As a publicist, it is my job to insert my clients into timely and trending topics of conversation. National holidays, such as the Fourth of July and Christmas, are an easy way to engage the public through festive events, targeted marketing and giving campaigns and traditional and social media. But, sometimes organizations lose sight of the big picture in their pursuit of brand recognition and revenue. This begs the question: How should brands act on days of remembrance and gratitude, such as Memorial Day?

Here are three lessons learned through company fails and successes this past Memorial Day weekend:

Know Your Role and Your Audience

Some of the biggest online corporate marketing fails have involved tragic or sad moments. While it’s now more important than ever for companies to show their human side and build brand personalities to drive sales, it’s even more crucial for companies to understand their own missions and how their missions relate to and mobilize their target audiences.

On Sunday, First Daughter Ivanka Trump was scrutinized for a tweet from the Ivanka Trump brand that promoted a Memorial Day champagne popsicle recipe featured under the holiday ideas section of While many lifestyle companies and blogs shared similar content throughout the weekend, the public expected a different message, one of honor and sacrifice, from a company owned by the daughter of our current President and a key advisor to the White House.

Although Ivanka Trump later posted a more sentimental message on Memorial Day from her personal twitter account, the damage was already done. Numerous memes are circulating the web mocking Trump and her insensitivity to those lost to protect our freedom. Trump has not issued a public apology.  The reactionary tweets keep coming. Yikes!

Work Around the Holiday and Keep Mentions Brief

Salute American Vodka, a high-quality, American-made, craft vodka, launched Salute to Summer. The new seasonal campaign, which runs from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend, plays into the brand’s patriotic spirit and includes summer kick off events and tastings, social media contests, Salute American Swag giveaways, cocktail recipes, plus retail and on-premise activation designed to drive sales, thus increasing the brand’s charitable impact in the veteran community.

Through Salute to Summer, the brand aims to own the months of outdoor barbeques and family gatherings, with a special focus on community celebrations that honor American heroes, including Flag Day, Father’s Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. Throughout the campaign, fans and followers are encouraged to share photos to honor the heroes in their lives on social media using #SalutetoSummer. At the campaign’s conclusion, designs for two new Salute American Vodka bottles will be revealed.

Since its founding in 2011, Salute American Vodka has donated the first dollar of every bottle sold to organizations that provide programs and services for veterans and other American heroes. With the brand’s mission in mind, it might seem like an obvious choice to promote the product on Memorial Day to target active servicemen and women, veterans and their families. However, that decision would have been a huge misstep. Instead, the brand launched a seasonal campaign over the weekend and posted a singular tribute to fallen soldiers across its social media platforms on Memorial Day without using hashtags to sensationalize or capitalize on the message. Well done!

Say Nothing

Companies have the choice to refrain from engaging in timely or trending topics of conversation.  If a message of remembrance or solidarity does not sound genuine or sincere, it can be taken the wrong way. Therefore, sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all.

Just one month ago, Adidas was criticized on Patriots Day for its “You Survived the Boston Marathon” email marketing campaign. In response to the backlash, the brand apologized for getting swept up in the grandeur of the historic event while being insensitive to language that might disrespect or offend survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing.

In contrast, this holiday weekend Adidas got it right. The company held its annual Memorial Day weekend sales. Customers enjoyed online and in-store discounts on seasonal apparel, footwear and accessories. However, there was no specific reference to the holiday itself across its digital marketing or social media platforms.  Lesson learned!

Key Takeaways

As social missions and brand personalities continue to drive consumer trends, companies should be more conscious of the messaging for and timing of campaigns. Not all conversations are worth joining. And, not all days are appropriate to engage your audience. Companies should know their roles and understand how their missions align or clash with the origin and true meaning behind national holidays.