A Once-Every-Four-Year Opportunity

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by: Jonathan Salem Baskin

We’ve got an extra day on our hands, everyone. Happy leap day!

I know it’s really a bit of calendar legerdemain, just like the "extra hour" that Daylight Savings Time takes and then gives back every year. But leap day gets its own date that doesn’t otherwise appear on the calendar. Relatively speaking, I’ll grow older a day slower this year than I would have had I not received a bonus 24 hours. So I’ll choose to look at it as a gift, thank you very much.

Even if we don’t understand or care about leap day, its very existence requires even the most disinterested, busy, or ignorant of us to acknowledge it.

Imagine what marketers could do with such near-100% awareness:

  • Make it Chore Day. Home Depot could have retailed a "clean your garage" kit, or Chase might have offered a "balance your checkbook" online calculating tool. Employers could have oriented internal communications to help people assess their benefits packages. Every insurance rep in America could have done an email blast suggesting that their customers do the same
  • How about Get-Away Day? Marketers could encourage people to use this extra day for something fun…a travel getaway, special entertainment event, whatever. Where is the special "once every 4 years" trip pricing? Think of what any hotel, travel site, or event venue could have done with it. How about special meal offers at restaurants, or incentives to "linger a little longer" with deserts (there’s an entire escape your routine pitch that any food or beverage brand could have used)
  • Use it as Customer Loyalty Day. Any business, irrespective of industry category or segment of end-user, could use leap day as an opportunity to give back to its customers. How about suspending interest payments for 24 hours? Extending service contracts by a day (or week, or whatever)? Why not simply a personalized thank you note to every customer, noting that a bonus day is a chance to pause and reflect on the value of their patronage?

I’m writing this the day before leap day, so perhaps I’ll be proven wrong, and there’ll be lots of leap day tie-ins. But I suspect not. I haven’t seen many (if any) so far. Perhaps a few car dealerships and furniture stores will run their typical "insert holiday name here" sale ads, but I bet that will be about it. 

There are just too many entrenched-in-Powerpoint habits that keep brand gurus from operationalizing such an obvious opportunity. Marketers tend to look inward, at what they and their target consumers think and feel about things, instead of addressing all of the outward qualities of where, when, how, and why they do things. 

What does leap day have to do with the brand attributes of your (or any) product? Absolutely nothing. But it has a lot to do with what people will do today. It’s part of the context and experience of their lives. What a marvelous opportunity prompt a behavior that is relevant to that reality.  

Taco chips, floor cleaner, or industrial widget. Any brand could use leap day. Too few will. 

At least there’s a chance to start planning for the next opportunity. When it comes to the work necessary to changing entrenched marketing habits, 2012 isn’t all that far away.

Hey, today would be a great day to start working on it!

Original Post: http://dimbulb.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/02/a-once-every-fo.html