If you’re like me, you’ll probably be ignoring politics this year (and hopefully not arguing about it at the table with relatives and friends), but there’s a bit of lightheartedness that’s easy to share and has an important customer service message for marketers.
In the early 2000s, the NBC political drama The West Wing centered on fictional Democratic president Jed Bartlet and a close-knit set of advisers. During a Thanksgiving-themed episode, the president, looking for answers on how to cook stuffing, muses that there should be experts available to help.
“This time of year, there should be a hotline you can call with questions about cooking turkeys, a special 800 number where the phones are staffed by experts,” the president says.
“There is,” his personal aide responds. “The Butterball hotline.”
The Butterball hotline is a real thing (branded as the Turkey Talk-Line) and there’s an actual 800 number. You can call 1-800-BUTTERBALL for all your turkey cooking questions. The line is open and staffed with experts from November to December. You can ask questions about all kinds of cooking turkey questions, and side dishes too. It’s been around since 1981, and the famous PR firm Edelman still helps coordinate it to this day.
Since The West Wing aired almost 20 years ago, there have been some digital-age modifications. You can now text the hotline if you wish, and connect to the Turkey Talk-Line through social media or even Amazon Alexa. There is staff available to help you in Spanish if you’re more comfortable in that language.
The point of this service is so simple and homespun it’s easy to overlook. Butterball could easily have a Thanksgiving sale on turkeys every year, and no one would notice. They could send out coupons via text messages or use an AI chatbot. They could have a team of analysts scour social media for hashtags or arrange slide decks with pie charts and line charts. They could send elaborate emails with perfect subject lines and easily digestible calls to action.
But Thanksgiving is about human to human connection. There’s something comforting about knowing there’s someone on the other end of the phone to ask, “am I doing this right?” Butterball doesn’t care if you buy a turkey from them or not. They’re showing that they’ve got your back, at least when it comes to wrestling a 20-pound turkey carcass during the holidays. If you think your skills are bad, just take comfort in the fact that you’re probably not the man who tried to thaw a turkey in the bath with his children. I have no idea how that story ended, and I really don’t wish to know.
From all of us here at DMN, Happy Thanksgiving. We hope your turkey is cooked just right.