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The Military Holiday Dilemma
By: Maryann Fabian
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It’s really hard to create good marketing campaigns for Veterans’ Day and Memorial Day. After all, how can you sell cars, clothes, or mattresses on the backs of dead soldiers and wounded warriors?

There are two standard approaches. One is to give in to patriotism, but try to do it tastefully. And it can be difficult to make a sudden patriotic spurt gel with certain brand attributes. Or, two, ignore the meaning behind the day altogether. Treat Memorial Day like a kickoff to summer and Veterans’ Day as your pre-, pre-, pre-Black Friday into Cyber Monday. But of course, this is the industry that removed all religious symbolism from holidays like Christmas and Easter for the sake of sales.

One that is particularly well done is Heinz’ “Our Turn to Serve” campaign. Now in its third year, it asks consumers to scan QR codes on its ketchup bottles to send “thank you” messages to veterans and soldiers. For each message, Heinz kicks in a dollar to the Wounded Warriors Project. For each message shared on the "Gallery of Gratitude" or Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, it donates an extra 57 cents (in honor of its 57 varieties). Red Robin is joining Heinz again this year with a nice donation and a military discount.

The restaurant industry has really led the way in honoring our active duty military and veterans for their service. And, every year, the list of those offering free meals and discounts grows exponentially. It’s almost at the point where it's rare to find a chain that doesn’t participate.

What these restaurants know is that there are 32 million veterans, reservists, active military members, spouses, and dependents. According to MJS Communications in Massachusetts, over 250,000 service members rejoin civilian life every year. They make big-ticket purchases at this time. They buy new homes and new, non-uniform wardrobes. They take long-awaited family vacations. And they reward companies that offer military discounts with their loyalty.

Maybe, one day, retailers will catch on.

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About the Author
Maryann Fabian is a copywriter who has crafted the voice of some of this country's best brands.
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