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Branded Holidays

Christmas and Mother’s Day have been boosting retail sales for decades. But now there’s a plethora of other celebratory Days designed to get consumers excited enough to buy something. There’s a self-declared, for-profit organization acting as unofficial gatekeeper, but there’s no formal authority deciding that it’s National Garlic Day or National Jelly Bean Day, or any of the other weird celebrations. Do special Days actually bring benefit to brands, or are they just so much marketing hogwash?

The answer, at least commercially, seems to depend on how closely the Day is aligned with a particular product. Food Days, such as National Pizza Day or National Caffeine Day seem to genuinely get the public going, as Ben & Jerry’s has done with its Free Cone Day since 1979.

Some find it bizarre that nakedly product-based Holidays jostle for our attention with more solemn ones based on social action or historical figures, such as Equal Pay Day or Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day, and brands that blunder into social subjects often crash and burn. Take Chinese e-commerce giants Tmall and JD.co, who attempted to cash in on International Women’s Day, but ended up insulting women with tired old stereotypes. Or UK supermarket giant Tesco, who pushed smoky bacon-flavor Pringles as part of a Ramadan promotion.

Contrast this, however, with Chinese Singles Day, which is now the world’s biggest one-day shopping event, rivaling relatively recent US inventions Black Friday and Cyber Monday. It seems the time-honored practice of shopping away feelings of loneliness was worth a Special Day all its own.

Brands that want to focus consumers on their product should consider aligning with one of the hundreds of Days on offer. But they should be careful to avoid the increasingly insincere, even haranguing tones adopted by promoters, and also stick to a subject that actually prompts consumers to reach into their pockets.

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