Macy's and Wal-Mart, two heavyweights of the retail world, led the way with aggressive media campaigns to promote the must-win battle for Black Friday. Competition for shopper dollars was going to be intense. While these retailers clearly chase different customer segments, we couldn't resist the opportunity for a head-to-head comparison of their respective media strategies.
Holiday Campaigns and Content Strategy
Macy's had four notable advertising programs leading into the Thanksgiving weekend. First was Macy's 150th anniversary, a celebration of the department store's long and proud history. Next up was the feel-good campaign "Believe," centering around the "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" editorial by the New York Sun in 1897, and a Santa letter drive with a potential million-dollar donation to Make-A-Wish Foundation. "Believe" featured a TV ad starring celebrity designers, including Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, Martha Stewart, Carlos Santana and Jessica Simpson.
Third was the annual promotion around the Macy's signature Thanksgiving Day Parade and its national broadcast on NBC. Finally, there was the tactical price and promotion offers. All classily executed, but one can't help thinking there was one campaign too many.
In contrast, Wal-Mart kept it a bit simpler. Much of the creative focused on the theme of "saving you money to deliver special family moments." It also re-ran the popular "Carol of the Bells" creative from last year, which shows staff turning the lights above the registers on and off to the tune of holiday music, promoting the added checkout aisles for the holiday season. Finally, there were the tactical promotions which really did much of the heavy lifting for the price-conscious Wal-Mart shopper.
Media Mix Strategy
|ABOUT THE AUTHOR|
Antony Young is CEO of Optimedia U.S., a Publicis Groupe company headquartered in New York. He is co-author of "Profitable Marketing Communications" (Kogan Page 2007).
Macy's "Believe" campaign came to life online with a microsite that tells the story of Virginia O'Hanlon, features an electronic Believe Meter, offers a downloadable letter kit complete with official Santa letterhead, and allows customers to design their own "Claus" with the "Be Claus" application. "Be Claus" personalization tools allow customers to upload a photo and design themselves as Santa Claus. The final artwork can be used as an e-card, posted to a Facebook or MySpace page or sent to a mobile phone. EarthCam had a live webcast of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Wal-Mart caused a stir with various Black Friday comparison shopping websites and search engines by trying to embargo their holiday catalog, which was leaked a week and a half early. This had the effect of building buzz and anticipation for Wal-Mart.
Both companies were particularly active online in promoting Cyber Monday specials.
Wal-Mart, while involved extensively in local communities and causes, and with a slightly higher concentration of local spot TV and radio, concentrated its media and marketing efforts at a national level.
Wal-Mart kept to the basics. I thought it could afford to be a bit more adventurous in its media placements.
Wal-Mart launched a Savings Alert mobile service that gives consumers constant access to and weekly notifications about special weekly holiday savings, instant gift ideas, recipes, product information and reviews. Customers are able to sign up at www.walmart.com/mobileinfo or by dialing #WMT from their cellphones.
During this year's Emmy Awards, Macy's launched its 150th-anniversary spot that showed the history of Macy's and its impact in pop culture, with Bob Hope and clips from the 1947 Christmas-themed movie "Miracle on 34th Street." You also see Shirley MacLaine as a majorette in a parade and Jerry Seinfeld and Elaine talking about the balloons.
Wal-Mart, instead, ran ads during football broadcasts, pushing TVs and Blu-ray players.
Interestingly, Wal-Mart ran TV ads on CNBC featuring moms talking about how one-stop shopping at Wal-Mart helped them save money and gasoline. As reported earlier in Ad Age, this pitch served the purpose of reinforcing to investors that Wal-Mart was a strong defensive stock in light of the current stock-market crisis, but was also an effort to advertise to higher-income shoppers who are increasingly visiting the company's stores.
Similarly, Wal-Mart's media campaign, while less glitzy, delivered hard-hitting retail advertising, but also elevated a consistent platform around its "Save money, live better" proposition. In our view, Wal-Mart's media worked harder and was more focused, which helped it to cut through. Wal-Mart won with the shopper, but also wins in my book.