Red, White-Hot and Booed A Roundup of 4th of July Marketing Executions

America, the beautiful; land of the free, home of fireworks and the foot-long hot dog. Brands and organizations alike do their best to take advantage of the 4th of July holiday, engaging fan bases and customers on a patriotically personal level. Not to mention, as the 8th largest spending holiday for consumers (National Retail Federation), there’s money to be made from a great 4th of July campaign as well. It’s become a necessity to schedule email campaigns, advertisements and social media posts surrounding the holiday to keep brands top of mind and instill patriotic sentiment. 

The best engagements and posts around the 4th have featured thematic content and products, hosted promotions and giveaways, or have tied in numerical relevancy to prices. Take a look at three firecracker executions and three others that just…fizzled out.

America, Pup Yeah

A brand whose name alone garners loyalty, Puppies Make Me Happy absolutely nailed their 4th of July email promotion series. The approach to selling apparel was casual and subtle; it focused on the cuteness of man’s (and woman’s) best friend while touting a mix of patriotic puppy puns. 

Although their featured products weren’t themed, “pretty much everything” was priced at $17.76, a nod to the beginning of America’s nationhood. Best of all, their design team won with a fantastic rendition of the historic Mount Rushmore Pupmore. What more could you want in your inbox?

YouTube Creates Confusion

YouTube’s own Creator department functions as a support system to help users better their YouTube channels, and consistently features YouTubers from around the world when highlighting national and international holidays. So, for such a titan of the creative industry, you would hope the US-based company would use accurate emojis on social media to mark the 4th.

Unfortunately, their attempt at engaging users with an Independence Day address failed when they posted the wrong flag to social channels. The featured flag’s actual country of origin? Liberia. Cue mass confusion and backlash.

Baby, You’re a Firework

Considered traditional media, news outlets must push content on digital channels in order to drive engagement with their fan bases. Not only does this help traditional channels remain relevant, but it captures the online-only audience to keep their brand top of mind. 

During the 4th, NBC Los Angeles’ played on folks’ fascination with fireworks and live streamed the multitude of displays (legal and illegal) simultaneously happening in LA. With a single Twitter post of a clip of the light show, NBC LA was able to drive online-to-offline action garnering stronger viewership with seemingly minimal effort. On a day where people aren’t generally tuning in, using visually captivating content is the only way to catch distracted users.

Newschopper4 Bravo is over the Rose Bowl now waiting for fireworks. Watch Bravo live over LA as illegal and legal fireworks light up the sky.

— NBC Los Angeles (@NBCLA) July 5, 2018

Context DOES Matter

Two basic principles when pushing a time-sensitive holiday ad campaign are ensuring ads are properly scheduled and contextually aligned, taking advantage of the festive content users are reading and striking while the iron’s hot.

As shared by our friends at Sizmek, this Father’s Day ad set ran a few weeks too long, eliminating relevancy and therefore, engagement. More importantly, the ad slot could have been better utilized with a banner ad featuring 4th of July products or promotions, likely impacting the brand in question’s bottom line.

Party Like It’s 1776

Characteristic of the DIFF Eyewear brand, their 4th of July email campaign featured ever-cool and relatable copy peppered with an educational component to its headline, reminiscent of The Skimm. Consumers welcome when organizations tie in history behind why we celebrate specific holidays, especially one as widely acknowledged as Independence Day.

Even with something as small as noting the significance of the year 1776, it illustrates thoughtfulness within a tactic meant to drive sales. DIFF’s second win? Featuring thematic products which, as any young customer appreciates, can be worn well after the 4th.

We, The MLB

National sports organizations like the MLB never miss an opportunity to sell novelty items, altering their merchandise to reflect special events and holidays. Some may call it exploitation, but as marketers, we affectionately refer to it as ‘opportunity’.

In 2018, Independence Day caps were released via various outlets sporting “We The People” under the brim to instill pride and boost apparel sales. Sure, it’s a nice patriotic sentiment, but users were quick to point out the MLB had cited the wrong historical document, rendering the souvenirs useless. Moral of the story: ensure your team does extensive research during thematic product ideation, let alone before pushing items through production.

So, What Have We Learned From Independence Day Hails and Fails?

Whether it’s the 4th of July or another holiday opportunity, assuring your social posts and promotions “spark” engagement with fan and consumer bases just takes a little thoughtfulness. The last thing organizations like YouTube and the MLB need is social backlash for being ill-informed. Comprehensive research on the background and significance of special events and holidays is vital for all team members working with public-facing mediums. And yes, that includes the intern posting to Twitter.  In the same vein, education and reminders of the ‘why’ can be key drivers for consumers when sprinkled into a holiday address and illustrates an organization cares about more than just exploitation.

When offering products and services to drive sentiment surrounding holidays like the 4th, of course it’s always a good idea aligning them with the celebratory theme. However, there’s no need to push too hard to create items for special events. Novelty items are great, but giving consumers the opportunity for on-theme products that have longevity can further boost sales. You can instead foster festivity simply with creative messaging, implementing numerical significance with discounts and contextually aligning your properly-scheduled ads. Or, you can just revert to my preferred ammunition for user engagement: puppies. 

Let’s talk.