Bill Bortz, Resident Storyteller/Sr. Director Consumer Insights and Market Research at PlaceIQ

Posted by Bill Bortz, Resident Storyteller/Sr. Director Consumer Insights and Market Research at PlaceIQ

The National Day Calendar holds over 1,500 “National Holidays” in just about every category – with anywhere from three to six holidays per day.

Just this weekend you may have missed “National Rhubarb Vodka Day.” Yes, it’s real, and it’s Saturday, December 1st. Some of these “holidays” have been created by brands; some have been adopted by retailers attempting to capitalize on the designation to drive traffic, with varying success.

Determining the effect of campaigns on foot traffic is something we spend a lot of time analyzing – so here we’ll be taking a look at who is doing this well, and what sets them apart.  What’s the secret to owning a successful holiday? I’ll tell you the hallmarks of successful programs, and walk through some real examples of strong campaigns, as revealed by PlaceIQ’s LandMark data.

Want your brand to win the day? Follow this simple plan:

  1. Own the day and make it yours exclusively.
  2. Encourage a “real-world” behavior and use it to engage customers
  3. Make the “holiday” about more than just your brand by creating a feel-good movement.

1. Own the day.

Unofficially known as “National Slurpee Day,“ 7-Eleven Day happens every July 11th (get it?  7/11) for obvious reasons. This holiday centers the Slurpee product amongst a multitude of promotions to drive foot-traffic – and it works. Let’s look at 7-Eleven vs. a few of the usual suspects, and it’s clear they’re doing it right. The below chart shows visits-per-store measure over July 11th, 2018. 7-Eleven enjoys quite a spike, because it, and it alone, owns the day.

2. Encourage Customer Behavior

Interested in a holiday with a lot of contenders? “National French Fry Day” is a great example. McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Sonic, and Carl’s Jr. all ran promotions over this July 13th, 2018 holiday. Interestingly, McDonald’s ran a promotion encouraging people to use their app to redeem free medium french fries every Friday (fry-day anyone?) until the end of the year. This was not only a great promotion, but it drove customers to (1) download the app if they did not already have it, (2) actually use the app, and (3) keep coming back for more!

McDonald’s saw a very nice spike in foot-traffic, even with their substantial foot-traffic dominance.



Business Insider Intelligence predicts that by 2020, mobile order-ahead will account for 10.7% of all QSR sales. McDonald’s capitalized on French Fry Day to not just drive foot traffic which you can see in our data above, but to support their long-term strategy of capturing millennials and increasing engagement through the app. Well played, indeed!


3. Make it your own, and make everyone feel good about it.

On February 27th, 2006, IHOP launched its own National Pancake Day, which invites customers to enjoy a free short stack of pancakes. Additionally, IHOP asks customers to make a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital Charity.

IHOP celebrates their holiday apart from the other National Pancake Day, which is September 26th. Not only does IHOP avoid the competition this way, but their customer base gets a double feel-good moment by enjoying free pancakes while helping a charity. “Pancakes to the People” is a fitting slogan. Just how well does it work? Their in-store visits doubled.

Brands can take a lesson from 7-Eleven, McDonald’s and IHOP – who have all used original “Holidays” to engage their customers in an on-strategy way – and who all have the foot traffic to prove it.


My advice, since these minor “holidays” aren’t going away, it to embrace them. Encourage your customers to enjoy a visit with you in unique ways that drive value, and create fun memories for everyone. As the saying goes, “An opportunity not taken is an opportunity lost,”.