Leap into Marketing Gold, Once Every Four Years

February 28, 2020

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Consumer Brands Have Turned Leap Day into the Ultimate PR Occasion 

This is no “common” year (the official name for a non-Leap Year year), it’s a Leap Year, and that means our Gregorian Calendar is playing catch-up with the astronomical calendar by adding one day, every four years. Feb. 29 has recently become a marketing gold mine with some brands capitalizing on this special calendar event.

Leap Day is unique because the very name of the holiday is a verb. It’s also closely connected with notions such as “take action” or “extra” or “solar calendar” and “numbers” – so brands that endeavor to activate need to find an authentic way to tie with Leap Day (and what consumers feel it stands for), to truly and more effectively promote a message or market a promotion.

In a review of brand activations from 2016, and in surveying a few from this week in 2020, here are three ways brands have activated on Leap Day:

LEAP INTO ACTION, or ACTIVISM

Brands are primarily using Feb. 29 to incentivize consumers to do something new, like try a new vegetarian burger or get a free item if that day is your birthday. Leveraging the active-verb aspect of the holiday is the most common way brands are advertising or using the power of PR to drive sales around Feb. 29. In 2016, one QSR brand ran a promotion to celebrate local heroes doing good and then used the 24 hours on Feb. 29 to celebrate those heroes and share their stories on the brand’s Twitter channel.

Another trend is using the day to support a cause. In 2016, waves of new stories emerged about Leap Day unfairly being a free workday for employees. This workplace issue has become a hard news item that reporters can report on around Leap Day. Some companies have advocated making it a national holiday, so salaried employees don’t have to work the day for free. This year, Leap Day is on a Saturday, but there are plenty of businesses that operate with millions of workers, even on the weekend. The national holiday petition is not really catching on (yet), but perhaps, companies can take the extra 24 hours on February 29 and offer it up for employees to use differently. If a retailer can reframe Black Friday from the traditional mega-shopping holiday to one that encourages going outside, then another company could own Leap Day and encourage and legitimately support its employees, and society, to leap into self-care, or leap into learning something new.

DOUBLE DOWN ON 29

Another popular trend we see is brands using the math and numbers themes — changing product prices to 29 cents. Some brands are offering pizza, sliders, pasta, fries, desserts and coffee for 29 cents on Feb. 29. To celebrate #LeapDay2020, a restaurant chain is offering four desserts to make up for lost birthdays if you dine there on Feb. 29 and a beer brand is going to offer a QR code via social for a free case of beer. This is the most straightforward way we have seen brands activate.

ANNOUNCE SOMETHING SPECIAL

Some of the best PR and marketing campaigns are born when company news and a calendar date collide. Especially, when a brand announcement can be intrinsically tied to a popular, calendar moment-in-time.  Our client, Krispy Kreme, announced they will start offering delivery of their doughnuts. The initiative is launching on Leap Day, so to kick it off they will be delivering free doughnuts to families with babies delivered on Leap Day 2020.

If you’re a brand that hasn’t worked on a Leap Year activation yet, well, get started now… you have four years to plan the next big idea.