A new tradition: Jollibee celebrates gratitude, launches Family Thanksgiving Month

The global pandemic has made people worldwide reassess and reexamine what their priorities are in life. With so many people losing jobs or worse, losing friends and loved ones, people have been finding it harder to keep looking for the proverbial silver lining in their lives. Amid these difficulties however, one company is trying to encourage Filipinos to give thanks for the gift of family.
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May 2021 marks the launch of Jollibee’s Family Thanksgiving Month, a month-long celebration of gratitude and thanksgiving that the leading fastfood provider wants Filipinos to celebrate moving forward. In an exclusive interview with adobo magazine, Jollibee Global Brand CMO and JFC Philippines Country Marketing Head Francis Flores and Jollibee Assistant Vice-President and Head of Brand Communications, PR, and Digital Marketing Arline Adeva explained the reason behind this initiative and some immediate plans Jollibee has in the future.

Thanksgiving in the United States is one of the biggest holidays of the year, arguably bigger than Christmas. Celebrated every fourth Thursday of November, Americans spend the day with their families generally giving thanks for the blessings they have received from the previous year. That tradition began when settlers from the United Kingdom arrived in America and gave thanks for making it to the New World in relative safety. In the case of Jollibee, though, It was during an internal planning session right around the American holiday in 2019, that the idea behind Family Thanksgiving Month began

You know how the Thanksgiving celebration in the US is bigger than Christmas, right?” Francis begins. “And it’s such a nice celebration and sayang wala tayong ganun in the Philippines. Just saying ‘Thank you’ for one whole day, people will just express their gratitude to everyone. At the same time, we realize there is no family official holiday or official celebration in our country. I even saidang pinaka-family day na natin ay yung mga outing,yung sa mgacompany, diba? Lahat ng companymayroong outing in summer.

With those two facts or insights, we just combined,” he adds. “Wouldn’t it be great if there is a celebration about family thanksgiving? And that idea came about, of course especially during the pandemic. We started a series of campaigns all centered on the same universal truth that, right now more than ever, we’re spending more time with our families because of the lockdown. Because of that, now is the perfect opportunity for us to really appreciate and have gratitude towards our families.

Especially during this time they have been our source of strength, courage, happiness because the world now has a lot of fear, sadness, and anxiety,” Francis shares. “Why can’t Jollibee be a brand that promotes the joy of family? I think it’s our responsibility to take the lead in really promoting the joy of family by encouraging everyone to show gratitude.

Amid those sentiments, it is the quality of gratitude that Jollibee wants to bring to the fore for the entire month of May. Francis read somewhere that it is a truth that gratitude fuels joy. With Jollibee associated with joy throughout its history, it’s thus a natural synergy for that gratitude to lead to joy. “in times when you’re sad or worried, the best way to combat sadness and anxiety and worry is through gratitude,” he says. “By being grateful, it allows you to focus on the good things that you have rather than looking at the bad things happening in life. That’s the insight behind it.”

Even with that insight, Francis mentions a happy coincidence that occurred while introducing Anne as the Family Thanksgiving Month ambassador alongside authors and counsellors Edric and Joy Mendoza. “Earlier in our panel, Edric and Joy Mendoza said, ‘Francis, ang galing naman that you’re having it in May. Did you know that May 15 is the United Nations Day of Family?’ To be honest, we didn’t know that—it’s just a really nice coincidence,” he points out. 

That’s all well and good, but the American Thanksgiving occurs annually and is celebrated for just one whole day. “Ever since we came up with the idea, it’s a simple family thanksgiving, we said why just one day, why not one month, right?” Francis asks rhetorically. “A whole month just to thank everyone. And we will take the lead. And Jollibee being a big brand, we are blessed with the platforms, social media, and Facebook. We can really make this official. Every year, with the help of all our Jollibee family ambassadors, we can be carrying this message of ‘let’s take this time to be grateful to our family. Let’s take time to appreciate the blessings of family.’ It can allow us to appreciate these moments. That’s the long story of this campaign.”

For her part, Anne Curtis has been a Jollibee endorser for a few years already and is one of several celebrities to be so. In fact, when one thinks of Jollibee, it’s easy to think of Aga and Charlene Muhlach as well as Sarah Geronimo among those names. Since her introduction in a series of funny commercials with the Jollibee Burger Steak in 2017, Anne has been an integral part of the Jollibee roster of endorsers. Noting that the Muhlachs will “always be the Chickenjoy family and Sarah is a solid family ambassador, Francis bares why Anne was the right call this time around.
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“When we say family, the immediate definition is the immediate family as in the asawa, anak, but we forget, we say family as a sister, as a daughter,” he notes. “And Anne—and you can see in all her social media, she’s very public and open about expressing her love to her sister, jasmine. How she openly talks about her mom, how she posts about her dad, her siblings in Australia, and now, she’s also a mom. So ang gandang take rin, hindi yung usual na immediate family na definition. And I guess that’s what we want. We want to expand the celebration, not just for those who have their own families—all of us have our families as well.”

“Number two, we love Anne. If there’s one thing you’ll notice with Jollibee, our endorsers last for a lifetime. Look at how Aga evolved. When we got Aga before, kinukuwento sa’min mismo ni Aga, binata pa siya ni wala pa si Charlene sa buhay niya. Si Sarah, mas matagal pa si Sarah sa akin kaysa sa Jollibee. Nauna pa siya sakin sa Jollibee. So with Anne, she started with us on our first campaign with Burger Steak. She just got engaged. And we really love Anne, we value her as a Jollibee kapamilya.”

“And In a way we also take care of them,” he says. “We act like para kaming Jollibee talent managers—we want to craft, knowing that these people are human beings with different life stages. And sabi namin, now is the perfect time, from Burger Steak, let’s transition her na perfect yung role, like sino yung perfect ambassador? With those two objectives, best na siya. It’s also a great opportunity to capture where Anne is right now in her current life stage. So that’s why when someone brought the idea ‘bakit hindi si Anne Curtis?’ Ay, lahat kami hands down. Perfect. So that’s the reason why we chose Anne.”

For the launch of the Family Thanksgiving Month, Jollibee tapped award-winning agency Dentsu JaymeSyfu for this initial campaign with Anne onboard. “The director they tapped was Joel Ruiz, whom we’ve worked before in several campaigns,” Arline says. “We’re very happy kasi even during the brief pa lang, they appreciated also the message we’re trying to give in this campaign. They really got the strategy spot-on, and aligned din sila sa message they were trying to convey. Na-enhance din, of course, with the treatment.”

It’s commonplace to hire endorsers and commercial models to appear in ads, of course, but in a bit of a twist, the families featured in this particular campaign were actually real families with real family members interacting “It was really a nice touch also to use real families for the videos,” Arline adds. “So siyempre yung dynamics, looks, and also the song. It showed naman in the video how that worked for us. We’re very happy with the output and we’re so very excited to launch this to the public.”

Given the situation with the pandemic, it hasn’t been easy for brands and agencies to conceptualize, let alone shoot new ads with the different protocols that have been implements since last March. “Siyempre, like many other brands and production houses we were really affected by the sudden declaration na bumalik tayo sa ECQ,” she points out. “We really had to resched our shoots and then when new guidelines were issued, we talked to our agency to follow these. The last thing we want to happen is to put anyone’s safety at risk, kasi may safety campaign rin kami. Ayaw naman namin mangyari yun, not just to our endorsers but also to those in production.”

With changes in protocol seemingly happening out of thin air, both the marketing team of Jollibee as well as the agency and the production people have been forced to adjust. “We really made sure na protocol talaga, we had to approve it remotely, this is the new normal of production,” Arline says. “Nagawan naman ng paraan and we were very happy, kasi dapat talaga creative ka rin and resourceful and mindful sa requirements and curfew. Separate sched pa per family kasi, talagang to the letter. We had to take this seriously, not just for this campaign, but for all of our campaigns, safety comes first. We really have to adjust kasi nga we care talaga for everyone.”

As May 2021 marks a month-long celebration of Family Thanksgiving Month, Jollibee would like to perpetuate this tradition among Filipinos moving forward. “That’s our vision and that’s our wish,” Francis proudly states. “I’m sure someone thought of this centuries ago in the US. It all starts with someone having this great idea and everyone who’s willing to embrace it. It’s founded on a very powerful truth, and regardless if there’s a pandemic or not, it’s just right that at least once a year we take time to appreciate our families, not just our families but everyone we consider as a part of our family.”

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