Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is a Content Marketer’s Dream: 7 Lessons

Updated Nov. 22, 2022

Millions collect to view your content material advertising and marketing on their screens.

Crowds line up over two miles simply to get a glimpse of your content material in actual life.

That’s the stuff of content material entrepreneurs’ desires. And it’s the truth for entrepreneurs at Macy’s, the U.S. division retailer chain that has placed on a parade in New York City each Thanksgiving since 1924.

I’m a huge fan of Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I traveled to see it twice, and I by no means miss watching it on tv. And that’s earlier than I noticed it’s all content material advertising and marketing. Here are some classes that struck me.

1. Steal concepts – simply make them higher

Macy’s wasn’t the primary division retailer to host a parade as a content material advertising and marketing instrument for the Christmas shopping for season. In 1920, the Gimbel Brothers division retailer in Philadelphia created the first one. Four years later – the identical 12 months Macy’s launched its parade – the J.L. Hudson Co. division retailer began one in Detroit. Though these parades proceed at present, Gimbels and Hudson’s haven’t been concerned for many years. Hudson’s ceased its parade connection when it closed its Detroit flagship within the late Nineteen Seventies. (The chain was later purchased by Macy’s). And the Philadelphia division retailer was liquidated within the mid-Nineteen Eighties.

Original concepts are laborious to return by (some say there aren’t any). Don’t spend all of your time attempting to create one thing nobody’s carried out. Look for present inspiration. You might discover content material that isn’t dwelling as much as its potential – after which you may take the chance to do it higher.

You don’t need original ideas. Just do existing ones better. That’s what @Macy’s did in creating its New York Thanksgiving Day parade, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. #ContentMarketing Click To Tweet

2. Stick with what works, alter what doesn’t

The first Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade stretched over six miles and featured nursery rhyme characters, retailer workers dressed as clowns and cowboys, and animals from the Central Park Zoo. A float carrying Santa and a reindeer-pulled sleigh closed the parade.

In the twenty first century, the parade traverses solely 2.5 miles to make sure a tighter present. It options multi-story-tall balloons that way back changed the zoo animals. It welcomes manufacturers apart from Macy’s into the act (assume Pillsbury Dough Boy and Ronald McDonald). Marching bands from across the nation, floats that includes lip-syncing celebrities, and reside characters just like the gang from Sesame Street broaden the attraction.

Santa’s sleigh and reindeer are much more elaborate now, however the jolly fella retains his virtually 100-year-old place within the parade – the ultimate act anticipated by younger and previous.

When you may have an everlasting content material star, go forward and tweak it. Don’t use the identical previous, usual content material on a regular basis. Each 12 months, Macy’s creates a curiosity hole: What new balloons will debut? Which shall be retired?

@Macy’s creates a curiosity gap every year as audiences wonder what new balloons will debut and which will be retired, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

What annual content material are you able to create that entices your viewers to return many times? At CMI, for instance, we create content material advertising and marketing analysis studies yearly. Some of the questions within the analysis questionnaire stay the identical every year, however we add new ones primarily based on our viewers’s wants, business traits, and international modifications.

Think about the way to clean up your content material by including new concepts or attempting totally different codecs.

Think about how to freshen up your #content by adding new ideas or trying different formats, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

For instance, a B2B model would possibly add a new division targeted on distant work to its quarterly journal. A B2C model would possibly shoot quick, tip-focused movies primarily based on info from weblog articles.

The alternatives to regulate your content material combine – matter, format, and so forth. – are countless.

3. Look at issues from a totally different perspective

Let’s get to the reality. Despite the identify (and the turkey float), the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade has little to do with Thanksgiving. It’s actually in regards to the buying season main as much as the largest gift-giving events of the 12 months. The floats, balloons, and songs all revolve across the red-and-green vacation. In reality, the occasion’s preliminary identify was Macy’s Christmas Parade. Macy’s, as a enterprise, isn’t targeted on the Thanksgiving vacation. Macy’s cares in regards to the timing of Thanksgiving – a month or so earlier than the reward exchanges start.

Think about conventional occasions or actions in your business. How are you able to create content material that turns them on their head? Let’s say your organization has a sales space on the identical commerce present each September. Instead of crafting one other evergreen white paper to showcase your thought management, use the occasion because the unique launch web site for a must-have report on business predictions for the approaching 12 months. Make that report the middle of your content material hub for the quarter, giving it life far past the two-day occasion.

4. Don’t go solo

Macy’s isn’t the one model concerned within the parade. McDonald’s sends up a Ronald McDonald balloon accompanied by his big shoe automotive on the bottom. Kraft’s Kool-Aid Man crashed the social gathering for a few years. Jennie-O’s Big Turkey Spectacular, Dreamworks’ Boss Baby, and Sinclair Oil’s child dinos participate this year. And manufacturers like Olay, Entenmann’s, Wonder Bread, and Lego host floats. Each branded parade entry is an instance of sponsored content material.

Image source

Each branded float in the @Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is an example of #SponsoredContent, says @AnnGynn via @CMIContent. Click To Tweet

If a sponsored content material mannequin doesn’t suit your group’s content material technique, you may nonetheless discover methods to attach with different firms. For instance, settle for visitor blogs in your web site or craft visitor content material for non-competing manufacturers which have related goal audiences.

5. Interact together with your viewers

In 2020, Macy’s used its Twitter account to have interaction with its viewers earlier than and in the course of the parade. In addition to previewing that 12 months’s points of interest, Macy’s carried out a collection of promoted tweets (that’s how they discovered me, although I didn’t keep in mind to avoid wasting one to share right here). The tweet mentioned Macy’s would ship me a reminder in regards to the parade if I picked my favourite parade exercise and tweeted about it.

So I did:

Hi, @macys! I can’t wait to see the #MacysParade #balloons. What about you?

— Ann Gynn (@anngynn) November 23, 2020

Two hours earlier than the parade began, I received this customized reminder tweet:

@anngynn,Happy Thanksgiving! 🦃Don’t neglect to activate NBC at 9am to catch this 12 months’s #MacysParade.

— Macy’s (@Macys) November 26, 2020

When you attempt to interact your viewers members on Twitter, take into consideration inviting them into your account or model. That requires greater than clicking a coronary heart or retweeting. Make it private. Give them one thing enjoyable or priceless to share. Follow up with extra customized content material.

6. Scrutinize your language

While I favored Macy’s method to personalizing Twitter that 12 months, I wasn’t a fan of its use of the phrase “diverse” in a 2020 tweet meant to rejoice Zeta Phi Beta, a Black sorority celebrating 100 years and making its first look within the parade:

TheJasmineBRAND grabbed the tweet earlier than Macy’s eliminated it a couple of hours after it brought on an outcry:

#ZetaPhiBeta known as a “diverse dance group” on the #macysthanksgivingdayparade 👀

— theJasmineBRAND (@thejasminebrand) November 26, 2020

Poor, fallacious, or ignorant phrase decisions get rid of any worth your content material might need had and may harm the model. Proofread your content material not just for spelling and grammar but additionally for intent, interpretation, inclusivity, and so forth. Macy’s misstep additionally teaches one other writing lesson – creating inclusive and numerous content material normally doesn’t require you to level out that it’s numerous and inclusive.

(*7*)Click To Tweet

7. Start small

Macy’s didn’t arrange a grandiose occasion in 1924. The parade entries lined solely two blocks and included about 50 individuals. But that was sufficient to enthrall tens, if not a whole bunch of hundreds, to point out up alongside the six-mile route. Though the media barely lined the occasion, the viewers response prompted Macy’s to announce a few weeks later that the parade would return the subsequent 12 months. (It wasn’t till the parade made its tv debut virtually 30 years later that Macy’s received nationwide consideration and drew in thousands and thousands extra followers.)

What are your content material advertising and marketing desires (i.e., huge objectives)? They could appear overly bold, however is there a minimal viable content material product you might actually create that may result in making these desires come true? Start planning at present.

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Cover picture by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute