Connecting your brand to a holiday can be an easy way to resonate with your audience and take part in a greater conversation going on around the world.
But marketers must also tread lightly - as Newscred put it, "Not every cultural moment deserves a real-time response." Brands have gotten themselves into plenty of messy PR situations by seeming to exploit a cultural or historical touchstone to shill their products.
The key to marketing around a holiday is to make it relevant to your brand and your audience. In this modern age of real-time responses and social media frenzies, in many cases it behooves companies to stay quiet rather than wedge their brand into an unrelated holiday.
One of the most notorious holidays for this type of foot-in-mouth social marketing is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Thanks to these gaffes, we have a few examples of how not to do holiday marketing.
Last year, Hats.com offered a bold non sequitor invitation to purchase a hat in honor of MLK. Um, what?
Here's an example of a brand tweeting an MLK quote for no apparent reason. This is one of the most common quotes tweeted by brands on MLK Day, presumably in an effort to associate "doing what's right" with "buying this product."
Here, ZzzQuil tries to shoehorn its brand into the "Dream" theme of the day, while actually belittling the idea of King's dream by conflating it with a restful night's sleep. Not cool.
And the winner is...
I don't even know what to say about this one. 20% of all black products? Geez.
The bottom line is, when in doubt about the relevance of a holiday for your brand - less is more. Avoid the headache of a PR crisis by eschewing any references around sensitive or emotionally-charged holidays.
In 2015, it looks like brands have taken the hint - Twitter remaineed mostly free of embarrassing corporate tweets until the Seahawks compared football to the struggle for civil rights yesterday afternoon... oops. Most social media managers opted to promote the Day of Service or post tasteful "remembrance" messages.
Want to learn the right way to market around a holiday? Download our Ultimate Marketer's Guide to the Holidays and get inspired!