Friendsgiving has become more than just an excuse to party.

Friendsgiving Is Officially Having Its Moment

There’s a new holiday in November that you may not have heard of, unless you were born between 1981 and 1996 – the unofficial age brackets that define the millennial generation. Similar to Festivus, Friendsgiving was born out of the desire for a better holiday gathering. One devoid of family drama, political squabbling or awkward conversations. Where the host chooses who gets a seat at the table, and guests can focus on having fun instead of thinking of good excuses for Aunt Carol about why they haven’t settled down yet.

Millennials across the country have hosted Friendsgiving celebrations for the past few years to supplement their own family gatherings. While the holiday has grown organically, brands are starting to take notice and invent novel ways to participate. Three successful examples from Friendsgiving 2017 offer valuable lessons for marketers looking to make meaningful connections with a millennial audience this holiday season.

  1. Use Unexpected Data to Uncover Organic Relevancy

While the unofficial holiday is popular, no one had been able to agree on what the actual date should be. That is until McCormick Spices used Google Data to formally put Friendsgiving 2017 on the calendar. According to McCormick, Google searches for classic Thanksgiving recipes like “Turkey Recipe” and “Stuffing Recipe” are relatively stable the week of Thanksgiving, but increased more than 300% year-over-year the week before, accurately predicting Saturday, Nov. 18 the most likely day for Friendsgiving 2017.

In addition to tapping into millennial culture, the McCormick story is also a good lesson for brands to mine and market data in unexpected ways. Think about what data, internal or external, your brand has access to. Consider using it not just to target or sell more, but to uncover insights that lead to more relevant, surprising and meaningful conversations with consumers.

  1. Bake Social Good Into Brand Experiences

This new holiday isn’t just about escaping your relatives; it’s taken on a social-good component. Last fall, Aldi and Venmo announced a new campaign with the goal of helping Americans give one million meals to families in need in honor of Friendsgiving. Venmo, the preferred millennial peer-to-peer payment method, has created a custom “Turkey Hand Friendsgiving” emoji that consumers used in the app. For every Turkey Hand emoji in a Venmo payment note, Aldi donated 10 meals to Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization.

  1. Make It Easy; They’ll Participate

Besides being altruistic and lending purpose to the brands, the Venmo/Aldi promotion was also beautiful in its simplicity. Whatever the category, consumers are far more likely to engage if brands make it easy for them. Buy a pair of TOMS, and they give another away. Reorder an item with Amazon’s “One-Click” button – no searching necessary. It’s all easy and automatic. All things equal, it’s far easier to remove friction than it is to increase motivation. What are the points of friction consumers experience with your brand? Start by making changes that minimize those pain points to encourage engagement and participation.

While undeniably fun, Friendsgiving has become more than just an excuse to party. The rising popularity of the holiday provides insight into what millennials value: authenticity and relevant experiences, social good and brands with purpose, and table stakes of ease and usability.