Decoding the Marketing Tactics of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade


Posted on November 23, 2021 by Aaron Johnson

Every year on Thanksgiving morning, 50 million people across the US crowd around their televisions while another 3 million people flock to the streets of Manhattan for three hours to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. It’s an American tradition that has kicked off the holiday season since 1924.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade was originally created to promote the opening of the “World’s Largest Store.” In fact, the first parade wasn’t a Thanksgiving parade at all—it was called the Macy’s Christmas Parade, and it was a not-so-subtle reminder that the gift-giving holiday had arrived.

Today, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade is known for its larger-than-life, high-flying balloons, masterfully decorated floats, star performances, popular broadway numbers, and marching bands from across the nation. And finally, after three hours of wide-eyed wonderment and forgetting to blink, Santa Claus comes to town.

The spectacle pulls in millions of dedicated viewers holding tightly to that piece of nostalgia. And with this kind of consistent, devoted viewership, it’s a brand marketer’s dream.

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade team expertly crafts a marketing strategy to promote a product or brand by influencing a targeted market, encourage brand recognition, and invites viewers to interact on social media.

Reaching the Right Market—Product and Brand Promotion

The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade’s marketing tactics are somewhat subliminal in nature … and they’re genius. Here’s how it works: first, brands sponsor balloons, floats, or performances. While there may not be a direct correlation between the sponsor and the design of the floats or balloons, the popular Today show hosts then mention the sponsor’s name on air and discuss the design in detail for 2+ minutes when the parade participant reaches the main stage of the parade route. This year, 40 brands will be represented over the three-hour event.

While the Macy’s parade wasn’t originally created to be a big brand marketing show, it’s obvious that the intended audience is and always has been children … and for good reason. The children are drawn to familiar character balloons, celebrities, and intricately designed floats, and then influence their parents on what to buy as the Christmas shopping begins.

Brand Recognition When It Matters Most

For the parents, the influence is a little deeper. Enter: the power of suggestion. When a brand is touted at a wholesome, charity-driven, family-oriented event by renown commentators, you conclude that it’s a brand you can feel good about supporting. But more than that, when a brand name is mentioned while discussing a particular piece that catches your eye (or during a favorite performance), it’s a name you’ll remember at 3a when you’re out elbow-to-elbow with the crowds on Black Friday. It’s brand recognition at its finest.

Super-Sized Audience, Honed In

While the audience is more than 50 million strong, Macy’s expertly makes the grand event feel personal and meaningful through a variety of digital marketing mediums, which maximizes the marketing impact and reach.

On their website, Macy’s calls the parade a “Watch Party,” which ignites a feeling of inclusivity to an exclusive event, and YOU are invited.

If you’re a history buff, you can go back in time and learn how the parade changed over each decade. If you want more, there’s even a podcast.

But how they really get people talking is through social media. As social media platforms take the world by storm, Macy’s has capitalized on the opportunity. Not only is their website bursting with excitement announcing all the parade details—from ballon specs, sponsor info, host bios, and more—they invite you to join in on the conversation with a hashtag (#macysparade) to be used across top Meta platforms—Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and more. Since everyone has a voice on social media, they know that their marketing tactics have to be on point and delivered flawlessly.

So what marketing tips can we take away from the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade?
Marketing strategy is imperative. Establish your brand identity from the get-go. Know your audience. And last but not least, expand your digital reach for maximum potential.

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