Tag Archives: Thanksgiving Eve

Missed Marketing Opportunities

30 Nov

Buffalo is the Beirut of New York State – even hapless Governor Paterson thinks we fight too much over ever-smaller crumbs. Or perhaps Buffalo is the Palestine of New York State: to paraphrase the famous quote, we never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Exhibit A is the obvious opportunity unrealized. Professional busybodies and baby-boomer obstructionists, reliving their protesting youth by finding a new Man to rail against (read: ECHDC board), are currently impeding the Canal Side construction and have won yet another “pause” in waterfront development, the latest in a fifty year string of pauses.  The plan is already significantly behind schedule, the latest published date (now 18 months old) for life at the water being May 2011. I trust the pause seekers are vindictive enough to realize that ECHDC board member, Buffalo Sabres Managing Partner, and regular foil Larry Quinn is actually planning two events on the waterfront – one the construction at Canal Side, the other the World Junior Hockey Tournament in December and January. The irony that may be lost on the true believing obstructiontariant, however, is that while they are blunting the potential impact of a $100 million international event, they are selling their soul for their own $2.5 million preservation conference in October. How does someone walk out of a Save the Statler event, that offered a Faustian bargain simply to make the landmark look good for a week long convention, and (metaphorically) walk to a protest by a movement that has ensured a giant hole in the ground when the hockey world and international spotlight comes to Buffalo. Never let this group claim the city love high moral ground again – if boosting Buffalo was the goal, we’d have more than lame catering at 95 Perry Street for the crowds that will fill our city for five weeks. As it is, Swedes, Germans, Slovakians, Canadians and tens of thousands of others will navigate around the giant rusting concrete holes, on their way to the arena and back to Pearl Street and the hopping, expansive, dense Cobblestone District. . . of 2 bars.

Image courtesy Buffalo News

Exhibit B is more insidious, and, to me, more frustrating – the potential opportunity required imagination. Last Thursday morning I stood on Delaware Avenue surrounded by more significantly more people than attend the Darwin Martin House yearly. 12,500 people paid over thirty bucks each to run five miles in the cold and rain.

We must be on to something. Which made me wonder, why hasn’t Buffalo cornered the market on Thanksgiving?

In the 21st Century, and our increasingly mobile culture grasping for entertainment and authenticity, Thanksgiving has come to be defined by three (oft-competing) themes: Home, Partying, and Shopping. The last is obvious, ubiquitous, well planned to attract Canadians, and receives so much attention it probably doesn’t need any help. So instead let’s look at the first two.

Everyone wants to go Home on Thanksgiving, but many would probably not prefer their actual abode. Its the ideal nostalgic Home they want to travel to, not Scottsdale or Tampa Bay. Buffalo has the river and woods to go over and through, the potential for snow, the old world charm, and the ethnic background. Germany’s Christmas Markets attract tourists from all over Europe and North America – we have the legitimate immigrants, neighborhoods, history and cultural roots to pull off the same thing here. You can already get some of the best German, Polish and Eastern European food in the country here – marry it with the right space, artists, and knick knacks. And for those still seeking traditional turkey, our restaurants do a fine job Thanksgiving day. This is not a trifle to be overlooked. I was once stuck in Birmingham, Alabama on Thanksgiving, and tried to take my new wife out for a nice dinner. After driving around the city for hours, simply looking for an open restaurant, we settled at Piccadilly’s Cafeteria for cubed lunchmeat in safety yellow gravy.

The second, growing theme of Thanksgiving is the four and a half day Party. The biggest bar night of the year nationally is the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, and it’s my bet college students and young adults would travel to a great party if they knew one was being thrown. Here Buffalo could win hand over fist, as the events are already in place, and little salesmanship is all that’s needed. We have a lot of strengths that line up in our favor if we mentally package them: a large expat population already coming up over the long weekend, 4 am bar times, party and entertainment districts, two professional sports teams, the Turkey Trot, and the World’s Largest Disco.  It’s like all the fun of Buffalo Homecoming on the weekend it already happens anyway and without the career fairs.

Imagine this weekend that was just possible in Buffalo: Sabres game versus the Pens Wednesday night, hit the bar til four, three hours sleep, then run the Turkey Trot where free beer awaits you at the finish line. Grab a good meal Thursday night, then Sabres/Maple Leafs Friday, World’s Largest Disco Saturday, and the Bills game (complete with the best tailgating in the league) on Sunday. The Sabres and Bills can work to ensure home game Thanksgiving weekend, and the other events are already traditions.  If we want to attract tourists and their outside dollars, I like the disposal income and reckless spending habits of young adults most of all. And as we have been saying at WNYMedia, we’d be happy if Buffalo was known nationally as just a fun place to be. Why go home to your boring parent’s house – Thanksgiving is the new spring break, and Buffalo has the new Mardi Gras. It starts with expat college kids bringing their friends, and it grows from there.  

Buffalo needs to sell itself on Thanksgiving a la another commandeered holiday. Everyone’s Irish on St. Patty’s Day, and in Buffalo, everyone is Home on Thanksgiving.