It happens every year; a local company in Somewhere, USA decides to have a hokey sale around the September 11. In 2014, a yoga studio offered 20% discounts on yoga classes for 9/11. This year, a mattress store in San Antonio, TX held a ‘Twin Towers’ sale — complete with a commercial where two guys fall into towers of twin mattresses. That store has closed indefinitely (there is video proof online, however we have chosen to not link to them, as they are in terrible taste).
Unfortunately, there are other examples like this. Did you see the towers built of soda cases in a Florida Walmart? We wonder who thought that was a good idea?
Which brings to light a need to discuss proper etiquette around marketing for observance holidays, like 9/11 and Pearl Harbor Day.
Here are three questions every business leader should ask themselves before trying to gain attention and sales by tying into holiday promotions:
1. Is this observance day for something devastating? No business should benefit from 9/11 promotions. Period. It’s in bad taste. That being said, many observances are for solemn reasons (i.e. terrorists attacks, soldiers lost to war, etc.). In contrast, special days such as President’s Day is a common time to see promotions in retail sales. However, trying to profit from a tragic event that cost thousands of lives is just icky. Don’t do it.
2. Am I helping raise awareness or funds about the events that spurred the need for the observance day? Let’s say you’re a non-profit that supports the community. 9/11 is also known as a day of service where many organizations and individuals take time to do something helpful and uplifting. This would be a great time to hold a special volunteer event. Or, if your business doesn’t fall in the non-profit category, then take your organization to one and give of your time. Share photos of the day on social media. Blog about it. Sometimes you’ll gain more credibility and support from customers by taking a moment to give to others and inspire other businesses to do the same, instead of an offensive and shallow ploy to make the news or hold a sale.
3. Will the promotion upset people? It doesn’t matter if you, as the owner or manager, think and idea is clever or funny. Truly, your customers don’t (and shouldn’t) care about that. What should matter to you is how your customers might feel about it. If you stop to think for just a minute about the emotions involved with 9/11 and other somber observances, it becomes very clear that most people absolutely will not find falling into twin mattress towers funny — and they won’t buy from you either. Carefully evaluate and idea, think about the customer’s perspective, and you’ll likely come up with a promotion that will engage customers and help build a community of fans.
Need help developing your next promo or engaging customers? We’d love to chat.