Did you know a holiday content marketing campaign created many of our Thanksgiving traditions?
Despite what you learned in elementary school:
the first harvest feast in 1621 shared by the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Native Americans lacked both turkey and pumpkin pie!
In reality, Sarah Josepha Hale, a smart content marketer, created many of our American Thanksgiving traditions over 200 years after the Pilgrims’ first harvest dinner,
Examine Hale’s holiday content marketing campaign to see how she inspired her audience to use her “How To” content to create Thanksgiving traditions. Then adopt her content marketing tactics to your business to improve your results.
How A Brilliant Content Marketer Created Thanksgiving Traditions
Based in Philadelphia, Sarah Josepha Hale became editor of Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1837 and held it until 1877.
To help her growing audience of American women, Mrs. Hale brought a strong sense of purpose to her editorial mission at Godey’s Lady’s Book. To support these goals, she focused on social inequalities and women’s education.
Under Hale’s editorial leadership, the magazine’s audience grew from 10,000 readers to a pre-Civil War circulation of 150,000 or a 15-fold increase. As Chief Content Officer of the one of the first and most widely-read magazines in the US at the time, Hale engaged with top thought leaders.
Known as the “Queen of Monthlies,” Godey’s Lady’s Book, influenced 19th century American life and culture.
In the process Hale became known for fashion, reading and cooking trends. As a result she became one of the most influential editors of her time. And she made Godey’s the standard for manners while shaping American traditions.
What Don’t Most American Know About The Real History of Thanksgiving?
The first harvest meal shared by the Pilgrims and Wampanoag Native Americans probably consisted of lobster, seal, swan and corn. Without sugar or ovens for baking, there was no pumpkin or apple pie. It marked the beginning of a 50 year alliance between Europeans and Native Americans.
George Washington legislated observation of the first Thanksgiving Day on Thursday, November 26th, 1789 to honor the end of the Revolutionary War. Since it only lasted one year, Presidents John Adams and James Madison proclaimed similar holidays.
Why “How To” Content Marketing Played an Important Role In Thanksgiving Traditions?
After reading about the Pilgrim’s feast in 1827, Mrs. Hale decided to make Thanksgiving into national holiday. To do this, she created what we call a holiday content marketing campaign.
Living in Philadelphia, she made the turkey the centerpiece of the holiday meal to honor Benjamin Franklin.
To help readers to cook Thanksgiving dishes and to create a family tradition, Mrs. Hale published recipes for turkey and pumpkin pie.
As “How To” content, recipes continue to inspire and build audiences over time.
Holiday Content Marketing Campaign Case Study: Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole
As Ann Handley points out, Dorcas Reilly developed the Thanksgiving Green Bean Casserole in the test kitchens of Campbell’s Soup’s in 1955.
The original 100-word recipe offered its audience an easy, fast and cheap side dish. It’s an example of holiday content marketing campaign.
Campbell’s Soup Green Bean Casserole tradition continues over 60 years later! I first had it at an expat potluck Thanksgiving party at Stephen & Penelope’s in Amsterdam.
Also, Campbell’s Soup still tracks profitable sales from this content marketing in 2018:
- 20 million dinners had Green Bean Casserole for Thanksgiving and
- 40% of Cream of Mushroom soup sales come from it.
Actionable Holiday Content Marketing Tips:
- Create FAQ and “How To” content marketing based on audience questions. As Marcus Sheridan says, “They Ask, You Answer.” The recipe to responded to Associated Press’s question, “What’s a good Thanksgiving side dish that uses ingredients found in most American kitchens?”
Why Does Influencer Marketing Require Persistence Over Time?
Like a top content marketer and influencer:
Mrs. Hale re-imagined her annual editorials to build public support for these ‘new’ Thanksgiving traditions.
To create a national Thanksgiving holiday Mrs. Hale wrote to governors, senators and presidents. She spent 36 years persuading them. Also, she used a combination of editorial content and letter writing campaigns.
Holiday Content Marketing Campaign: 5 Reasons Why You Need To Follow Mrs. Hale
Examine these 5 reasons for Mrs. Hale’s Thanksgiving holiday content marketing campaign success. They’re posed as questions to help develop your content marketing.
To apply these tactics to your holiday content marketing campaigns to improve profitable results.
1. Why Do You Need to Build an Addressable Audience?
Godey’s Lady’s Book reached an audience of 150,000 loyal women readers before the Civil War. By contrast, few businesses and media entities today can grow their addressable audience to a fraction of this size.
Hale’s readers actively wanted her useful information. This made her a key influencer.
Because they paid a premium price for the content.
Godey’s subscribers paid $3 per year. By contrast, The Saturday Evening Post charged $2 per year.
To grow the Content Marketing Institute, Joe Pulizzi laser-focused on email address acquisition.
Since you need to own at least one method to contact your audience.
Your house list can consist of email addresses, mobile phone numbers and/or postal addresses. It reduces content distribution cost since you don’t need to find people to distribute and promote your content to.
In addition, this list contributes to your business’s value. It’s part of Goodwill on your Balance Sheet.
According to Tien Tzuo, CEO and Founder of Zuora:
“At the heart of the Subscription Economy® is the idea that customers are happier subscribing to the outcomes they want, when they want them, rather than purchasing a product with the burden of ownership.”
By 2023, Gartner predicted:
75% of organizations selling direct to consumers will offer subscription services.
In addition the subscription economy remained resilient during and after 2020’s pandemic.
Actionable Content Marketing Tips:
- Start to build your owned audience from Day 1. BTW, I’d be thrilled if you subscribe to the Actionable Marketing Guide Newsletter!
- Use a “Welcome Series” to warm newbies and to share breadth of your offering.
2. Why Do You Need to Focus on a Set of Core Topics?
Like a successful content marketer, Mrs. Hale focused her editorial calendar on her audience’s key information needs. And you should too!
Unlike you, Mrs. Hale had few competitors. So she could define her core topics broadly.
To succeed now, you must laser focus on specific niche topics.
As Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media says,
“You must continue to niche down to dominate your topic!”
After you determine your niche based on competitive analysis, talk to your audience. This includes your buyers, employees and others.
Find out what information they ACTUALLY want from you and the words they use to describe it!
Align your content marketing by topic in content silos says SEO expert Bruce Clay. This ensures readers and search engines know what’s important on your blog. This includes keyword phrases you want to be known for.
Then use your content silos to create a flat library structure. This improves results for BOTH readers and search engines. (Note: Jimmy Daly, formerly of Animalz, proposed this approach in October 2018.)
Actionable Content Marketing Tips:
- Align holiday content with your content silos. For example, this article focuses on the topic Content Marketing. Translation: Create content for holidays aligned with your silos.
- Make content meaningful to your audience. Since your brand must serve a higher purpose for your community and be consistent with their beliefs and interests. Also support events in the communities where you do business.
3. Why do you need to published consistent content on a regular basis?
Like any magazine or media entity, Godey’s Lady’s Book published on a consistent schedule. As a result, you build an audience habit to consume your information.
By delivering information on a consistent basis, Godey’s created Share of Audience Attention (aka: SOAA) and anticipation for its information.
Also increase the value your audience gets from your content as part of your offer. As a result, readers will look forward to and save each issue of your content.
For example, each issue of Godey’s included additional value in the form of “How To” Content:
- Illustration of a garment with the pattern to make it and
- Sheet music for the piano.
Actionable Content Marketing Tip:
- Add a must-have and save feature to your content marketing offering. Think like Mrs. Hale by adding “How To” content or recipes. Also make it part of your weekly or monthly editorial calendar. BTW, as pre-formatted content, it reduces creation time.
- Create related content. Like Mrs. Hale, add other content formats like images, photos, and audio to expand your audience. Where appropriate make this content evergreen to use every year.
4. Why do you need to build an influencer platform to support content marketing?
Beyond its focus on “women’s issues,” Godey’s Lady’s Book offered a publishing platform for top literary writers. Contributors included Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.
As the Medium or LinkedIn Publishing of its time, Godey’s and Mrs. Hale, in particular, gained respect from top authors and poets. As a result, her influence continued to increase.
Actionable Content Marketing Tip:
- Get peers and frenemies to support your content marketing. As Andy Crestodina says, “A partner in content creation is a partner in content distribution!” Active Campaign’s At Home For The Holidays , created by Jason Miller, includes my mother’s Fruit Junque recipe.
5. Why do you need to associate your content marketing with history and stories?
To make her historic and cultural case Mrs. Hale used the first Thanksgiving celebration in Plymouth as the historical basis for her content marketing. And, more importantly, she presented the facts in a context her audience understood.
Mrs. Hale met the needs of her audience with content in the form of recipes. Like Campbell’s Soup, she focused on readily available American foods of her time like turkey and pumpkin pie.
You can measure Mrs. Hale’s content marketing success since we still follow her Thanksgiving traditions. And, our dinners still focus on the same foods.
Actionable Content Marketing Tips:
- Find stories in the history and traditions in your company, category and/or location. So your content marketing taps into existing practices. Also, stories make it memorable.
- Extend content marketing to include live events and experiences. Go beyond sales-driven content. Give people a reason to engage with your business.
BONUS: Why do you need to meet a deeper social and/or cultural need?
When Mrs. Hale was 74, her holiday content marketing campaign achieved its goal.
In 1863, President Lincoln made Thanksgiving into an official national holiday to be observed on the last Thursday in November.
Because Lincoln needed a deeper spiritual basis upon which to heal the divided country. In his Thanksgiving proclamation like the CEO of a purpose-driven business, he stated the holiday’s goal:
“…to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”
Actionable Content Marketing Tips:
- Include your brand’s higher purpose in your content marketing. Because your audience expects you to do more than generate profitable sales!
- Find new ways to increase revenues associated with your content marketing. As Content Marketing Institute’s Joe Pulizzi would recommend, Lincoln’s proclamation, a form of content marketing, was sold to raise money for the Union troops in 1864.
Holiday Content Marketing Campaign Conclusion
Take a page from Mrs. Hale’s Thanksgiving playbook to develop and enhance holiday content marketing Campaign related to your business.
As a brilliant content marketer and top influencer, Mrs. Hale made Thanksgiving a national holiday that extended beyond her lifetime. She offered her audience “How To” content to help them to create Thanksgiving traditions.
To help your readers, examine your content marketing plans and editorial calendars to determine where to use celebrations.
Use these holiday content marketing campaign tactics and tips to increase measurable content marketing results. At a minimum, add one celebration or focus for your content marketing per month for B2C businesses and per quarter for B2B businesses.
Also update and re-promote your evergreen holiday content yearly to fill your editorial calendar.
PS: As a marketer, you may be interested to know that, during the Great Depression, President Franklin Roosevelt moved Thanksgiving to the third Thursday in November to jumpstart holiday sales. But swayed by popular opinion, Roosevelt moved the holiday back to the fourth Thursday in November in 1941.
Editors Note: This post was originally published in November, 2018. It was extensively updated and revised on November 26, 2019 and again on November 24, 2020.
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