On Tax Day: Freebies, giveaways—and a few missteps

Though some marketing efforts showed savvy, others were too quick to jump onto the newsjacking bandwagon with awkward interactions and promotional tweets.

Though you probably don’t want to celebrate Tax Day, many marketers are hoping to turn that around.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the Internal Revenue Service received more than 137.3 million tax returns in 2015—and nearly 88 percent of them were filed online. That spells out a huge marketing opportunity for those wishing to grab consumers’ attention (and a few dollars).

Tax Day is April 18 this year, instead of the usual April 15. Office Depot’s online team might have overlooked that:

Other organizations have been flexing their digital marketing muscles with a bevy of promotions and refund suggestions.

Freebies and promotions

Consumers can find culinary rewards (if not tax relief) in the form of deals and freebies for tax day—from money off a food purchase to a free beer at the end of the day.

A few savvy marketers included a nod to the 1040 tax form in their campaigns, such as Bruegger’s Bagels and Noodles & Company:

The deals and freebies extend beyond edibles, too. HydroMassage and Planet Fitness have teamed up for the ninth year to offer free massages to those who filed their taxes:

Staples and Office Depot are offering coupons for free document shredding (keep in mind that the IRS says to keep your tax documents for seven years), and the National Park Service is celebrating its 100th birthday and National Park Week by offering a few free weekends. Lucky for its marketers, the weekends fall before and after Tax Day:

Contests and giveaways

Though the way to customers hearts is often through their wallets, many marketing pros are using Tax Day to launch contests and giveaways instead of a free extra or discount to everyone.

Most notably, JetBlue is giving away 1,000 one-way flights to consumers who owes taxes, saying it wants to give everyone the chance of getting a “return”:

However, most brand managers have launched more modest contests to entice potential entrants:

Offering a free item or discount is a straightforward way of attracting new customers while generating buzz for your brand.

However, by launching a contest or giveaway, marketers can cut down on costs, potentially yield consumer-generated content (such as a photo contest) and collect consumers’ data, which you can then use for direct marketing efforts.

Calls for tax-return money

Other brand managers weren’t shy about telling consumers how they could spend their refunds:

However, one dental office also offered a silver filling , er, lining: You can probably deduct your purchase.

Tax Day (or any event that has the potential to be newsjacked) wouldn’t be complete without branded tweets that try, but miss the mark.

Here’s one, which attempted to tie in Tax Day with the upcoming film “The Book of Henry”:

If your organization doesn’t have an obvious tie-in to a holiday or event or isn’t offering a promotion (such as a free sandwich or money off your bill), it’s best to stay silent. Not every social media team is (or should be) as snarky as DiGiorno Pizza’s team—and even then, its snark and hunger for attention landed the brand in hot water.

This lukewarm interaction between McDonald’s and Turbo Tax is another example of setting your sights too high on a newsjacking opportunity:

It’s tempting for marketers to reply to another brand’s tweet in an attempt to net viral love a la Wendy’s or a popular interaction between Twitch and Overwatch. There are far more awkward interactions than successes, though.

Before you embark on an attempt, ask yourself whether an online interaction between your organization and the one you want to publicly address makes sense. Also consider whether the other brand will play ball. (Tip: McDonald’s most likely will not.)

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