3. Participate in a “30 Days of Thankfulness” On Social Media. A recent trend over the past few years has been social media users updating and tweeting #30DaysofThankfulness. They list one thing each day that they are thankful for until the end of November. It isn’t always something mind-blowing, but it gives people a way to be positive in the holiday season. Consider doing something similar with your business. Update your social media sites with what you are thankful for, and urge your followers and clients to reply with what they are thankful for, as well. A great thing to do is feature a few of these by re-tweeting them or sharing them on Facebook for others to see. This will help encourage more engagement from your client base, and get everyone in a positive mood, which is something we all need right now.

Take a note from some of these great brands for your Thanksgiving Content Marketing and make something memorable and fun for all! Create your own ideas or follow the above suggestions to create a campaign and be prepared to grow and tweak it throughout the coming years. You’ll be quite happy with the results when you celebrate holidays with your client base!

From all of us here at Express Writers, we would like to wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving!

Photo credit: Evgenyb / iStock