Friendsgiving: A Modern Twist on Thanksgiving


Contrary to popular belief, Friendsgiving did not originate from the iconic television show, FRIENDS—though some may argue otherwise. The term, blending friends and Thanksgiving, was not even added into the Merriam-Webster dictionary until 2020. The earliest reference was in 2007 when it showed up on Usenet posts and on Twitter. But the fact that the meaning of the word wasn’t explained suggests that it was floating around as a spoken term before turning up in written form. In 2011, it was brought into national prominence by Bailey’s Irish Cream in an ad campaign in 2011. An episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey followed suit. Friendsgiving gained more traction in 2012. Today, Friendsgiving reflects a broader transformation to the traditional Thanksgiving celebration.

Many may view Friendsgiving as just a pre-party to Thanksgiving, but it is more than that. Data from Evite and Google Trends show that invites to Friendsgiving parties and searches for Friendsgiving ideas have tripled since 2015. Urbanization, social media, delayed marriage, and family building as well as young adults relying on “urban tribes” of friends instead of kin contribute to the sustained popularity of this alternative gathering. At the heart of it, Friendsgiving is a celebration of “chosen families” and the strong bonds of friendship, combining the best parts of Thanksgiving with less stress and more laid back.

Not surprisingly, businesses capitalized on this unofficial holiday. In 2016, Taco Bell celebrated its fourth invite-only Friendsgiving celebration, treating its guests to a Taco Bell-inspired Thanksgiving meal while live-streaming the event on Facebook. Fetzer’s #Friendsgiving campaign in 2021, developed a marketing campaign focused on the concept of Thanksgiving  “is what you make of it this year”. Butterball, the popular turkey brand, launched multiple Friendsgiving-themed campaigns, providing recipes, cooking tips, and promotions centered around celebrating with friends.

Brands like Target, T-Mobile, Hallmark, and Ikea incorporated Friendsgiving-themed marketing campaigns, promoting their goods and services, as well as offering discounts. Pinterest promoted Friendsgiving content on its platform, encouraging users to discover and share creative ideas for hosting Friendsgiving gatherings. Even furniture giant, Ikea, incorporated Friendsgiving into its marketing campaign, promoting furniture and home goods for hosting gatherings and creating a welcoming space for friends.

If you are looking to incorporate Friendsgiving into your marketing campaign, you can encourage your audience to share their Friendsgiving feast photos with a branded hashtag and enter participants into a giveaway for a chance to win. Consider doing a Friendsgiving Flash Sale, offering exclusive Friendsgiving discounts for a limited time. You can also align your brand with a charitable cause and encourage your audience to contribute. Other marketing campaigns can also revolve around Friendsgiving-centric polls and surveys and influencer partnerships. Whatever campaign you choose to run, remember to tailor these ideas to fit your brand’s identity and values. Make sure you leverage user-generated content to create a sense of community and enhance the effectiveness of Friendsgiving campaigns.

Over the past decade, Friendsgiving has become a popular, unofficial holiday, celebrating bonds of friendship and “chosen” families. It is more than a modern twist on Thanksgiving—it reflects the changing dynamics of our society as we continue to express gratitude for the relationships that enrich our lives. Creating a marketing campaign around this holiday requires authenticity and a community-based approach, contributing to the spirit of Friendsgiving.