It’s a date!
You already know October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. But did you know it’s also American Cheese Month, Church Library Month, Down Syndrome Awareness Month and Italian-American Heritage Month? October 24-31 is International Bat Week (because, OF COURSE, it would coincide with Halloween). And hopefully you wore your stretchy pants on October 4, which marks Cinnamon Bun Day, National Taco Day and National Vodka Day.
National and international observances run the gamut of being relevant or outlandish. But one thing is certain: They can be pure goldmines for marketers. How are they created, and why are they so useful? Great questions. Let’s dive in.
The History of Observances
National and international observances have been around for ages. But they’re not all official. According to the Congressional Research Service, a law is required to create either a federal holiday or a patriotic or national observance. However, action to recognize, support, honor, or acknowledge certain days, weeks, and months requires only a resolution agreed to by the House or Senate, or a concurrent resolution agreed to by both chambers.
Many official international observances are declared by the United Nations (UN), like World Food Day on October 16. One or more Member States propose the observance, and the General Assembly then moves to establish it with a resolution.
But most national days, in particular, aren’t official. A brand or organization simply declares them. To get others on board, the observance can be added to a reference calendar. Among the most popular is the National Day Calendar, which claims to be the “premier destination for brands, nonprofits, and corporations” to register a national day “that aligns with their product or service.”
How They Can Spark Marketing Genius
Long before digital marketing, PR pros and more traditional marketers were already using national and international observances to promote their brands to newspapers, magazines and television outlets. Here’s why: It’s an easy angle to pitch to hungry journalists, and they can help spark some great story ideas.
National Day Calendar boasts that more than 20,000 media outlets—from Fox and Friends to Ellen—source their news stories from its calendar. And if you can get ahead of them and pitch your story with the right angle, they don’t even need to bother visiting the calendar themselves.
Enter the digital age, and these observances have been given new life as hashtags and social movements. Organizations like the American Heart Association (AHA) have incorporated social hashtags into their national observance campaigns to embrace this evolution. Last February during Heart Month, several hashtags in addition to the main #HeartMonth were used to represent different messages. These include #GoRedGetFit, encouraging fitness, and #KnowYourNumbers, a promotion with CVS Health to encourage health screenings. This coming Hearth Month in February 2021 is focused on high blood pressure control, with AHA already pushing #bloodpressure as its hashtag of choice.
Your brand doesn’t need to create its own day (although that can be done, as stated earlier). You can “newsjack” a day (or two…or a dozen throughout the year) more easily.
Case Study: Naked, But Not Afraid
Lawn care isn’t exactly sexy or exciting. These are the truths John Egan grappled with as the freelance content marketing strategist and writer served as editor in chief at the Austin, Texas-based lawn care startup LawnStarter.
But then inspiration hit in the form of a bizarre national day.
“One day, as I was brainstorming content ideas, I happened to stumble upon an observance I’d never heard of: World Naked Gardening Day,” Egan says. “It then dawned on me: How could LawnStarter ‘newsjack’ this holiday to garner attention?”
He decided to take a “top 10 list” angle by ranking the best U.S. cities for observing World Naked Gardening Day. Considering factors like average high temperature and percentage of sunshine, Egan actually identified 12 cities simply perfect for naked gardening, with Miami taking the top spot (who knew?).
“With those numbers in hand, we then needed to develop written content and images to make the data come to life,” he said.
For the written content, LawnStarter conducted online research to unearth information about naked gardening, including quotes from the founder of World Naked Gardening Day. Egan and his team found photos of each of the top 12 cities, as well as tasteful safe-for-work pictures of nude gardeners. LawnStarter published the World Naked Gardening Day package a few days ahead of the observance—including a blog post—to allow time for content promotion.
After targeting newspapers, TV stations and radio stations in each market, one of the biggest hits was with the Miami Herald. The story simultaneously was posted online by the nearly 30 other daily newspapers owned by the Miami Herald’s publisher. More than 120 media outlets reported on the list, including the Weather Channel.
“Aside from the widespread media coverage,” he adds, “the LawnStarter blog post itself earned about 1,600 shares on social media.”
Another Case Study: Bagel Me This
January 15 may be one the “hole-iest” days of the year. Why? Because it’s National Bagel Day. It’s also one of Einstein Bros. Bagels’ favorite holidays, obviously. Snackbox, the brand’s PR agency, loves creating national pitches (one could call them “shmear” campaigns?) in connection to National Bagel Day. For instance, in 2019, Einstein Bros. offered a free bagel and shmear while promoting the food’s surprising amount of protein by launching a “Power of the Bagel” campaign on that day.
Snackbox targeted both national and select local media, as well as some short-lead national outlets focusing on round-up deals, food, women’s health, and men’s health. In smaller markets, they utilized local spokespeople and coordinated several local TV appearances across multiple DMAs (designated marketing areas).
“In total, the campaign garnered nearly one billion media impressions (and that’s without multipliers, a measurement practice that Snackbox does not subscribe to!),” reveals Jenna Oltersdorf, Snackbox’s Founder/Principal.
“Plan ahead and make sure you have enough time to create a campaign that gets the most out of celebrating a National Day that makes sense for your brand,” recommends Shana Bull, a marketing educator and digital storyteller. And remember that magazines often have 4- to 6-month lead times. So a January themed idea will need to be pitched by summer.
As illustrated by Snackbox and LawnStarter, it’s also smart to have a specific angle or offer that sets you apart.
And be sure to understand the day’s purpose and who declared it before jumping on board. Take World Toilet Day, for example. Before adopting its hashtag to tell potty jokes, it’s essential to understand that the observance isn’t a light-hearted one; its purpose is to draw attention to a global sanitation crisis.
And if you can’t find the perfect national observance? Consider declaring one yourself. Both Oltersdorf and Egan have. You could start by creating an online presence and then submitting it to the National Day Calendar.
Photo by Mel Poole