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How Presidents’ Day Sales Become a Marketing Gimmick
When (and why) did Presidents’ Day become a marketing gimmick and not a civic celebration?
Believe it or not, Presidents’ Day isn’t a federally recognized holiday – even though the overwhelming majority of states throughout the US recognize it as such and celebrated on the same day every single year.
A number of different federal bills attempting to designate Presidents’ Day as a federal holiday failed to garner any real steam, but these days most states celebrate Washington’s Birthday, Lincoln’s birthday, and presidents past and present on the third Monday in February.
But even though this holiday was originally conceived of as a civic celebration (a lot like Labor Day, Memorial Day, or the Fourth of July), today it is seen as little more than a day of celebration and retail locations online and off – especially car dealerships – with Presidents’ Day sale advertisements popping up weeks in advance!
Most people, in fact, associate deep discounts on automobiles with a Presidents’ Day sales event more than they do with Washington and Lincoln these days. Some of that has to do with the aggressive marketing and advertising that has gotten even more aggressive over the last few years, but some of it has to do with the fact that this holiday has kind of been co-opted by businesses and become an almost entirely commercial celebration as opposed to something a bit more civic and celebratory.
Let’s dive a little bit deeper into why exactly that happened in the first place!
Believe it or not, Disney lead the charge to transform Presidents’ Day into a fiesta of Presidents’ Day sales
20 years (yes, two full decades) before any other marketer decided to try and capitalize on Presidents’ Day with sales and advertising campaigns of their own, Disney lead the charge with a major campaign that combined patriotism with a midweek trip to Disneyland – and the powder keg was lit!
This wouldn’t surprise anyone in the business world that has paid attention to the practices of the Disney Corporation in general. Disney is always at the forefront of trying to find new ways to build and grow their business with uniquely American marketing approaches, and something as civic minded as Presidents’ Day – but little celebrated by the general population – was ripe for the picking!
Holiday Inn jumped in on all the action, too
Holiday Inn, with an advertising campaign that is still recognized as one of the most creative and inventive, really took things to an entirely new level by advertising the “three-day weekend” as part of the Presidents’ Day sale.
All, yeah, they also took a marble bust of George Washington himself, put him in a Hawaiian shirt in some advertisements and in a road trip motif shirt in others, somehow – and rather inexplicably still today – combining Presidents’ Day with a visit to the Holiday Inn?
The Presidents’ Day celebration became the perfect time to sell mattresses, musical equipment, and minivans
Somewhere along the line – in the late 1980s and early 1990s – three specific industries kind of hijacked Presidents’ Day all for themselves and began running Presidents’ Day sales marketing and advertising pieces more aggressively than anyone else.
This work definitely paid off, as today the overwhelming majority of people go looking for a new mattress, new musical equipment and instruments, and new vehicles on Presidents’ Day (or the Presidents’ Day weekend), knowing that there are going to be incredible deals during these Presidents’ Day sales events.
Mattress companies in specific went about as hogwild as can be imagined when it came to the big Presidents’ Day advertising and marketing push of the late 80s and early 90s. They blasted advertisements on radio, on TV, and in newspapers, magazines, and your mailbox – and many of them continue to do the exact same thing today – though they mix in online advertising, too.
Musician focused companies got in on the action, too, though most folks aren’t exactly sure why.
It isn’t like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln were big fans of the electric guitar or crazy about 12 inch sub offers, but those are the kinds of products you’ll find at a discount at any of the popular Presidents’ Day sales of ends going on today!
Car companies and dealers are another big proponent of Presidents’ Day sales. The odds are pretty good that you heard dozens of advertisements (starting in early January and running clear through Presidents’ Day – and sometimes beyond) about rock-bottom prices in zero APR on brand-new vehicles from all of the major auto brands out there, with used-car dealers getting in on the action regularly, too.