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Memorial Day Marketing Blunders Businesses Should Avoid

Memorial Day Marketing Blunders Businesses Should Avoid
Updated May 11, 2023
Carlos Serrano
Written byCarlos Serrano
Catherine Cohen
Edited byCatherine Cohen
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Memorial Day encompasses several meanings for different Americans. For many, it’s a special day that gives people an opportunity to honor and remember military members who sacrificed their lives for our country. Others might see it more as the unofficial start of summer, a day for getting together with family and friends and enjoying the warmer weather. 

Small business owners have another relationship with the holiday, in addition to those already mentioned. Memorial Day offers you a chance to connect with your community and build brand awareness, especially on social media. The temptation to use the ever-popular #MemorialDay hashtag can be too hard to ignore. All the big guys are doing it, so why can’t you? 

There’s no reason to hold yourself back. Social media is a vital tool for the success of your business, and leveraging important dates such as Memorial Day is a great strategy to get your name out there. 

Be careful, though! Memorial Day content can be seen as insensitive due to the nature of the holiday as a way to honor fallen soldiers. There’s a fine line between brilliant and offensive, and your brand may not always be an excellent fit for a trending topic. Keep the following common pitfalls in mind when planning your Memorial Day content, and you’ll start off at a better place than most. 

1. Tying Your Brand to the Military or Their Sacrifices

We get it; you’re excited about your brand or product and want to share it. In most cases, that would be a great instinct to follow. Memorial Day is different. Mixing the enthusiasm you feel and want others to feel about your brand with the military comes off as forced at best and insensitive at worst. 

Look at this example: 

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What does this have to do with Memorial Day? Sure, there’s no hashtag to tie it directly, but the language very clearly implies a connection to the sacrifices of military members. Worse, it comes across as a flimsy connection at best, making the brand the entire focus of the message. And as bad as that is, would you believe that it can get worse? 

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Indeed it can. 

At the end of the day, if you think your content might be offensive when tied to the military, it’s better to be cautious and not post it. That doesn’t mean you can’t still honor Memorial Day. 

Remember, many people see Memorial Day as the first big summer holiday. You can lean on this by focusing on summer activities and being together with the family in your marketing. If you do want to mention the sacrifices of the military, better to do it without mentioning your brand at all, like in this example.

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2. Mixing Up Memorial Day and Veterans Day

This might seem obvious, but trust us when we say that it happens more often than not. It’s not hard to see why. Both holidays focus on the military and honor service members for their duty. 

But this distinction is crucial. Memorial Day pays tribute to those who died in service to the country. Veterans Day honors all service members, focusing on thanking living veterans for their contributions. 

When comparing the two, Memorial Day has a much more somber meaning. Refrain from using phrases such as “Happy Memorial Day” and instead use terms focused on remembrance and honoring. 

3. Having an Inappropriate Tone in Your Memorial Day Messaging

If you genuinely believe that your brand has a stake in Memorial Day as a day to honor the sacrifices of military members, be aware of your tone. One of the golden rules of social media marketing (but applies to all forms of marketing) is never to make an audience sad or angry. Even if you start that way, end with a hopeful or purposeful tone. 

It can be challenging to straddle that line with a holiday like Memorial Day, and many brands and companies don’t quite cross the finish line. 

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Here, Heinz is trying to go with a basic summertime message that brings fun activities to mind. Unfortunately, specifically calling out Memorial Day at the start primes the audience to be thinking about dead service members. Pairing that with the word “happiness” implies Heinz is joyful about deceased service members. 

That’s not what Heinz is saying, but those are the kinds of tonal inconsistencies you need to look for when posting during more solemn holidays such as Memorial Day. 

Of course, there’s also such a thing as being too solemn. 

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The subject matter is relevant to Petco, which is a good picture. But, think about the optics. 

Memorial Day, at its core, is about those who gave their life for their country, and now Petco is hitting audiences in the face with the fact that dogs die in war as well. Add to that the picture of an injured animal, and we’re left envisioning the awful thing that must have happened to it for it to lose a leg. It’s depressing stuff. 

If you’re looking to avoid veering too much into one tone over the other, remember that you don’t always have to tie things back to your brand on social media. Be genuine and understand when certain subjects are worth putting your business’s messaging or products on the back burner. 

If you’re talking about service members, keep the focus on them and keep messaging simple, to the point, and honest. Remember — it’s not about you. 

There’s also no shame in recognizing when this specific message from your brand or business may not be appropriate. Many brands stay quiet on social media during culturally packed holidays such as Memorial Day. That’s a valid strategy. 

4. Not Going Beyond Pricing When It Comes to Deals

The significant pitfalls you have to avoid when it comes to Memorial Day ads include messaging, but there’s also room to consider monetary pitfalls. It’s no secret that Memorial Day is a popular holiday for sales and deals, and you might be thinking of offering some of your own. 

Many businesses make the wonderful nature of their products the focus of these ads, and that’s fine. But to truly stand out, you should think outside the box. 

You need to come at this from a mindset that customers know your product or service is desirable and that discounts and sales tend to attract mainly people already thinking of buying. Instead, address the reasons why people aren’t buying. Depending on your product, you could entice people with additional benefits besides discounts, such as free delivery or trade-in deals. 

The trick is to think beyond expectations and highlight why people should go to you for your specific product or service over competitors.

Properly Prepare for a Successful Memorial Day

Ultimately, we’re not saying all of this to dissuade you from creating ads or posting during Memorial Day. There’s much value in leveraging national holidays like it. The bottom line is that preparation is critical for successful messaging, especially for small businesses. If you can learn from others’ missteps, you can position yourself to succeed.

Originally published on October 20, 2022, and last edited on May 11, 2023.

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