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Below is a funny, light-hearted look at the First Thanksgiving story and how marketing could have made it all happen.
How Advertising Saved Thanksgiving
by Rob Wicker
As the Thanksgiving Story is traditionally told, the Pilgrims in Massachusetts would have starved to death except for the help of the Native-Americans. The Pilgrims were so grateful that they invited the Native-Americans over for a big spread. The Pilgrims planned to have turkey, dressing, squash casserole, yams, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie with Cool Whip. What is interesting, however, is that the Native-Americans initially didn’t want to have lunch with the Pilgrims.
Why not, you ask yourself? Well the Native-Americans had watched the Pilgrims stumble around for at least a year. They considered the Pilgrims to be a bunch of knuckleheads. For one thing, there were those clothes. The Pilgrims wore large, steeple-top hats that bumped against tree branches in the woods. Baggy black garments with gaudy white trim. And worst of all, funny square-toed shoes with silver buckles that got caught in the underbrush when the Pilgrims foraged for food.
In addition, the Pilgrims carried a rifle called a Blunderbuss. Who carries a loaded weapon named “blunder”?
Finally, the Pilgrims weren’t exactly tops in the Fun Department. Have you seen the pictures? The only thing rarer than a smiling Pilgrim is a laughing Pilgrim. There’s no “Pilgrim Section” in books about American humor. The Pilgrims were a bunch of stiffs.
In fact, that’s why the Pilgrims really wanted the Native-Americans to come to lunch. They were sick of each other! Think about it, the long boat trip on the Mayflower, nearly starving to death in the New World, nothing to talk about except how hungry they were—and no jokes. The Pilgrims were about ready to point those Blunderbusses at each other. They needed some company.
But the Native-Americans weren’t having any of it. They politely declined the Pilgrims’ invitation. They told the Pilgrims that they’d be out of town, visiting relatives on Cape Cod.
This is when the Pilgrims got clever. Sketching is one thing the Pilgrims were good at. It’s how they passed the time crossing the Atlantic. The Pilgrims sketched and colored fat roasted turkeys with all of the trimmings, squash casseroles, and cranberries not from the can. The drawings are so good that Butterball still uses some of them in their ads. The Pilgrims also showed the Native-Americans pictures of at least fifteen desserts, all with Cool Whip. Legend has it that one of the drawings even included a Pilgrim woman exposing a little ankle below her black dress.
The Pilgrims were basically advertising Thanksgiving! Boy, did they get a response. After seeing these drawings, the Native-Americans announced that their Cape Cod relatives had suddenly come down with whooping cough. The Native-Americans would be in Plymouth that Thursday, and they’d be delighted to come for lunch.
The rest, as you know, is History.