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The Magic of Holiday Magic

“You’ve noticed what’s going on with Macy’s story?” Sara asked me. You remember Sara. We work together. She does jujitsu. “How they forgot to put the magic of Holiday Magic in their magic this holiday?”

“Hmmmm,” I said, trying to sound like I knew what she was talking about.

“I mean, you’ve seen their new Christmas commercials. They’re funny and engaging, but…where’s the Macy’s magic?” Then she showed me a commercial with a husband feeling nervous about his wife opening her Christmas gift, and another one with a kid worrying about the gift he’s gotten for his uncle.

“They left out the magic,” I agreed.

“Exactly!” she said. “I mean, look at this one from 2010 about all the behind the scenes magic involved in fetching a pair of shoes. They’ve been putting magic at the center of their taglines and their identity for at least fifteen years now, even when it’s not Christmas.”

“That’s a lot of magic,” I nodded.

“It’s just weird for them to leave it out,” she said, “because generally speaking, tons of brands start telling stories about Holiday Magic right around now, even though they have absolutely nothing to do with magic normally.”

“Like how lots of brands kind of put their own stories on hold to tell the generic let’s-all-pull-together story during COVID?” I asked.

“Yes. So many brands feel like they interrupt their own story to tell the Holiday-Magic story. They don’t even frame the holidays in the context of their own brand story. They just sort of substitute Holiday Magic in place of whatever their brand is normally about. But Macy’s has always had Christmas kind of in the bag because they were all about magic, so the Holiday-Magic story was part of their story.”

“In the bag,” I said. “Nice. But yeah, I guess if you haven’t articulated what your brand means—the thing it’s about above and beyond just making money—then it’s pretty easy to wander off your unique brand story and jump on the band wagon of a big, attractive theme.”

“Like Holiday Magic,” Sara offered.

“Like Holiday Magic,” I agreed. “Which muddies the audience’s perception of your brand’s actual story.”

“Or makes them think your brand doesn’t have an actual story,” Sara said. “And that the brand is just saying whatever the latest research suggests people want to hear at the moment.”

“So,” I asked, “do you think Macy’s uncovered some consumer insight that people worry that their loved ones won’t like the gifts they give?”

“Probably,” she sighed. “It’s a great insight. Everybody worries about that. The weird thing is that Macy’s could have easily framed that insight in terms of the ‘magic’ story they’ve been telling. I mean, it is magical when someone really enjoys what you give them, and that emotional note is right there in the diamond necklace commercial. They just didn’t tie it together—didn’t put the ‘magic’ bow on it so it would feel like another episode of the Macy’s show instead of a different show.”

“No bow,” I said. “Nice.”

“It’s like they just forgot to put the magic of Holiday Magic in their magic this holiday,” she said, shaking her head. “Oh well. Good thing Coke remembered.”

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