It’s a holiday tradition that’s synonymous with New York City. Every year, over 50 million viewers tune in to watch the giant helium balloons, legendary Radio City Rockettes and big-name musical acts on elaborate floats during the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And as always, Santa Claus visits for the grand finale to officially kick off the holiday season.
The parade has continued to grow in popularity since the 1920s — with no signs of slowing down. How does it maintain ongoing success? Four simple-yet-strategic marketing techniques that keep it alive year after year.
Staying relevant. Macy’s is always adding new content — hot balloon characters or chart-topping live performers of the moment. But these newcomers are carefully balanced by time-tested participants like Snoopy, top-tier high school marching bands and Santa.
Mixing current with traditional elements is a strategic move that helps the parade appeal to a wide audience, creating a multi-generational viewing experience that keeps people tuning in. This broad audience engagement keeps advertisers and sponsors lining up for coveted airtime, which helps to keep the parade humming along every Thanksgiving.
Maintaining consistency. When it comes to entertainment value, the parade never disappoints. You can expect to see bundled-up crowds lining the streets, famous Broadway stars, children’s choirs and high school bands marching from Central Park West to 34th street.
This carefully orchestrated consistency builds tradition, bringing people together to watch the parade every year, whether in person or on TV. Loyalty grows exponentially when a brand is consistent with its customer experience.
Brand alignment. And that brings us to brand alignment. Every single participant and advertiser in the parade is carefully selected. Macy’s works hard to have no controversial individuals or organizations involved — nothing that can hurt or tarnish the brand. Remember how quickly they cut ties with former parade host Matt Lauer after nearly 20 years?
The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade wants to project a wholesome image to remain family-friendly. Staying true to brand image is critical to maintaining customers and driving more meaningful interactions.
The art of subtlety. The parade is all about marketing. After all, it IS called the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. But that doesn’t mean that marketing is aggressively overt. First and foremost, viewers take in the entertainment, the floats and the balloons. When entertainment is the focus, customers can let their guard down and brands can make lasting impressions. It’s about making the “commercial” look like an afterthought, so it’s not off-putting to customers.
According to Macy’s, the parade’s mission is simple: “To provide quality entertainment while bringing children and families together on this most cherished national holiday.” And while they’re at it, pulling off one of the biggest annual marketing campaigns of the holidays and generating a buzz for all brands involved.