By Hollie Rapello
Thanksgiving Creep, the term for Christmas retail merchandise, advertising and marketing getting closer and closer to Thanksgiving, is not a new phenomenon. Consider this conversation between Sally and Charlie Brown some 40 years ago in “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,” circa 1973.
Charlie Brown: Holidays always depress me.
Sally: I know what you mean. I went down to buy a turkey tree and all they have are things for Christmas.
Charlie: For Christmas? Already?
This year Charlie Brown would be running for the Prozac. Many major retailers are taking matters beyond the usual bombardment of Black Friday advertising, and are actually opening their doors on Thanksgiving Day. A majority of consumers do not consider this a good idea. Two polls released this week illustrate consumers’ disdain for Thanksgiving Creep.
A UConn Poll released yesterday said that “9 out of 10 Americans say they don’t plan to spend the holiday shopping.” The poll also says that “49 percent disapprove of stores opening on the holiday and that 34 percent of Americans say they negatively view stores that open on Thanksgiving.” And “20 percent say that decision makes them less likely to shop at such stores.”
The Huffington Post partnered with YouGov to poll Americans on the topic, finding 62 percent who feel that business should close on Thanksgiving so workers can have the day off.
So how can brands go from being Thanksgiving Creeps to invited guests at the holiday table? Cause marketing offers one effective avenue. Last night I took part in a Twitter hashtag party for St. Jude Children’s Hospital—it was perfectly marketed to moms and it seriously put all of the brands associated with it at the top of my Christmas go-to list.
I already have positive associations with St. Jude’s. My best friend’s oldest sister, who succumbed to childhood leukemia in the late 70’s, was treated there and my friend has always talked about what an amazing place it was for her family and how they prolonged her sister’s life well past what was then expected. So, when I saw a promoted Tweet yesterday inviting me to the St. Jude’s hashtag party, I made a mental note to be there at 8PM EST.
The hashtag was #ThanksandGiving and the moderator, @SheSpeaksUp, asked questions to the group of moms about how and when they teach their children to volunteer and give back. While the format of a Twitter hashtag party didn’t lend itself to deep insights on this subject, I did find the comments from other moms interesting and sincere. I came away from the experience with a warm and fuzzy feeling about supporting the brands who support St. Jude’s.
Apparently I’m not alone. According to a 2010 Cone Cause Evolution Study, 85.6% of moms said it was important for companies to support a cause, and this fact alone reportedly influences moms to pour over $1.7 billion into the economy every year (The Truist Blog).
However, one hashtag party does not equal a true commitment to cause marketing. So, today I decided to take a closer look at one of the brands supporting the St. Jude’s hashtag party, Ann Taylor, or of late, “Ann Inc.” I was happy to discover that Ann Inc. has a deep commitment to St. Jude’s.
The company’s CEO, Kay Krill, recently spoke at the WWD CEO Summit about Ann Inc.’s commitment to two programs that give back to women: Ann Cares and Responsibly Ann. According to WWD, since 2007 Ann Cares has raised and donated more than $16 million for St. Jude’s. The commitment to giving back comes from the top. Kay says, “It’s obviously critical for all of us to continue to achieve and exceed financial success…but I believe, as leaders, that it’s also important to create a clear and differentiating purpose within our companies, a purpose that serves as a rallying point for our associates and provides a distinctive emotional connection to our customers.”
This is one way a brand is invited to the holiday table of the most discerning and jaded consumers. Not by bashing them over the head with Black Friday ads, or opening at 3 a.m., but by inviting them to their party first. Whether that be a Twitter hashtag party or a Google+ hangout, marketers must ensure that the time spent with them is meaningful, and there is perhaps no better way to do that during the holidays than giving back.