“Wait! We have to stop!”
The year was 2009 and it was my first time going out shopping on Black Friday. Through the swarms of people going berserk over half-off this and doorbuster-that, my eyes grew fixated on a giant red mailbox next to a sign in cursive gold sparkles that read “Believe” in the middle of Macy’s. I quickly made a beeline through the mob of customers, my crazy aunt Carol ignoring my whereabouts due to the money burning a hole in her pocket.
As I sat down on the green velvet chair next to a table littered with pencils and postcards, I saw it.
“Dear Santa,” my eyes read. The rest of the card was blank, but I knew what to do. Without stopping to read the instructions, I grabbed a pencil and got to work writing my wish list to the man in the North Pole.
As I wrote, my aunt, who finally realized I was no longer following her, came over to assist me.
“C’mon,” she gawked, probably rolling her eyes at the fact that I was totally missing the entire point of Black Friday.
“One second!” I exclaimed, as I added the final touches on my list. Did she not know there was an actual mailbox in Macy’s that delivered letters directly to the North Pole? I signed the letter and plucked myself off the velvet chair to drop the letter inside the red container, confident Santa would receive my requests in 5-7 business days.
Every holiday season since then, I think of this memory. Blame it on the excitement of being up past midnight with my crazy—okay, cool—aunt Carol, but I think there’s a better reason.
Since 2003, Macy’s stores across America have donned their iconic red “Believe” mailboxes inside their stores for children and adults alike to write letters to Santa in hopes of letting him in on their wishes for the holiday season.
“Delivering mail” isn’t the only thing Macy’s is doing when they encourage your participation in their “Believe” campaign, though. For the past 16 years, letters sent (or, more recently, submitted online at macys.com/believe) to Santa have made more of an impact than some may realize. Each letter submitted represents a $1 donation Macy’s will make to Make-A-Wish, a non-profit organization that grants life changing wishes for children with critical illnesses, totalling up to $1 million each year.
Over the past 16 years, Macy’s has donated 18 million dollars through its annual Believe campaign, granting more than 13,000 wishes and impacting more than 2.6 million people, including wish kids and their families, volunteers, community groups, nurses, doctors, and more.
This is a perfect example of authentic corporate social responsibility—a PR ‘tactic’ becoming increasingly popular as gen-z refuses to shop brands that don’t stand for something bigger than themselves.
Over the last decade and a half, Macy’s “Believe” campaign has nailed their CSR initiative—so much so that I didn’t even realize it to be PR until studying it in school. By creating an in-store experience that leads to a positive atmosphere and, in my experience, a vivid memory, Macy’s has created a trustworthy brand image in the minds of customers and their families. This alone has so many positive effects, as it opens the possibility generational brand loyalty in the future.
But that’s certainly not all. By partnering with a charity that aligns perfectly with the mission of Macy’s during the holiday season—to help people believe in their wishes—and providing the means to do so, they’re encouraging values of both imagination and giving, which go beyond simply contributing to the bottom line.
Throughout the years, Macy’s has continues to make the “Believe” campaign a priority by incorporating a digitized version of this in their “Wish Writer” app. Now, children from “one to 92” can design their own personal letter to Santa, making this the easiest holiday tradition yet.
So, whether it’s the magic of mail or the power of PR, don’t forget to believe in something this holiday season.
Jessica Rutkowski is a senior studying strategic communication and the former VP of Social Affairs. Follow her on Twitter @JessicaLynn57!