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How Advertising Shaped Thanksgiving as We Know It

November 26, 2017  •  By: Renee Chemel

There’s an overarching belief that Thanksgiving doesn’t get the same hype that other holidays do. After the ghosts and ghouls get pulled off the shelves, we are greeted by rosy-cheeked Santa Clauses and a variety of Christmas trees. Sure, there may be a “Happy Thanksgiving” sign somewhere in the store (usually shoved in between the “on-sale” Halloween décor and the new rows of nutcrackers), but it’s always seemingly received the shorter end of the advertising stick.  

What many forget is how Thanksgiving as we know it has been largely shaped by advertising.  No matter what iteration of the holiday you may have enjoyed this year, some aspect of your Thanksgiving dinner was inspired by decades of ads.

Thanksgiving has a broad appeal because the holiday is not connected to any specific religion but rather a certain set of rituals and practices that have been brought to the forefront through various forms of media. Of course, different cultures enjoy slightly different variations of the holiday, there remains certain familiar items that are staples for Thanksgiving dinner—the pies, stuffing, macaroni & cheese…and, of course, the turkey (or some other meat as the center piece).

So, what influence has advertising had?

The earliest influence of marketing can be seen by Thanksgiving’s godmother Sarah Josepha Hale—a highly influential writer, editor, and reviewer. In the late 1840s, Hale was the editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book, one of the most popular publications in the United States. The magazine was akin to today’s Good Housekeeping; women followed the trends she set in areas of dress, food, and the home. And it was Hale who convinced the government to recognize Thanksgiving Day as a national holiday.

Really, we could call her petition one big marketing campaign. Thanks to her persistence, Thanksgiving is, today, a nationally recognized holiday—and though not marketed at the same level as Christmas or Halloween, is still big business.

On a cyber note—the Thanksgiving holiday is huge for email marketing; with emails sent on Thanksgiving Day possessing a higher open rate than any other day during the weekend, per Constant Contact.

So, whatever you ended up doing this year for Thanksgiving, remember the impact of advertising, and how it has made the holiday—and the weekend—into what it is today.   Get into more than 5B emails a month – start advertising with us today.

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