The Parade That Wasn’t

In 1924, Macy’s created its iconic Thanksgiving Day Parade and completely separated itself from its competition.

The parade didn’t just function as extremely compelling advertising (although it certainly worked that way)—over time it became a serious asset owned by the brand. It has become so deeply embedded in American culture that it’s hard to imagine a Thanksgiving without it.

It’s also hard to imagine, after nearly 100 years of success, that there was a time when this idea was as unproven and risky as any great experiential idea floating around a conference room today. It took serious vision to conceptualize the idea—but it also took courage to bring it to life.

The truth is, every Macy’s competitor had the exact same opportunity to do something like this. They either lacked the ideas, or lacked the belief. That’s why we created this video, featuring our imaginary 1920s department store, Watson’s.

Faced with their secretary’s inspired, visionary idea for a parade in New York City, the leadership can’t wrap their heads around it. “We’re a department store. We don’t throw hotsy-totsy parades. We sell clothes!” the CEO barks at her. And with that bit of short-sighted leadership, Watson’s seals its fate as one of many also-rans in the department store game.

Macy’s willingness to do what its competitors wouldn’t set its brand on a completely different playing field.

We’re huge fans of that courage here at Encore Live. We believe the power of experience can provide an enormous competitive edge to those who wield it—precisely because so many companies still can’t wrap their heads around it.

And while we don’t run Macy’s Parade, we’re no strangers to bringing experiences to the world’s biggest stage in New York City. In fact, our work with Nintendo to celebrate Pikachu’s 20th birthday marked one of the only times in history that the city’s top landmarks were activated at once: Penn Station, Times Square, New York Public Library and the Brooklyn Bridge.

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