Embracing national days — a do or don’t for brand marketing?

Marketing Planning Calendar

In celebration of our recently released 2023 Opportunity Spots calendar, Account Director Zoe Gaffney explores the value of national awareness days and how to use them effectively within your comms.   

Type any random word into Google and you’ll most likely spot a national day for it. Case in point: as I write this blog, I see that Homemade Bread Day, World Toilet Day and International Men’s Day are just a few of the upcoming events.

National days, weeks and months have always been a ‘thing’, but there’s no doubt that their sharp rise has coincided with social media’s ever-growing presence within our daily lives. However, as we see more and more of them popping up on our Instagram feeds — some very important and some slightly ridiculous — there is a question of how valuable they really are.

Read on to explore our take on why national days can have power in content marketing (if done right) and our top tips for brands.

Then vs now: how have national days evolved within our usage?

National holidays have long been observed for thousands of years, formerly rooted in religious patronage or formed to mark an event of historical significance. Traditional examples include Christmas, Diwali, US Independence Day or Bonfire Night — all of which are usually marked with real-life celebrations. Now, we see holidays marked with something strikingly different: a hashtag.

In an online world where people like to have a finger on the pulse, hashtag-able national days offer everyone a chance to join the latest conversation. Whether it’s a charitable event like LGBT+ History Month where people feel open to share their stories and connect with likeminded souls, or a fun, light-hearted day like Galentine’s Day, people welcome the opportunity to be part of a hashtag moment.

And that’s where brands can capitalise on this new wave of national days. They’re topical, engaging and memorable. Think of trending hashtags as a high-footfall area of the internet. Why wouldn’t you want to place your brand right where social media users are congregating?

Avoiding a national day marketing fail

With national days occupying such a busy area of the internet, it can be tempting for brands to jump on every trending event in a bid to reach their target customers. However, getting involved with any and every national day can be more harmful to your brand than beneficial.

Take Nesquik. Back in 2013, the brand decided to jump on #NationalBunnyEarsDay in celebration of the famous rabbit on their packaging, by creating a photo filter of bunny ears for people to share on social media. Unfortunately, it was a flop (excuse the pun) with only nine mentions and two feed posts, with many users feeling like it was shoehorned into their content.

Sometimes it can go from the bad to the downright ugly. A recent example of this is from Burger King who decided that International Women’s Day (IWD) was a good opportunity to tweet “Women belong in the kitchen”. Although the goal was actually to highlight inequality in the hospitality industry, the tweet came across as insensitive, inappropriate and not in line with the sentiments of IWD.

And that’s not the only brand whose marketing efforts for IWD have been criticised. When Missguided tweeted about IWD, it was met with responses that highlighted gender inequalities in the company — such as the fact that women’s median hourly pay is 40% lower than men’s.

Examples like these bring to light what brands need to think about when attaching themselves to national days — and that’s relevance:

  • Relevance to your brand’s audience — brands need to choose national days that their target customers will be searching for and getting involved in. Think about their interests, hobbies and behaviour — will that national day resonate with them?
  • Relevance to your brand’s message — it’s important there’s a strong link between your brand and the national day. It needs to amplify what you’re already talking about and relate back to your brand’s mission, message and values.
  • Relevance to your brand’s CSR credentials — Missguided’s mishap showcases what harm can be caused by brands saying one thing and doing the opposite. When it comes to national days that highlight societal issues like inequality and discrimination, it’s important there’s action behind the sentiment. If a brand is posting about Black History Month, but isn’t doing anything behind the scenes to support the cause, then it can come across as insincere and performative.

Top tips for using awareness days in your brand content

  • Think outside the box — our feeds can be inundated with trending hashtags, so brands need to think creatively to make them stand out amongst the crowd. How can you add a more unique angle to the national day? This is especially important for the better-known national days, like Christmas or Valentine’s Day.
  • Consider its searchability — sometimes national events can have a boatload of attention one year but fall to the bottom of the feeds in following years. Do a quick search before you post to ensure that it’s actually being talked about and engaged with.
  • Encourage your employees to get involved — for B2B brands, it can be a good idea to have your employees share your company posts and express their engagement in the national event too. If your audience sees the marketing tactic backed up by its employees, it can feel more genuine and authentic.

Following these tips has resulted in successful national day campaigns for spottydog and our clients. Take a look:

  • Doggy date nights for Earth Animal — earlier this year, Earth Animal wanted to raise awareness of their newest rawhide-free dog chew, which was venison flavoured. Recognising that many dog owners on Instagram marked Valentine’s Day by celebrating the bond between them and their four-legged friends, we created an ‘Instagram-able’ influencer box, complete with the venison chew, some pet-friendly prosecco and a fake rose. The activity resulted in an influencer reach of over 500,000 with influencers sharing their doggy date night boxes, making Earth Animal stand out amongst competitors on the much-loved national day.
  • Giving plumbers a voice — tap and shower company Bristan needed to reach its core audience of installers, so for World Plumbing Day, we devised a survey aiming to uncover the most common plumbing mistakes that installers encounter on the job. The data gathered was generated into a PR story powered by real-life plumber voices, generating a flurry of trade coverage and placing Bristan right in the centre of the industry conversation.

Opportunity Spots is back

Now we’ve offered you all our tips and tricks on national days and their value in brand marketing, you probably want to find out all about next year’s dates and get planning. Well, we’re to here to help… Opportunity Spots 2023 is here!

Bringing you all the key calendar dates and events, Opportunity Spots is a handy desk accessory to help you with your 2023 content planning. Get your paws on it here.

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