Thanksgiving is a “brand” with all the essentials of any other brand. It has a compelling popular brand story (even if not entirely accurate): European Pilgrims are saved by Native Americans who provide a feast of turkey, corn, and vegetables, for which the pilgrims give thanks for a safe passage and rescue. It has a logo: the turkey, the pilgrim hat, and the cornucopia. It has a brand promise: gratitude, family, and feast. It has its own brand colors, the colors of harvest: gold, orange, red, green, and brown. It even has its own auspicious date: Thanksgiving has been a national holiday since 1863, falling on the 4th Thursday in November, approximately one month before Christmas. And Thanksgiving has a founder: George Washington established the first national Thanksgiving day with a proclamation in 1789 setting aside a day to give thanks for our survival as a nation, the blessings we enjoy, and the establishment of self-government.
Considering what the settlers did to the Native Americans, it easy to understand why the day is not without controversy. Since 1970, a group of Native Americans stage a protest at Plymouth Rock, and American Indian Heritage Day is celebrated the Friday after Thanksgiving.
We like the universal brand promise of a National Day of Gratitude. Few other countries have set a day aside especially to be grateful. We would do well to keep this brand promise, as it is through gratitude that we recognize and acknowledge our blessings as a nation. And it is through acknowledgement that we appreciate, protect, and grow our prosperity. Sure, the United States has its issues, but here we have bounty, opportunity, and education all delivered in an infra structure unequaled in the world. Gratitude keeps it there!
Lately we have seen the Thanksgiving “brand” become denigrated with nicknames like “Turkey Day” as if that’s why we celebrate. We have seen the focus turn to feasting and away from the original intent of this national holiday, giving thanks.
The Friday following Thanksgiving, dubbed “Black Friday,” has traditionally been the “official” beginning of the all-important Holiday Shopping Season. Consumer spending during the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas has become a predicator to the economic outlook for the following year. If holiday spending is up, it bodes well for the economy, so merchants offer all manner of promotions to increase sales during this critical period.
In the past few years, however, we have witnessed a new assault on the very reason for Thanksgiving. Now holiday shopping starts on Thanksgiving Day itself, and has been tagged “Gray Thursday”! So, are we headed for simply a day off to eat turkey and shop?
Having a non-commercial day to spend quietly with family and friends to acknowledge our blessings, regardless of our politics, race or religion, bonds us all as Americans. It gives us the “time out” George Washington had in mind to acknowledge and commit to preserving what we have as a nation. Taking it all for granted is the fastest way to lose it. Gratitude helps us appreciate what we have and focuses our attention on what we want to keep. Don’t you think the distracting pressure and anxiety of Christmas shopping can be postponed for just one more day?
We as the general public are the owners of all brands, including Thanksgiving. Let’s protect the brand promise of Thanksgiving so that we may always live in a land of tolerance, freedom and plenty.
Contemplate your blessings, and share the abundance of the season’s harvest with your family and friends. Enjoy a non-commercial day. Happy Thanksgiving everybody!
Who Are We.
Having built and sold a bestselling national brand, we appreciate the value of brands and everything it takes to make them successful. Companies are valued by their brand equity. Achieving and maximizing brand equity requires tremendous respect for all your customers, from your wholesaler to your end user.
Starting in our laundry room with no money and no knowledge of the industry, we built the famous Barefoot Wine brand. We learned a lot they don’t teach in school and much of it the hard way. Although our success was in consumer products, our real world experience will be helpful to anyone looking for information and advice about brands.
We have written the New York Times Bestselling Business Book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand, which chronicles the history of the famous brand from its inception through its acquisition. Our book is now required reading in schools of entrepreneurship across the country. We hope this book will provide inspiration and encouragement for all those contemplating starting a brand or wanting to improve their existing brand.
Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey
-Barefoot Wine Founders