TV commercials may well be an endangered species, but they still dominate network and cable television. The day after Halloween, there was a dramatic shift: everything suddenly became about the Christmas holiday season. I kept asking myself, “Did everyone forget Thanksgiving?”
This is personal for me. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, a ritual feast that feels both primal and unifying in our incredibly divisive age. I get together with my tribe, and we really do give thanks. We’re still here!
I know it’s not a big sales event for any retailers besides grocers, but I was surprised grocers weren’t beating me over the head with ads of all sorts. It’s an opportunity to shine. I saw almost none.
I had been seeing complaints on my social media feed for weeks: stores put out Christmas decorations for sale before Halloween, and it was too much for many people. Just. Too. Soon. As soon as Halloween was over, these shoppers were thinking about Thanksgiving. So I went on a hunt to see if any retailers had remembered Thanksgiving, too.
I checked in with Walmart (America’s largest grocer by volume), and they do feature one Thanksgiving oriented video among their Black Friday ads. I haven’t seen it on TV, but that could be a function of the channels I watch.
In fact, the only Thanksgiving-related video I have seen in the wild, and I’ve seen it multiple times, is from Publix. Not one word about prices, and given its roots in the south, it’s no small thing that it features an African-American family. It’s a feel-good commercial from America’s favorite grocer.
Let me repeat that. Publix is America’s favorite grocer. While those who voted for it as their favorite cited things like cleanliness, navigability, item availability and fast checkouts as high points, as a frequent Publix shopper myself, I can tell you that two of those citations: navigability and item availability are over-stated. I’m often frustrated by changing store layouts and out-of-stocks on my personal favorite items.
I think the perception of value is ultimately deeper than that. It’s about being a good community citizen, encouraging the best in its customers and employees and being in tune with the times.
Here’s an example: Back in the Great Recession, Publix might have done the best private label promotion I’ve ever seen. Every week they picked six items (different every week), and if you bought one of the national brands, they’d give you the Publix private label brand free. The message was clear: try it, you’ll like it! And you would get a free box of cereal (for example) to boot. That’s smart marketing and good for the public image as well.
WATCH THE AD