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Promo Success: Macy's Great American Elf Adventure

When we got "the call," the Macy's marketing team was in the midst of looking for a creative way to enhance excitement for its Great American Elf Adventure, a nationwide contest that would provide people the opportunity to design an original elf.

The lucky contest winner was to be provided an all-expense paid trip to the 85th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City, November 24th, 2011.


Behind the scenes, Macy's needed a promotional products company that they could trust to breathe life into something completely new. The first FarFromBoring challenge was to design a 9" sculptured elf from plastic vinyl that portrayed lifelike features and could stand on its own. Our team of promo nerds went to work! To support the nationwide interactive campaign, we developed an elf with adorable features and used Macy's iconic star as the base for the elf to stand upon. They loved the idea and we quickly went from concept to production.

Promotional Products Professionals To The Rescue

Calling upon one of our preferred suppliers, we got right to work. The factory took 60 days to complete the initial prototype and the elf was approved with only minor cosmetic adjustments.

Because each of the 11,000 elves would be shipped to over 600 department stores around the country, and needed to be uniquely tracked, FarFromBoring set out to assign each elf its own serial number. We created a spreadsheet with variable codes, ultimately allowing Macy's to track the elves and know which locations received which individual boxes of "naked" elves.


The variable codes were printed on a custom sticker applied to the back of a laminated box, which not only contained instructions on how to enter, but also provided information on how to participate on Facebook and Twitter -- an important component of the contest.

Once the elves arrived in stores, participants had five days to find them, with the only clues on their specific whereabouts coming from Facebook, Twitter, text or e-mail. In order to receive the clues, contestants were encouraged to sign-up on Macy's Facebook page. This allowed Macy's to not only engage participants in the overall brand experience, but the company also added more than three million names to its coveted in-house marketing list, providing tremendous ROI.

Finding the elves was only part of the contest experience. Contestants brought their elves to life with unique design, using everything from paint to glitter and stickers. Once an elf was decorated from head to toe, contestants had to submit their entries via Facebook, where there was also a voting element to determine the popularity of each entry.

The most popular entries were dwindled down to 85 elves. At this point, a special Parade committee convened to select what would ultimately be turned into a giant Thanksgiving Day Parade Balloon.

In an effort to make this a complete marketing campaign, Macy's asked FarFromBoring to create additional in-store promotions to elevate the brand experience. A total of 2,000 temporary tattoos, 1,000 custom-shaped elf masks and 5,500 elf adventure buttons were created. These rather inexpensive promotional products were extremely effective in amplifying the message and maximizing the campaign reach.

The Result Was Pure Macy's Magic


Contest Winner Keith Lapinig
Source: Macy's/Business Wire

With a little old school ingenuity, high tech processes and leveraging the power of social media, this original marketing campaign turned out to be a smashing success. From our initial conversations about how to create a custom molded elf in May, to coordinating delivery to 600-plus Macy's stores around the country in early August, no one would have envisioned that more than three million people would become new fans on Macy's Facebook page and get involved in the Great American Elf Adventure.

The winning contestant's design materialized into a larger-than-life Parade Elf Balloon at Macy's 85th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy's and the team at FarFromBoring continue to work together and have enjoyed many other successful celebrations over the past years, including inventive products that support the company's annual July 4th celebrations; and many other corporate and customer-focused events.
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