‘Tis the season for marketers to clamor for consumer attention and affection. Amidst the sea of noise, less-exposed holidays like National Cookie Day, National Lager Day and National Bacon Day are also offering brands a chance to potentially stand out for cheap.
For every product, service or organization under the sun, there are seemingly endless relevant quirky holidays and opportunities around it to build buzz. The database for all these obscure dates is National Today, which has so far scrounged up 698 of them and promises to add more every day. The company has turned whimsical, offshoot holidays into a business by partnering with brands to build marketing and PR campaigns around the obscure celebrations.
“The most viral holidays are the ones that are simple, surprising and significant,” Ben Kaplan, CEO of National Today, told AListDaily.
Several major brands have already incorporated quirky holidays into their marketing strategy to deliver interesting messaging to their fans, including National Geographic (Pi Day), Macy’s (National Believe Day) and McDonald’s (National Hamburger Day).
In return, the holidays are covered by mainstream media and picked up on social media, resulting in more exposure. But brands aren’t the only ones benefitting. The business model behind National Today, which is owned by digital agency PR Hacker, has yielded approximately $500,000 to $1 million from promoting these holidays.
An example of this sort of obscure holiday marketing came from a Budweiser partnership on National Drink Beer Day (not to be confused with National Beer Day, International Beer Day or National American Beer Day). The actual content Budweiser produced was cheap and straightforward. The domestic beer brand commissioned a 2,000-person survey to measure the popularity of beer as a social drink, according to state, playing both into regional rivalries and Budweiser’s “Made In America” appeal.
“We piggy-backed on a holiday that is mentioned sporadically in the media each year—and reached 320 million people via 230-plus mass media placements and 11,000-plus social media shares,” Kaplan said. “It was more than a Super Bowl ad’s worth of media exposure simply by leveraging a lesser-known holiday.”
To avoid getting lost in the noise around the more popular quirky holidays, brands can push a more obscure day into the spotlight, Kaplan said, listing three requirements to “create” a new holiday: a batch of initial “seed” influencers, shareable social assets and a hook that news media outlets can pick up on.
Singles Day, according to Kaplan, is the platonic ideal of the viral potential for obscure holidays. It was, after all, invented by college students on a whim more than 20 years ago, but only broke into the popular consciousness when Alibaba co-opted it in 2009.
Beyond awareness, obscure holidays lend themselves to driving immediate action. By emphasizing scarcity, time pressure and locality for an emotional appeal, brands can push consumers to try something new—and to do it quickly.
“For instance, for the Postmates food delivery app, National Today drove 12,000 new customers on Father’s Day weekend, a time trigger, by saying that we were giving away 10,000 orders, a scarcity trigger, of dad’s favorite meal, an emotional trigger, to Houston families, a location trigger,” Kaplan said.
As social media usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous, the viral potential of obscure holidays increases.
“We used to think that Psy’s ‘Gangnam Style’ was the gold standard of viral videos, reaching two billion views nearly two years after its 2012 release,” said Kaplan. “But in 2017, Luis Fonsi’s ‘Despacito’ video reached four billion views in only nine months.”
Even if brands aren’t planning on large-scale PR campaigns around quirky holidays, keeping a calendar handy can help with social media planning. Many lesser-known holidays, especially simple ones with broad appeal, often generate popular hashtags.
“These holidays provide a roadmap for what will go viral,” Kaplan said. “For instance, every year on September 29, National Coffee Day will generate 250,000-plus Google searches and 500,000-plus Instagram posts.”
If you can’t find an obscure holiday that quite fits your brand, don’t worry, you can even pitch to add new ones to National Today’s calendar.