How two brands are taking a non-traditional approach to hooking younger consumers this Thanksgiving

Butterball facilitates Friendsgivings, while Fruit of the Loom takes on awkward Thanksgiving conversations.
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Fruit of the Loom

· 5 min read

The Macy’s parade, the feast, the bowl games—Thanksgiving is a beloved American holiday.

Except when it isn’t.

Since it isn’t a Rockwell painting for everyone, two brands are taking an untraditional approach to the holiday this year.

Butterball, the turkey mainstay, is targeting Americans it found were not planning to celebrate Thanksgiving (or will be alone that day) and partnering with a friend-finding app to facilitate more Friendsgivings.

And for those who do celebrate with family, Fruit of the Loom is tackling awkward questions that relatives could pose on the holiday. The brand released a line of sweatshirts, the Conversation Stoppers Collection, emblazoned with phrases meant to preempt Aunt Gretchen being inquisitive as she’s passing the green bean casserole, with sayings like, “If I wanted to talk about my ex, we’d still be together.”

Both efforts are aimed at introducing the brands to a younger generation that’s either yet to form their own Thanksgiving traditions or improve their traditional ones.

Baste on a true story: Butterball—which accounts for about one in three turkeys served at Thanksgiving celebrations, according to the brand—conducts an annual survey in advance of the holiday, which found this year that 20% of Americans expected to be alone on Thanksgiving.

To explain how the brand responded to that finding, Kyle Lock, VP of marketing at Butterball, said it stems from developing a mission statement a couple of years ago.

What the company came up with was this: “We exist to help people pass love on,” Lock said. “We’re leaders in the turkey business, but ultimately, we’re in the business of togetherness.”

Butterball is partnering with Bumble For Friends (BFF), a stand-alone friend-finding app that spun off from the Bumble dating app this summer, in an effort it’s calling-slash-hashtagging #FindYourTable.

On November 1, BFF added a “Friendsgiving” option to its group planning feature to help users coalesce to plan the gathering. Butterball and Bumble hosted events leading up to the holiday, beginning with an in-person event in New York on November 2, and virtual events on November 9 and November 15.

The events featured both Bumble influencers with tips on finding your next bestie and operators from Butterball’s storied Turkey Talk-Line, which has helped home cooks freaking out about how to prepare their turkeys for more than four decades.

Lock said that, on average, people don’t begin hosting Thanksgiving until their early 30s, but that the partnership with Bumble will help usher younger people to become hosts.

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“Folks that are using Bumble’s tools do tend to be younger,” Lock said, enabling Butterball to reach “younger generations” and “first timers.”

Fruit of what looms: Fruit of the Loom also is directing its marketing efforts to younger consumers who are participating in traditional family gatherings, and the onslaught of questions from relatives and family friends who can’t seem to find the off switch.

Katie Over, manager of brand communications at Fruit of the Loom, said the brand was inspired by a 2022 survey by OnePoll and Samsung KX that asked UK consumers about awkward holiday table conversations.

Along with finding that one in three respondents dreaded awkward conversations with family, it asked what questions they found the most awkward:

  • The most dreaded question is that old chestnut, “Have you put on weight?”
  • Others that made the list include “What’s happening in your love life?” (#2), “When are you going to get a proper job?” (#9), and “Why did you do that to your hair?” (#13).

The Conversation Stoppers Collection, which is available only from Amazon, consists of sweatshirts with messages in English and Spanish, including “I’m voting to not talk politics,” “Talking about my job is too much work,” and “If I wanted to talk about my ex, we’d still be together.”

“We’re really focused on engaging that younger audience,” said Over, adding that the brand also has noticed—and was inspired by—social media users commiserating about awkward holiday-meal conversations. (The brand recently re-introduced its Fruit People mascots to younger consumers in a social media campaign.)

The brand posted a video to YouTube that features a woman at a holiday table whose shirt changes depending on what questions—sung to the tune of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”—members of her family ask her, including “How’s the divorce going?” “Who’s your ex dating?” and “How’s your financing?”

You’d think that these inquisitions from relatives would be a big reason that, as Butterball found, 20% of Americans plan to eschew a Thanksgiving gathering this year, but Lock said the primary reason those respondents gave is that they moved too far away from where their family gathers and, relatedly, they’re too pinched by inflation to afford travel.

“It’s not the ‘I can’t stand to have Uncle Carl over here and hear those stories about the hole-in-one again.’”

Retail news that keeps industry pros in the know

Retail Brew delivers the latest retail industry news and insights surrounding marketing, DTC, and e-commerce to keep leaders and decision-makers up to date.