Since its founding in October 1858, the retailer has attracted star wattage in the form of actors, singers, designers and public personalities and become an intrinsic part of pop culture. From Frank Sinatra and Snoopy to "The Wonder Years" and "Project Runway," the Macy's brand has been intertwined with entertainment since its modest beginnings. This month, as could only be expected, a star-studded cast will help the retailer celebrate that 150-year-old heritage.
"We are called the 'Miracle on 34th Street' because of the movie that was made about this great brand," said Martine Reardon, exec VP-marketing, as an example of Macy's coexistence with Hollywood and its impact pop culture. "Celebrities really are the DNA of this brand."
When Macy's pulled together a 60-second TV spot to celebrate its birthday, Ms. Reardon said it had more than 400 clips from movies, TV and music videos from which to choose. Even in the early 1900s, Ms. Reardon said, Macy's captivated the imaginations of entertainers with its innovative displays, fashionable merchandise and famed Thanksgiving Day Parade. The retailer made its cinematic debut in 1906 in "The Kleptomaniac." And most recently Macy's Pasadena took a star turn as a setting for "Desperate Housewives."
"Somebody always finds something to do with our brand," Ms. Reardon said. "The film industry and the television industry have realized that they need to deliver another experience to their viewer. And they come to us every single time.
"They look at us and the demographic we can serve up for them. It's such a wanted demographic," she continued. "And it's the same for us -- we want that customer that's going to the latest movie releases and watching the [trendy] programs, because it fits in with the DNA of our brand."
A long way since 'Lucy'
Ms. Reardon pointed out, however, that the retailer's integrations have evolved quite a bit since the days when Lucy pointedly told Desi, "Yes, I found a lot of cute things at Macy's."
"It shows how important the Macy's name was even back then. Those folks realized that the more you can integrate iconic brands, the better off you're going to make your end product," Ms. Reardon said. "But I don't think [Macy's] was [integrated] in the organic way that we're doing it today."
She pointed to "The Biggest Loser," in which Macy's provided outfits for contestant makeovers, as an example of a natural integration.
The retailer this past spring also broke a round of celeb-filled commercials in which various celebrities and designers who sell namesake brands are seen working at the store.
Ms. Reardon declined to discuss the cost of those types of integrations. She also declined to discuss the budget for events and advertising related to the 150th anniversary, saying only that much of it was worked into existing plans. WPP Group's JWT, New York, handles creative for the retailer, while sibling Mediaedge:cia handles media. The retailer also works with the Vox Collective, New York.
Macy's will be hosting several star-studded birthday events this month. "Macy's Passport Celebrity Catwalk Challenge" will air on NBC Oct. 11 in its national debut. The event, which benefits HIV/AIDS, has been held in San Francisco and Los Angeles since 1982. Tori Spelling will host, while Jerry Springer and Nancy O'Dell, along with stars from "Heroes" and "The Office," will compete. Then, on Oct. 23, "Macy's Passport: Fashion Cinema" will land in 27 cities, featuring performances by the Pussycat Dolls, Fall Out Boy and Ne-Yo.
A series of photos featuring Christina Aguilera, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump and others will be used to promote Macy's 150th. And birthday bashes will be held at its newest and oldest stores, New Orleans and New York, respectively. Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse will take on host duties in New Orleans, while details of the New York event are still under wraps. The retailer is also planning local events with local celebrities, of course.