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Selling Memorial Day with Social Media
By: Brett Moneta
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Branding is always tricky. Online branding even more so. So when it comes to messaging certain subjects, smart online marketers usually stay far away from the delicate ones. For example, for a long stretch of time after 9/11, many companies chose to stay away from the topic altogether. Granted: the web was still maturing at that point. Heck, Twitter was still a gleam in Odeo’s eye. But that’s neither here nor there. I  remember brainstorming sessions about 9/11 and the best way to approach it. The general feeling was, “don’t try to sell anything. It will come off as fake.” So we didn’t. And that’s the way it was handled.

Now, Memorial Day is a slightly different animal. It’s during a change of seasons, which is always a time for increased consumer activity.  People are venturing outside again. School is out. Summer movies are coming out. Big things are happening.  On the other hand, Memorial Day is supposed to be a time to celebrate our fallen soldiers.  So which way do we turn.

In the past, most companies have gone in one of two directions: complete denial or complete focus. The first (and most popular) involves selling Memorial Day as the aforementioned beginning of summer, with online sales, social media contests, and conversations surrounding outdoor activities, BBQs, vacations, etc. Essentially, they ignore Memorial Day itself and sell it as a big party/retail weekend. They may not mention the holiday, but it’s great for sales.

On the flip side, we have companies that take that “just-after 9/11” approach, focusing on the direct meaning of the holiday. The message usually involves a one-sided post or simple statement of respect and thanks to our fallen veterans, without involving sales of any kind.

While it may sound like I’m endorsing one or the other, I’m really not. I’d suggest it’s just our collective retail guilt. While everyone respects our veterans, no one wants to dwell on sadness and loss, least of all online marketers.

There’s no upside. Is there? Well, not the kind where sales immediately go through the roof. That’s the kind of approach that gives you and your company a place in meme history.

I’d suggest we consider a middle ground, especially with the obvious avenue of social media. What is social media, if not a place to start a conversation?  

If social media has taught us anything, it’s to be honest and direct with our customers. We can’t beat around the bush, even when it comes to difficult or uncomfortable subjects.  If you approach them in the right way, in an honest and respectable manner, your customers are likely to respect you even more. That builds relationships.

And few tools have the power to build or cement relationships like social media. Any platform can be fitted for Memorial Day. Why not ask customers to talk about memories of veterans they know? Or ask veterans to share memories of their fallen friends? Have a “most heroic veteran contest” on Facebook or Post WW2 photos of soldiers in their sharp looking uniforms. Feel free to borrow any of these ideas — free of charge.

Holidays like Memorial Day are the perfect time to celebrate life. Best of all, celebrating life is something any marketer can appreciate.  

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About the Author
Brett Moneta has been playing in the digital world since 1996. He’s worked for companies like AOL, Avenue A | Razorfish, and Omnicom, developing content strategy and consulting on usability for companies in IT, consumer electronics, retail, healthcare, energy, and more. You can follow his tweets and read his blog too. Find him online here.
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