Brands court controversy for Presidents Day

Groupon flat-out trolled its customers with a celebration of a non-president, while a dating site for married people focused on a less-than-admirable aspect of some former commanders-in-chief.

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The traditional template for a Presidents Day brand promotion is pretty simple: Put some stuff on sale and maybe run a TV ad with some guys in Lincoln and Washington costumes dancing around.

A lot of brands still do that, but a few are aiming for provocation this year.

First up, there’s Groupon, whose promotion honoring the first U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, pretty cleanly fits the definition of online trolling. Though he appears on the 10 dollar bill, Hamilton was never president. Yet Groupon’s Presidents Day press release announcing that customers can get $10 in credit toward a $40 deal discusses “President Alexander Hamilton—undeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country’s financial system.”

There’s no obvious joke to Groupon’s release, which led quite a few online observers to believe that the company, which tends to take a tongue-in-cheek approach to just about everything, was simply mistaken. Groupon’s responses to people who stepped up to correct it continued the trolling.

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