Why We Don’t Do Holiday Marketing

Every time a major holiday rolls around, marketers and business flock to advertising channels pushing some sort sale or promotion. Everywhere you look or listen its “4th of July Sale” this and “Independence Day promotion that” or “Celebrate your Independence with these new shoes”. How did we go so wrong? Are marketers and companies really so desperate for business that they must coop every opportunity to promote a message? Certainly some in the industry will agree. After all, there are some numbers that support these actions. But where can we draw the line? What is left of our integrity and soul after chasing such temporary goals?

The argument being made here is truly a subjective one; what we at Foundry512 feel about marketing during holidays may certainly be different from what a business or other marketers feel. However, we must draw a line in the sand at some point. For us, that means departing from the original intention of the importance of the holiday. In the case of Independence Day, it is departing from the meaning of American independence from English rule.

Boston Tea Party

In 1776, a brave core of American citizens rejected the rule of law that governed their way of life due to lack of representation. They rejected the most powerful country on the planet at the time. Great consideration and sacrifice was made to found what has now become the greatest country on earth. A small group of underdogs risked absolutely everything for what we have now. And, how do we honor that greatness? – Why, with commercialization and degradation of the original meaning, of course!

George Washington

When a marketing piece departs from the original meaning or intent of the holiday like, the reverence and memory for a hard battle fought and won, we lose our integrity. There are others out there at will inevitably disagree. That’s understandable. The justification for such marketing probably centers on lifestyle and supporting the lifestyle around these events. And many are being recognized for such displays.

Zappos promoted the 4th of July with red, white, and blue sneakers, Michael Kors tweeted a mockup picture of lifestyle products, Oreo (a Foundry512 favorite) dunked for the red, white, and blue, Salem co-opted to promote a new episode, Stride mentioned fireworks, and Brit + Co wanted to help you get beach ready. But what does any of this content have to do with 1776 or overthrowing the unfair rule of a free people? Not a damn thing!

Why are we selling converse sneakers? The original patriots didn’t wear converse. Why are we promoting a new episode on WGN? The colonists didn’t have TV – couldn’t that have waited until the next day? Our founding fathers most certainly did not buy beach towels or Jell-O shots from Brit + Co. Fireworks displays are representational of mortar shells and bombardments from ships at sea. They symbolized that our flag was still flying and served as a rallying point while people were losing their lives for us all. Not bubblegum. It’s even in the Star-Spangled Banner! [ Lyrics / Archived Recording ]

So what are we to do? Certainly the engagement on some of these spots is really good which means folks enjoy this type of content. If the demand is there, why not supply it? We are we working for companies that are trying to provide jobs in a business climate that appears to be ever-changing. Regardless, there is a sweet spot for this type of marketing; a less commercially blatant format and a more educational or engaging format. A format and delivery that holds true to both the recognition of important holidays and the company’s official position. And Coca-Cola seems to have found a really nice balance.

Over the course of Coca-Cola’s long history, the company has tried to unite people of different backgrounds and cultures from all over the world. Taking a look back at the original commercial Coca-Cola produced in 1971, you can see that balance done delicately. The commercial spot, part of a larger campaign, was so successful that the song featured in the commercial was turned into an independent single by The New Seekers and was featured in the series finale of Mad Men.

Recently, Coca-Cola produced a commercial spot for Ramadan, called “Remove the Labels”. In this spot the main focus is on the people and bringing them together across cultures, just like the original 1971 spot.

If you look closely at the spot, very little of the video time was segmented to promote Coca-Cola. Instead, Coke built the branding around the scene and purposefully did not take the scene over to sell a few more cokes. Instead, they provoked a conversation about an important holiday for many people. There were still ample branding opportunities that pushed the awareness of Coca-Cola. But the spot’s original intent promoted the cultural awareness of a holiday.

Now, look back on some of the marketing campaigns previously mentioned above. How do they fit within the parameters that Coca-Cola seems to walk delicately and effortlessly within? They don’t. That’s the point.

As marketers we can and must do a better job. Using important holidays that have true reverence and meaning for short term gains leaves little room for integrity. And, as marketers working tirelessly around the clock to grow our clients business, we must remember; we too have souls. We must take a stand for something other than just sales.