5 of The Most Effective Thanksgiving Digital Marketing Campaigns

Author Emma Knightley
Topic Campaign

The seasonal period, or 'Golden Quarter', is upon us and with Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is the time for you as a brand, to build awareness, grow your audience and boost your bottom line.

Last year alone, US consumers spent a total of $12.8 billion online between Thanksgiving Day and Cyber Monday. By tapping into the gift-giving, memory-making mindset and engaging your target audience with an inspiring, engaging digital marketing campaign, not only will you be able to increase your profit, but you also stand a chance of forging enduring consumer relationships that will prove invaluable to the future success of your business.

An innovative digital marketing campaign has the potential to entertain, engage and evoke strong seasonal emotions unlike any other form of promotion. And to inspire your seasonal activities, here are five noteworthy Thanksgiving digital marketing campaigns from times past.

Buzz - Coca-Cola

Buzz - Coca-Cola

Drinks colossus, Coca-Cola, has always been celebrated for its quirky, innovative and original digital marketing campaigns - and one of its more recent Thanksgiving initiatives is no exception.

After enjoying tangible success from its creative 'Share a Coke' campaign - a strategy that not only enhanced the brand's image significantly but increased the young to adult consumption of the soft drink by 7% - Coca-Cola decided to spill the notion into Thanksgiving.

A seamless mix of user-generated content, eye-catching social media visuals, videos and well-placed content marketing propelled 'Share a Coke' to viral heights. To continue the momentum and build further buzz, the brand relaunched the idea with a spin that placed its personalized drinks cans or bottles as consumable placemats at the Thanksgiving dinner table.

Result: By rolling out its humorous, light-hearted brand messaging across its most subscribed social media channels, supported by hashtags, images, videos and GIFs, Coca-Cola earned a great deal of buzz with 16,000 engagements via Instagram alone.

Subversive - REI

In 2016, outdoors brand, REI, took a radical approach to its Thanksgiving marketing by essentially boycotting Black Friday (one of the year’s biggest retail revenue generators) and closing its physical doors to consumers.

Rather than indulge in the mire of the Black Friday rush, REI shut down its retail branches, distribution centers and headquarters, giving its staff the opportunity to go outdoors and enjoy a day of fresh air rather than working - and it publically asked its consumer-based community to join them.

By leaning on its brand mission of helping people do what they love most - experience the great outdoors - while demonstrating an incredible level of empathy to its staff and community, REI turned many heads. The campaign helped the brand positioned itself as an industry innovator while empowering its stakeholders - both internally as well as externally - giving them the chance to indulge in something memorable, collaborative and ultimately, worthwhile.

In today’s age, consumers crave value from companies and are more inclined to invest in a brand that they can believe in or relate to - and this is a testament to that very notion.

Result: With this forward-thinking and somewhat subversive campaign, REI has followed through on its brand mission while building a colossal buzz with its catchy hashtag, #OptOutside in addition to inspirational video content.

Now in its third year, REI’s Optoutside campaign has inspired a host of other noteworthy brands including The National Parks Foundation, amplifying the buzz and brand awareness even further.

Email - BarkPost

Email - BarkPost

Dogs conjure up feelings of warmth and happiness, and for brands deal in all things related to our canine companions, Thanksgiving is an excellent time of year to amp up your digital marketing efforts.

Leveraging the seasonal period to its advantage, tip-top doggy publication, BarkPost, launched a Thanksgiving email marketing campaign to engage its audience, grow its subscriber base and drive people towards its monthly dog treat delivery service, BarkBox.

By sending out a savvy, expertly timed email packed full of holiday-themed animations and videos, feeding safety tips, and niche, doggy-centric holiday survival techniques, the brand enjoyed a positive level of engagement that compelled consumers to interact with the publication’s content as well as its associated subscription service.

BarkPost’s email not only boasts a striking tone of voice, digestible formatting, niche value and enticing visuals, but it’s call-to-action, ‘Stop getting cute dogs in your email. Unsubscribe’ is as creative as it is effective.

Result: At present, BarkBox projects to reach revenue of $250 million by the end of this year, with its subscription business accounts for around 80% of its sales. That said, it’s possible to attribute a great deal of the brand's growth to innovative seasonal initiatives like this Thanksgiving email campaign.

Awareness - Postmates

Based on a thriving demographic of real-life Thanksgiving heroes, Moms, Postmates’ Friendsgiving On-Demand campaign contained all of the key ingredients of a successful seasonal digital marketing campaign. 

To offer practical value to its target audience while sharing seasonal warmth with its unique tone of voice, Postmates compiled an extensive mix of Thanksgiving recipes and how-tos, complete with inviting imagery and lists of ingredients that could be bought, on-demand, direct from the company’s online store.

This savvy feat of content marketing not only provides true practical value but its direct tie in with its online grocery service offered its consumers a user-friendly solution for whipping up the most stomach-satisfying Thanksgiving recipes with ease: memory-making, buzz-building and omnichannel marketing in action.

Result: To date, Postmates’ on-demand grocery shopping and delivery platform have generated a $1.2 billion since its launch in 2017. By tapping into emotive annual events like Thanksgiving and playing to its strengths, the brand has served to boost its brand awareness exponentially, growing its audience and increasing its profitability as a result.

Social - Stovetop

Playing on the millennial cohort’s fascination with selfies, Stove Top Stuffing earned notable levels of social traction with its simple, straightforward and lighthearted Thanksgiving marketing campaign.

By creating the humorous Thanksgiving anti-hero, 'The Artisanal Hipster Pilgrim', Stove Top satirized the selfie trend while plugging its convenient product with the catchy slogan, ‘Stuff Thy Selfie’, among many others.

This perfectly balanced mix of shareable assets (videos and imagery), topical brand messaging and strategic social media placement sparked social media engagement across platforms, putting the instant stuffing product from Kraft on the Thanksgiving map.

Result: Stove Top’s strategic approach to social media marketing and its cutting-edge creativity earned the brand a Shorty Award nomination for marketing humour. Moreover, the campaign earned more than 4.7million video views on Facebook alone, racking up a total 49,839,865 organically - an impressive result indeed.

Final Takeways

"People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” –Simon Sinek, Renowned Marketing Consultant

These five initiatives, while different in their approach and nature, all serve to showcase the power of an effective Thanksgiving digital marketing campaign. By honing in on your target audience, playing to your strengths, seeking fresh creative angles and tapping into the emotionally-driven nature of the event, you stand to yield incredible results - and a little humour helps too.

Emma Knightley