More Partnerships in Store For an Aggressive Macy’s

Macy’s, already one of the country’s largest advertisers, is looking to augment that spend with partnerships designed to lure more shoppers into its stores.

After undergoing a name change (the corporate entity was formerly known as Federated Department Stores) and consolidating its marketing departments, Macy’s now has a national footprint, which allows it to engage in deals like a recent co-promotion for Warner Bros.’ Sex and the City 2, Norwegian Cruise Line and the Tony Awards. Those deals, announced within the last two months, build on sampling partnerships over the past year with Clorox, Ocean Spray, Dell and Q-tips that showcased products not sold in Macy’s stores in an attempt to draw new customers.

Martine Reardon, evp, marketing at Macy’s, said the push is also part of the company’s strategy to differentiate itself. “It’s important for a brand to have a personality,” she said.

Traditionally, Macy’s has relied on events like its Thanksgiving Day Parade, Flower Show and Fourth of July Fireworks, which centered around its New York flagship store. But these activities aren’t necessarily traffic builders—Macy’s has suffered along with the rest of the category as the economy faltered.

“It’s smart because what they’re doing is really extending the idea of building traffic,” said Paul Kurnit, a marketing professor at Pace University, referring to the company’s strategy of bringing in outside partners. He likened the idea to a dealer getting a potential customer to test drive a car: “If I can get you in the store for something that might not seem immediately specific to the brand, but adds brand interest, the likelihood of you buying something in the store is much, much greater than if you never came in at all.”

Macy’s has placed an emphasis on partnership marketing before, but prior to this year, its efforts were more regional, said Amy Kule, group vp of national events and partnership marketing. That’s all changed now that Macy’s has transitioned itself from a regional to a national brand.

The switch now lets Macy’s explore partnerships with bigger brands. Nowadays, “we’ve got the ability to do these partnerships in a very large way, where they can hit every facet of our stores across the country,” Kule said of the new structure. Or, “we can regionalize a program so it hits a particular segment where it makes the most sense.”

For instance, Macy’s tie-in with Sex and the City 2 not only provides advance movie screening passes and a trip for four to Marrakesh (a place the characters visit in the movie), but also a Macy’s-hosted Girls Weekend event—inspired by the movie’s storyline and characters—at select locations next week. Through May 28, likewise, Macy’s is running a contest in partnership with the Tony Awards, where the theatrically inclined submit a video of themselves singing for a chance to walk the red carpet at the June 13 event. And, it’s running a sweepstakes offer for a vacation getaway aboard Norwegian Cruise Line’s new ship, Epic.

Though Macy’s may be doing more of it recently, the strategy isn’t particularly new within its competitive set. During Fashion Night Out in New York, Macy’s rival Saks Fifth Avenue, for instance, set up “digital style suites” offering makeovers to consumers. A photographer then took photos of these consumers against a green screen and superimposed the shots onto a runway to “give the illusion that each customer was walking in a fashion show with paparazzi,” said company rep Julia Bentley.