Let’s Talk Turkey!

I love Thanksgiving–always have. In fact, my husband proposed to me kneeling in a heart I drew in the sand with a stick on Thanksgiving Day long ago. It is a memory I treasure. My Thanksgiving Days have been filled with family, food, and laughter over the years–and I wouldn’t change it.

In recent years, there has been a push to start the Christmas holidays as soon as possible. Now, it seems the pendulum is swinging back.

In this week’s Modern Retro PR. we’ll talk turkey (literally!) and see how message placement for two companies is part of the overall strategy to connect with customers over Thanksgiving.

Retro: Butterball’s Turkey Talk Line (1981)
The Thanksgiving scene around family dinners across the nation can be a landmine. Let the turkey be cooked incorrectly, and you’ll become the family joke. The stress is real, especially for those first Thanksgiving dinners the new couple will host.

Enter a brilliant message placement strategy, courtesy of PR firm, Edelman. Before we get to that, the backstory is as tasty as the result.

Butterball brand managers theorized that sales were lagging because people didn’t know how to cook the turkey. Edelman’s plan sought to get to the root of the problem implemented a 1-800 number where someone could answer those frequently asked questions and inject the chef with a bit of confidence.

Six home economists armed with their expertise and a telephone bank would change the


Vintage Butterball Turkey Talk experts take phone calls.

the course of Thanksgiving Day in 1981. Eleven thousand people called in for help. Not only did it boost sales, it solidified expert-status to customers.

“This was a unique approach to building sales for Butterball. It not only raised consumer confidence in the brand, but the talk line itself got media coverage, thus heightening Butterball’s profile.”

The publication Ad Week, even noted the strength in the message placement of the turkey company:

“Butterball’s help line is also shrewd marketing, positioning the brand as the turkey experts in the minds of many home cooks, even those who may have bought a Purdue or Bell & Evans turkey.”

If you find yourself needing some tips during the months of November and December, go ahead and give them a call at 1-800-BUTTERBALL, they’d be happy to help you save your holiday meal.

Modern: Target, Home Goods, & T.J. Maxx Bring Back the Holidays Campaign (2015)
I must confess: I have only participated in one Black Friday event in my life. I didn’t particularly enjoy it but did get a TV at a great price out of the trip. But it seems that the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier each year.

My Facebook feed has friends declaring they will leave the dinner table at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day to go shopping. Really?!!? I. Just. Can’t.

Last year, T.J. Maxx (and its subsidiaries which include HomeGoods and Marshall’s) introduced the “Bring Back the Holidays” campaign.

Talk about message placement! The effort “focuses on people, and creates opportunities to bring them together,” according to a news release issued by the campaign. This work was predicated on the results from a 2013 Pew Research Study in which nearly 70 percent of people say they most look forward to time with family. That same study showed that nearly a third of people said they dislike the commercialization of the holiday.

As a result, the three stores will be closed on Thanksgiving Day so that employees can spend time with their own families as opposed to minding the bedlam that is door-buster deals. Consumers are taking note, with many bloggers focused family and parenting issues highlighting the campaign on their own blogs.

Additionally, the effort uses social media to extend the conversation. By using the hashtag #bringbacktheholidays, people can win prizes designed to create special moments for families. For example, 20 people won $2,000 travel gift cards to help them get home for the holidays in 2015.

While there is something to be said for corporate altruism, it is more likely, large companies read the 2014 research from the National Research Federation that highlighted the fact that “the early Black Friday launch has caused costs to rise, while last year saw an 11 percent drop in Black Friday weekend sales.”

The online push of the social media campaign is yielding results. Sentiments like these abound on Twitter:

With more people moving their shopping experience online, what’s one day?

Final Thoughts.
For retailers, a key question to answer will they highlight the value they offer to customers or will they highlight the value of family. It seems that both Butterball and the companies under the T.J. Maxx umbrella have found a way to do that that is consistent with their respective brands.

There are real costs associated with both of these business decisions. Plus, the upside is worth noting too.

“Instead of using it as a way to make money, companies are losing money…and saying that’s okay, that’s okay cause it’s going to help our image and the goodwill that customers have in their minds about us,” said Pete Fader, a marketing professor at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, in a podcast with Business Insider.

Additionally, the decision netted an increase in media coverage for both companies. As TV stations looked to fill content during a slow news period, they called on the experts from Butterball to offer tips and promoted the names of companies who will be closed on Thanksgiving Day. Prime placement considering the fact that many people are off during the holidays and watching a little more TV than usual.

The bet is that after you’ve had your fill of turkey (and maybe your family), you will be more inclined to patron those companies whose values mirror yours and shop on your time, not theirs.

My wish for each of my readers is to have safe and joyous holiday season! Feel free to share what you are thankful for or your favorite Thanksgiving memory in the comments below. I’ll be doing what I am always doing: eating and enjoying time with family.

One thought on “Let’s Talk Turkey!

  1. I also have a special place in my heart for Thanksgiving! I get overwhelmed when I see and hear Christmas before Thanksgiving. Today you can see Christmas decorations in the stores before Halloween. This begins the hype for others shopping extravaganza. Although, I think for some families participating in Black Friday is their tradition, my families tradition are more like yours. Now, that social media is increasingly involved people can avoid the rush of the stores. Stores use placement through email and social media that influence people to shop online. It is now not only Black Friday. It starts Thursday afternoon and continues into Cyber Monday. Cyber Monday? The term “Cyber Monday” was created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online in 2005. Social media was still being introduced at that time and we did not have iPhones to keep us constantly connected. Now just pull up your Facebook App before Black Friday until Cyber Monday and the advertisements will unload on you. If you are subscribed to any retail websites your email will overload with “Black Friday Deals” and “Cyber Monday steals”. Then there is Cyber Monday continued. It is a fight for these companies to get their product seen first and what better way than social media.


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