Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season

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In 1924, Macy’s welcomed the world’s largest department store with their first parade in New York City.

Although held on the morning of Thanksgiving, it was presented as a Christmas parade with floats featuring favorite nursery-rhyme characters, matching the theme of their window display that year.

Macy’s employees dressed up and marched alongside animals borrowed from the Central Park Zoo, leading a giant Santa Claus for 6 miles from Harlem to the store at Herald Square.

The parade is now in its 90th year and has become something of an institution with more than 3.5 million New Yorkers lining the route annually. Enormous helium balloons debuted in 1927 to replace the zoo animals which, unsurprisingly, proved challenging to handle out in the city. These balloons have become a signature of the parade and each year a different character is revealed, from Superman to Donald Duck.

Further innovations have been introduced over time, including themed floats first appearing in 1971 and Broadway performances first debuting in 1980.

The Macy’s parade is a spectacle to be enjoyed by all, although there is clear focus on marketing to children, who take delight in the giant animals and familiar cartoon characters leading them (and, more importantly, their parents) through the city to Macy’s flagship store.

Now known as the ‘Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,’ the success of this event is demonstrated by making Thanksgiving and Macy’s synonymous for the people of New York and all those enjoying the show at home, as well.

Holiday Marketing Takeaway

Macy’s parade is nothing less than a spectacle. Creating a large and ostentatious holiday campaign is one sure way of reaching a wide audience and generating chatter around your brand.

Table of Contents

Intro150 Years of the Best Holiday Campaigns
Chapter 1 The Genesis of Holiday Window Displays
Chapter 2 Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Brings Spectacle to the Season
Chapter 3 How Coca-Cola Invented The Father of Christmas (Or did they?)
Chapter 4 Budweiser Celebrates the End to Prohibition
Chapter 5 Montgomery Ward Employee Invents Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Chapter 6 Campbell’s Soup Speaks to the ’50s Housewife
Chapter 7 Mr. Potato Head Becomes First Toy Ever Televised
Chapter 8 NORAD Tracks Santa’s Journey Around the World
Chapter 9 Norelco Popularizes Stop-Motion Animation
Chapter 10 Kentucky Fried Chicken for Christmas? Why You’ll Eat KFC in Japan
Chapter 11 Folgers Advertises the Intangible
Chapter 12 Hershey’s Holiday Bells Defy an Ad Agency
Chapter 13 Coca-Cola’s Polar Bears Humanize Global Warming
Chapter 14 Coca-Cola’s Christmas Fleet Brings Truckloads of Cheer
Chapter 15 M&M’s Stumble Upon Santa –– No One is Left Standing
Chapter 16 Starbucks Red Cups Spark Consumer Salivating (and Controversy)
Chapter 17 Target Keeps it Simple with Their Black Friday Catalog Focuses on Price
Chapter 18 Pampers Silent Night Raises $40 Million for Charity
Chapter 19 Give a Garmin Hits on Travel, Humor and Holiday Stress
Chapter 20 John Lewis Focuses on Storytelling Over Brand
Chapter 21 Macy’s Believe Campaign Raises $10 Million, Involves Schools
Chapter 22 American Express Small Business Saturday Supports Local
Chapter 23 Apple Misunderstood Campaign Makes Technology and Family a Priority
Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition