Thanksgiving Advertising

This might just be one of the most controversial years for marketing Thanksgiving. And it’s not even because of pilgrims and indians.

As the “shopping holiday” grows and grows, lines become blurry as to what’s appropriate. You have to stay on your toes to keep up with the most savvy and tactful techniques for advertising around turkey day.

One thing that morphed rapidly from year to year was the template of Thanksgiving sales: First Black Friday became a commodity based on a  trend, and then it was followed by Small Business Saturday. And then there was Cyber Monday. (Sunday is still church day, or movie day, or travel day, depending on your own preferences – but either way, at least one thing remains sacred.)

But even with these expanding sales days, it was something that marketers could work around. It was already branded, and already understood by the general public, which makes everything easier when it comes to advertising. And then suddenly, between 2012-2013, it all got tangled up. Now Black Friday sales start on Wednesday. Everything that’s on sale in stores is also marked down online, so there’s no need to wait for Monday. Small Business Saturday might be no more than wishful thinking on the part of small business marketers, honestly, but at least it hasn’t gone into obscurity yet – it’s just that Saturday is no longer a day about just one thing.

Now every day from about Halloween to Christmas could, potentially, be some kind of Thanksgiving sale.

Not exactly, but it’s not much of an exaggeration. Really, these days blending into one another just makes it that much harder to really buckle down and specify advertisements around specific angles of Thanksgiving shopping. All you can advertise is more, more, more.

But that’s not exactly safe. Another thing that’s making this year tricky is the actual backlash against these monstrous holiday sales. Some people are offended about stores opening on Thanksgiving, when workers want to be with their families. They’re sensitive to the commercialization of the holiday, which means that they might take offense to some marketing geared toward promoting early and extended deals, or big-box competition that detracts from e-commerce retailers or small businesses on days that used to belong to them. So even if you have the greatest bargain and the most clever ad for it, there’s a possibility you’ll wind up upsetting someone this year more than ever – and perhaps next year, too, as retailers continue to push boundaries and one-up each other in this shifting sales landscape.

And don’t even get us starting on Thanksgivukkah – well, OK, maybe this one little extra touch to 2013 Thanksgiving is not so bad. It’s actually been kind of fun. And at least marketers don’t have to worry about those holiday lines crossing again for another 70,000 years. Everyone got to pause the usual pitches and brainstorm more creative angles like “l’chai-yum” and “gobble tov.”

But that’s a lone bright spot. It’s very likely that 2014 will only see a more intense marketing rivalry than ever before – and onward. This just means that advertisers will need to stay smart and keep an eye on changing fads and public opinion in order to make the most of marketing Thanksgiving.

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