Consumer Insights Show #DumpTrump Steals Bieber Fever from Macy’s 2012 Holiday Campaign

A Social Media Analysis of Consumer Insights and Brand Affinity Generated by Holiday Ads

When the holiday season comes around, social media analysis around consumer insights shows that brands spend millions producing creative advertising in an attempt to stay at the top of consumers’ minds during the season’s spending frenzy. Some creative strategies do exactly that, driving sales throughout November and December. But some ad campaigns are not so great, and can leave brands in their competitors’ dust. Last year, Macy’s holiday advertising stood out as an effective campaign.

With the help of its go-to creative agency JWT New York, the department store produced a series of holiday spots featuring Justin Bieber that were wildly successful.

Consumer Insights on 2012 Macy's What's In Store Holiday CampaignThis year, Macy’s holiday campaign, “What’s in Store,” held on to Bieber, but gave the strategy a twist. The sitcom-style video campaign focuses on the adventures of Harold, a newly hired manager at the retailer’s Herald Square store in New York, whose colleagues include Bieber, Camila Alves, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Marcus Samuelsson, Carlos Santana, Martha Stewart, Taylor Swift, Donald Trump, and Florence Henderson.

Considering the success of Macy’s campaign last holiday season, Crimson Hexagon wondered if this change in ad strategy benefited the department store, or if JWT should have said, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Using Crimson Hexagon’s ForSight™ social media analysis platform, we looked at the conversations on Twitter and Facebook relevant to Macy’s campaigns, comparing this year’s “What’s in Store” strategy to last year’s Bieber-centric one and discovered some interesting consumer insights.

Last year, Macy’s “Screamer” ads garnered an overwhelmingly positive conversation. Among the 18,161 relevant opinions between November 1st and December 10th of last year, 95 percent of the conversation was favorable towards the ad. ForSight reveals that the ads’ emotional appeal, specifically an appeal to humor, helped elicit this positive majority, accounting for 53 percent of the overall conversation. In addition, praise for Macy’s character choice in Justin Bieber was the second largest driver of sentiment at 25 percent.

Consumer Insights Summary on 2011 Macy's Holiday Campaign

With this year’s change of strategy, however, the Twitter and Facebook conversation took a different turn. Though 74 percent of the conversation expressed favorable sentiment towards the campaign, this figure is a whopping 21 percent lower than last year. Additionally, while negative sentiment accounted for a mere 6 percent of the conversation around last year’s “Screamer” commercials, this figure jumped to 25 percent for this year’s campaign. So, what drove this change in sentiment?

Bieber’s return to Macy’s advertising this year drove positive sentiment again, with 38 percent finding the campaign emotionally appealing, noting especially that ads featuring the pop star were cute and funny. Additionally, 15 percent of the overall conversation applauded Macy’s character choices, with a large emphasis on Justin Bieber.

Consumer Insights Summary on 2012 Macy's What's In Store Holiday Campaign

But not all the celebrities featured in the new spots received the same acclaim. In contrast to the praise of character choices for last year’s campaign, criticism of Macy’s character choices drove negative sentiment about this year’s ads, constituting 19 percent of the overall conversation. Looking further into this part of the discussion using the ForSight Word Cluster function, we find that Donald Trump’s presence in the commercials was the source of much of this criticism.

Consumer Insights Summary on 2012 Macy's What's In Store Holiday CampaignIn fact, opponents of Trump even created a SignOn.org campaign petitioning Macy’s to stop running commercials featuring the real estate mogul. The online petition has nearly 700,000 signatures. Critics especially point to Macy’s and JWT’s  recent “Another Miracle on 34th Street” spot, in which Trump tugs on Santa Claus’ beard, questioning the legitimacy of his identity. To many, this scene seemed a little too familiar, reminding them of Trump’s persistent questioning of President Barack Obama’s citizenship. Clearly, many viewers did not appreciate Trump’s presence in the new holiday ads. But what does this mean for the department store’s sales?

ForSight shows that for six days in a row, only days after “Another Miracle on 34th Street” aired, over 96% of the conversation disapproved of Donald Trump’s character choice. This caused a revolt on social media. On November 18th, 36% of the conversation expressed a desire to disengage from Macy’s–five days before Black Friday.

Consumer Insights on Macy's Holiday Campaign

Last year, the Macy’s holiday campaign featuring Justin Bieber coincided with a 4.8 percent rise in sales for the department store. Though sentiment towards the “What’s in Store” campaign is largely positive, we will be interested to see if Trump will cause problems for Macy’s holiday sales goals; in November alone, the department store saw a 0.7 percent drop in same-store sales.

If you want to learn more about insight into consumer insights, brand affinity, brand loyalty and consumer migration, Crimson Hexagon recently published an in-depth study on the “showrooming” phenomenon, which explores consumer expectations of in-store vs. online shopping. Click here to download our complimentary Showrooming and Consumer Migration ebook. Be sure to also follow us on Twitter to stay in touch: @crimsonhexagon.


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The Crimson Hexagon team often collaborates to write about trending topics using our ForSight platform to conduct in-depth analysis of social conversations. For more real-time analyses, follow us on Twitter: http://twitter.com/crimsonhexagon

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