An Englishman’s Impression of ‘Brand’ Thanksgiving

Boxer asked its British Managing Partner, Mark Watson, who spent 11 years living in the U.S. and celebrating as many Thanksgivings here, what his impressions of an American Thanksgiving were and if it lived up to his brand expectations. Here’s his story.

Ahhh. Thanksgiving, the most wholesome and least commercial ‘Holiday’ of the year… until it’s over.

Pitching up in the Midwest in 1998, as the latest in a long line of European settlers – starting in 1492 and maybe before, if you are Norse – of all the Holidays in America, it was Thanksgiving that struck me as the most warming. As the years passed and I looked for cracks in its veneer, what surprised me more was that I didn’t find them.

With the growing prevalence of ‘Hallmark Holidays’ – yes, National Administrative Professional Appreciation day is a real thing – and the mass commercialisation of Valentine’s Day…Easter… Halloween… The Festive Holidays … I was expecting more of the same from the last Thursday in November.

But each of my Thanksgiving Days touched me the same way. Everything from the use of pumpkin pie created from carving left-overs at Halloween, to the (literally) hand-made Turkey crafts by the kids.

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The never ending varieties of mashed potato, and the annual emergence of yam (sweet potato) as the vegetable-du-jour made sure this day was a special day for all the right reasons. Creativity over commercialism. Community over companies.

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A time to focus on the family and friends gathered around a feasting table, with nothing to share but hearty food and undistracted company.  Of course there is the traditional (American) football games to consider, but even these feel part of the occasion rather than a diversion from it.

As I describe it to my British brethren, imagine Christmas without the pressure of the presents.  Even the kids are fine with it.

However, Thanksgiving (Thurs)Day is all too swiftly followed by Black Friday, a frenzy of shopping, sales and spending to smash the calm of the day before. Over the years, the opening hours have gotten earlier and earlier, to the point that stores’ doors bursting open at midnight had become the norm. But this year, the sanctity of a shopping free Holiday has been broken with many of the big name stores opening at 5pm on Thanksgiving Day itself. Whilst already a self confessed traditionalist at heart, I am still left a little empty by this and the feeling that a special day, a special Holiday, is in danger of become just another frantic Thursday.

So at this most wholesome time of year, from the Boxer family table to yours, we hope you savour the time to enjoy the family, the feast and even the football…but leave frantic for another day.  

Happy Thanksgiving.

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It’s beginning to look a LOT like Christmas – Check out our Retail Soak It Up™

Christmas – it’s still the biggest holiday season in our calendar and the one that creates much anticipation year on year.
Many of us have seen the latest John Lewis ads, which created warm, fuzzy feelings as a young boy gifted his toy penguin Monty a companion, identified with the Mulberry ‘BEST CHRISTMAS GIFT EVER’ advertisement and felt our opinions divided by the Sainsbury’s tribute to World War One.

At this time, when many familiar archetypes – the Creators, the Magicians and the Jesters take over our retail environments, we went out and about to Soak It Up™ and enjoy the festive offerings some of our best retail stores have to offer. Here’s what we saw and what we thought:

Harrods – the land of make believe

A land of enchantment – silver birches, toy soldiers, a rotating ballerina, a carousel and uniformed mice in Harrods colours brings the archetypal talents of the Creator’s skill and imagination to life. A touch of the Jester delivers total joy – the attention to detail is a marvel. Everywhere you look there’s a little mouse polishing the jewellery, or a nutcracker selling, well, basically nutcrackers. Snow falls in every window and of course Santa Claus makes an appearance with his flying reindeer alongside a pirouetting ballerina. It’s magical.

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Harvey Nichols – an enchanted forest

The story of sisters Snow White and Rose Red comes alive in the enchanted forest in Knightsbridge. Metallic tree trunks inject colour into a dramatic scene of woodland creatures who are dressed by courtesy of the fashion house collections of McQueen and Maison Martin Margiela. A touch of genius includes the application of moss to the street outside of the store, inviting and drawing people into the magical scenes within. Demonstrating the Explorer’s motto ‘don’t fence me in’, Harvey Nichols presents a grown up and seductive sense of Gothic for the season.

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Selfridges – Storytelling

As Brand Storytellers ourselves, we adore the way that Selfridges brings brands and experiences to life.  Linda Hewson, Selfridges’ creative director said: ‘This year, we have gone back to the simple pleasure of a great story well told and have decided to celebrate the art of storytelling’. (Source: the Guardian). Stories are certainly everywhere – Rumpelstiltskin in golden splendour, Sleeping Beauty cocooned in a neon pink Perspex casket, Hansel and Gretel have their gingerbread house and a forest adorned with My Little Ponies. We can’t help but think a master class in bringing both the goals of the Creator and Jester to life is plainly evident here: the realisation of a vision by lighting up the world.

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 John Lewis – Monty

The fact that this was the busiest store we visited is testament to the power of both the John Lewis commitment to customer care and a perfectly executed holistic Christmas campaign. Monty and his friends as curious Explorers at play are everywhere – in the laundry, in the kitchen, messing with the tech and finally delighting children (as well as adults) with his presence throughout the store. An absolute winner is the switch from a Santa’s grotto to Monty’s World. Using Samsung technology, kids and parents are invited to bring in their favourite toy to have it animated on screen with Monty and his buddies. Oh yes, you can also buy a Monty toy, socks, handkerchief, gift bags and make a donation to better the future of wild Penguins via the WWF. It’s cute, it’s smart and a superb example of telling a consistent story whatever the touch point – take a bow JL.

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Best of the Rest…

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Boxer Loves Holiday Travel

It’s that time of year again. As the holiday season approaches and we all prepare for travelling to see loved ones near and far see our collection of beautiful vintage travel posters, which were produced to encourage people near and far to visit destinations all over the world.

Wherever you’re travelling this year, we wish you seamless travels and a happy holiday season.

Boxer Loves Holiday Travel

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New John Lewis Christmas Advert..

Check out this year’s John Lewis’s Christmas advert… better than last years we think!

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Holistic Packaging by Design

At Boxer, we’re big believers in what we call Holistic Packaging by Design, and when we’re working with our clients it’s always on our minds. Heres our examples of three of our all-time favourite brands that we believe represent true HPD, which from experience we know comes from breaking down siloed thinking, in order to maximise a brand and packaging’s chances of success.  http://bit.ly/1BVCd4z

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Halloween Stories for the Season

After a brisk fall walk with my friend and our dogs, we met for dinner and there was a display of miniature Halloween houses like those in the familiar Christmas villages of that season, except instead of snow capped chimneys and spinning ice skaters in the park, this one featured creepy spiderweb ensconced houses and a tower with a revolving disk with a Dracula like figure chasing a woman.

Indeed, in the U.S. at least, Halloween has become the second most popular holiday for decorating after Christmas. And spurred by the Halloween village at the restaurant, and being storytellers at heart, the Boxer team set out to see what kinds of Halloween tales are being told in the real villages we live in.

Although you might expect that there is a universal take on Halloween, our search around our villages show that all kinds of archetypes and stories are revealed.

All Halloween stories have at their core a good versus evil theme. Some of these stories are lighthearted and some quite dark. And some take the lighthearted and make them dark.

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A great example of archetypes at work in exploring this theme is what we saw in two houses both telling a similar story, but one in the spirit of Jester playfulness and another in a inventive (rather torturous) spirit of Creator.

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We saw Innocents making what is universally scary (ghosts!) friendly, and Heroes standing tall waiting to protect us from unwelcome guests…

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Caregiver households welcomed you with the comforts of autumn awaiting inside and while others in the wise manner of a Sage warning you “not so much.”

halloween4But it really wouldn’t be Halloween without an appearance from the Magician, because any Halloween story, good or evil, is about transformation. So ghoul or ghost, sinner or saint, Halloween is time for all of to tap our alter egos, and transform ourselves into something we aren’t, or want to be, this one day a year.

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From all of us at Boxer, we wish you all a great Halloween, be sure to check out our Halloween party pics on Facebook and Twitter!

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