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A Look at Brand Marketing This Thanksgiving

Nearly 55 million Americans are expected to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, despite soaring fuel prices and food costs. Families and friends are excited to come together in person following long pandemic years spent apart—and brands are likewise getting in on the fun with both Thanksgiving and Black Friday activations. Here’s a look at what’s happening.

Two Takes on Thanksgiving
Kroger supermarket chain just unveiled a new campaign that combines nostalgia with a hefty dose of sentimentality to warm hearts (and perhaps coax a few tears) this turkey day. A 60-second hero spot called “Today’s Holiday Moments Are Tomorrow’s Memories” focuses on a grandfather who finds his late wife’s cookbook and decides to make some of her recipes. While baking things like cranberry brie bites and cinnamon apple pie, he’s transported back to precious moments when they ate those dishes together—their first meeting, first kiss, first Thanksgiving with a baby. “We wanted to hit on some of the insights we were hearing from our customers, including that this year is the year they feel they’re finally getting together,” said Emily Hartmann, Kroger’s senior director of brand marketing. “In spite of some of the challenges they face, creating holiday memories with food is where they’re unwilling to compromise.” The ad will run during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and two football games (New York Giants vs. Dallas Cowboys and Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Michigan Wolverines) being played over the holiday weekend. A book featuring recipes and scenes from the films is also being created for consumers.

From traditional to avant-garde, Oatly’s latest campaign speaks to vegetarian and vegan consumers on a day known for its consumption of poultry, meat and dairy-based food items. The alternative milk brand has a history of pursuing quirky marketing tactics (think: creating a true-crime podcast and staging a puppet show, among other events), and this initiative is no exception. A 30-second spot shows a worker manning the phones of a newly launched Oatly Emotional Support Hotline for Plant-Based Eaters, where non-meat eaters can call for tips on how to navigate the turkey meal. A real hotline number (866-OAT-LINE) will operate live on Thanksgiving Day. “Oatly of course feels for our likeminded plant-based friends and wants to arm them with all the help they could need to not only get through these holiday meals but even positively influence dinner conversations,” said Armando Turco, executive director of brand and creative.

All Pants on Deck
Anyone who’s ever eaten a Thanksgiving meal knows about the overstuffed moment when clothes no longer fit right, which is why Stove Top first created its maternity-style Stuffing Pants in 2017. (Friends fans will remember the same version of pants worn by actor Matt LeBlanc during a Thanksgiving episode.) Stove Top’s Stuffing Pants “sold out immediately” after making their original debut, according to company executives, and now the stuffing maker is reintroducing that limited-edition garment in honor of Kraft Heinz’s 50th anniversary. The “new and improved jogger-style pants” boast “stuffin-stretch technology” thanks to an extra-wide waistband, available in the brand’s “soft, Stove Top red fabric.” Influencers plus paid and organic activations are being used to promote the pants on Instagram, with the hopes of bringing “comfort to every facet of Thanksgiving this year, including conversations and waistbands.”

Betting Big on Black Friday
JCPenney is out with two new 15-second spots meant to “encourage shopping enthusiasts to find the thrill of holiday savings all month long at JCPenney as select Black Friday deals are released online and in-store each week in November.” Both feature Penny James, the shopping mascot played by comedian Melissa Villasenor, who sings praises of Black Friday deals while supported by backup singers The Shopettes. Ads will run across TV and digital channels through the end of the month, then the department store chain plans to unveil an all-inclusive holiday campaign featuring six diverse, real-life families who “represent the faces and voices we see in our stores,” according to VP Carl Byrd.

Finally, fellow retailer Walmart reunited several cast members from the hit 1999 film Office Space for a new Black Friday marketing campaign that plays on people having a “case of the Mondays,” one of the movie’s most memorable jokes. The spot announces that Walmart will now offer Black Friday deals on Mondays— without giving up on the original day of savings. Instead, the company will host multiple events. “Black Friday is still incredibly important,” said Casey Schlaybaugh, VP of brand strategy and marketing. “But one of the things we know is that customers do want to shop early. They want to have control. They want to shop more frequently.” Placements include cinema and broadcast advertising, along with big YouTube takeovers every Monday in November.

Black Friday drew over $14 billion in online sales last year, and shoppers spent over $5 billion on Thanksgiving. An estimated 140 million Americans are expected to shop those holiday sales this year, which makes both events worthy of marketers’ time. Happy holidays!