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Utilizing Current Events for Promos? Be sure it’s a “WIN” and not a “FAIL”

Utilizing Current Events for Promos? Be sure it’s a “WIN” and not a “FAIL”

Taking advantage of current events can be a powerful and relevant way to promote your product to your customers. Let’s take a look at some examples of both “wins” and “fails”

As a Social Media Manager, I’m always interested in how companies or brands come up with promotion ideas that relate to current events. The ability to inject oneself in a topic that’s being widely paid attention to (at the time) is a tactic that should be carefully thought of since there are so many people scrutinizing it which could work in your favor or become disastrous.

I compiled some examples of which I personally thought can be categorized into the “Win” bucket or the “Fail” bucket.

“WIN” – Farrell’s Cast Your Vote with The Romney or The Obama Sundae

A sweet way to cast your vote for 2012

Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlours and Restaurants created a fun, patriotic, and indulgent promotion to encourage customers to “cast a vote” via sundae choice for the 2012 Presidential Election at their stores by Sunday, November 4. They’ll announce the presidential sundae winner on Monday, November 5.

By ordering “The Romney” or “The Obama” sundae, you’ll get a sticker that says “I Voted at Farrell’s.” And that’s not all! Bring that sticker OR the official “I voted” election sticker back to Farrell’s on November 6, and you’ll get a free sundae with meal purchase. Now how cool is that?

They even took into consideration that if you prefer a different candidate but like the opposing candidate’s sundae, you can order “The Obama Sundae Romney Style” or “The Romney Sunday Obama Style” to get a customized choice.

Farrell’s did a great job of allowing customers to “take a break” from the seriousness of the debates but still allowing them (and their kids!) to pretend-vote. They also included potential voting customers by allowing them to bring in their official “I voted” election sticker to continue the election sundae fun.

This is a definite win for me.

Additionally, they added upon this promotion that on Thursday, November 1, 2012 they’ll donate 100% of the money collected from the Presidential Sundaes to the American Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy aid efforts.


“FAIL” – American Apparel and Urban Outfitters Capitalizing on Hurricane Sandy

Hurrican Sandy Promotion Code- American Apparel

American Apparel, a United States clothing manufacturer, wholesaler, and retailer sent an email to customers residing in the Hurricane Sandy states, to take advantage of their SANDYSALE in case they’re“bored.”

Compared to Urban Outfitter’s email though, American Apparel was fairly less insensitive.

Urban Outfitters, a company specializing in hip, kitschy, and funky fashion sent this email out to their customers:

Frankenstorm ALLSOGGY Code by UO 
The email was originally a gif, so you can see the animated version here

Both of these promotions suffered a social backlash, when Twitter followers, criticized the companies for being insensitive, untimely, and insulting. Here’s a sample of the general consensus on the Urban Outfitter's Facebook fanpage: 

Angry comments to Frankenstorm ALLSOGGY

Additional Hurricane Sandy Fails include Groupon, Gap, and President’s Choice

“WIN” – Roaring Lion Energy Drink’s “Drink Your Vote!”

Similar to Farrell’s Cast Your Vote, Roaring Lion Energy Drink also capitalized on the presidential election with their “Drink Your Vote!” Promotion. 

Drink your vote for the 2012 election!

The promotion “encouraged patrons to actively participate in the democratic process and to show symbolic pledges of support to the candidate and/or political party of their choice by ordering & consuming one of two Roaring Lion cocktails.  

Whether fans choose the "O-Bomb-A" (Roaring Lion + herbal liqueur) or "Romney Bombme" (Roaring Lion + triple sec), bartenders will keep a tally of the ‘votes’ received at each respective establishment on a prominently displayed 'Drink Your Vote' scoreboard up until the big day (November 6)”

They also created a micro-site for the promotion where voters could virtually vote for the cocktail of their choice along with seeing more recipes of other election-related cocktails.

Have you seen your local bar participate in this? It’s a creative idea, but the logistics of the bartenders remembering to tally the boards, leads to too much room for human error. Nonetheless, still an amusing and fun promotion for their current customers to partake in as well as gathering new customers who may not have heard of this energy drink brand before. (I haven’t until this promotion!)

“WIN?” – Scent of a Winner and Scent of a Loser Soap by Need Supply, Co.

Note the question mark.  I’m torn by this promotion to categorize if it’s a Win or Fail. It’s definitely amusing, but would I buy it? Probably not, but perhaps I’d get it as a gag gift? Maybe I need an Odd category.

Winner Soap for the 2012 OlympicsMediocre Soap for the 2012 OlympicsLoser Soap for the 2012 Olympics

Need Supply, Co. is a Richmond based boutique that sells a unique collection of vintage pieces, and this past summer, they collaborated with Richmond Soap Studio to present the above medal soaps for the 2012 Olympics.

Scent of a Winner: comprised of champagne, lemon, spearmint, saponified organic olive, coconut and palm oils.
Scent of Mediocrity: comprised of bourbon, tonka bean, lavender, saponified organic olive, coconut and palm oils.
Scent of a Loser: made with beer, bitters, dead sea salt, saponified organic olive, coconut and palm oils.

Side note: And according to the descriptions, their spirits hierarchy is Champagne > Bourbon > Beer

Extra side note: I can just imagine a “Winner” wearing the gold soap singing “Weeeee are the Chaaaampions!” in the shower

Moral of the story: Use your best judgment and common sense when trying to capitalize on a current event. Otherwise, you might get backlashed with social critique that you may not recover from.

So what other current events promotions have you seen that you considered a “WIN” or “FAIL?” Feel free to share in the comments below!


Alice Ly
Social Media Manager
Lucrazon Ecommerce

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