Um, Happy Earth Day? When Holiday Messaging Campaigns Go Wrong

Todd Grennan By Todd Grennan Apr 22, 2015

Today is Earth Day, which means a fair amount of mobile marketers will likely be sending holiday-themed promotions for their app. Some of those campaigns will be smart, relevant and a boon to their brand. A lot, though, would be better off not being sent at all.

Holidays have a special cultural resonance that not many other experiences have. That means that when a holiday campaign works well, it can work extremely well, driving higher user engagement, increased conversions and positive word of mouth about your brand. But when they go wrong, they can go very, very wrong, causing counterproductive results and raising the risk that your app could become a national (or international!) laughingstock.


Want to make sure you’re doing holiday campaigns right? Here are a few things to keep an eye on:

You’re Linking Your Outreach to an Obscure or Nonexistent Holiday

If it’s International Beer Day (August 1st!) and your app allows users to have alcohol delivered with a single tap, then by all means, send out a multi-channel messaging campaign tied to the holiday. Even if people haven’t heard of the holiday, they’ll understand intuitively how it’s relevant to your app and if your campaign is clever, the odds are that your audience will respond. On the other hand, think twice about sending out a campaign about a holiday that people are unlikely to have heard of and isn’t obviously related to the service your app provides. This kind of campaign feels desperate and isn’t likely to get you the results you want.

You’re Sending Out a Campaign Connected to a Regional or National Holiday

Lots of mobile marketers target U.S. holidays like President’s Day or regional holidays like Boston’s Patriots’ Day for mobile campaigns, which makes sense when you’re trying to reach users in the areas that celebrate these occasions. But what about the rest of your user base? People will get annoyed if they receive a bunch of messages about a holiday they don’t celebrate and may not have ever heard of. Thankfully, avoiding this outcome is easy – just use Appboy’s location-based targeting capabilities to limit the reach of these sorts of campaigns to regions where they’re appropriate.

You Want to Use a Potentially Sensitive Holiday to Promote Your App

Tread carefully. If your app provides a service or experience that genuinely supports the environmental consciousness and action that Earth Day promotes, it makes sense to highlight it in a campaign to your users. But if your app’s success depends on shipping products in high-emission diesel trucks and wrapping them in hard-to-recycle materials, you should expect an Earth Day campaign to trigger some blowback. In most cases, the benefits that result from this kind of campaign are going to be eclipsed by user bewilderment and negative publicity, so think very seriously about whether a particular holiday is really a good fit for your outreach.

Looking for more advice on putting together holiday campaigns? Check out our previous posts on maximizing communication opportunities around the holidays, holiday-specific mobile messaging and Valentine’s Day mobile marketing tips!

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Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan

Todd Grennan is a New York-based writer and editor. When he's not writing about mobile marketing, customer retention and emerging technologies for Braze, you can find him trying to read his way through every Wikipedia article related to World War II.