The Making of Holidays

Yesterday was May 4, a day Star Wars fans have claimed as their own under the banner “May the Fourth be with you”.  For those not familiar with the Star Wars movies (is there anyone who hasn’t seen at least one of the six movies?) this is a takeoff on a key phrase in all the movies: “May the force be with you.”  In the movies, the “force” is a mystical/spiritual element that links all things.

I’m not sure who came up with the idea of May 4 being Star Wars day, but you have to admit it’s quite clever.   As if the biggest movie franchise needed more marketing muscle, the day reminds us of all things Star Wars.  Facebook had many posts from Star Wars fans and, given the social medium’s multiplier effect, tens of millions were probably reminded of the movies.  Our little Star Wars fan (my 10 year old son) insisted we watch “A New Hope”, which is the first or fourth movie in the epic saga of the Skywalker clan (consult a Star Wars fan if you don’t know what I’m talking about).  So we watched the movie for the umpteenth time.  Still a great watch, but it loses something when you can recite every line.

Does “May the Fourth be with you” have any commercial impact?  Hard to say, but it never hurts to keep your message out there for free, even if it is only once a year.  How many executives at studios with other movie franchises wish they had a day dedicated to their product?  Many, I’m sure!

Of course May 4 is followed immediately by another day that has become a holiday of sorts: Cinco de Mayo (May 5th in Spanish).  I, like many others, assumed that Cinco de Mayo is the Mexican version of the Fourth of July.   Last night, we looked it up because our favorite tavern in town was having a Cinco de Mayo weekend.  We were surprised to learn that it is not a national holiday in Mexico and that the day celebrates a military victory in one Mexican state over French troops.  The real Mexican Independence Day is actually two days, starting the night of September 15 and continuing through the 16th.

Regardless of the significance, in the U.S., Cinco de Mayo has become another reason to party.  Any Mexican themed restaurant has a leg up on this one.  I remember when I passed a South of the Border restaurant on Cinco de Mayo a few years ago, the parking lot was fenced off and there were hundreds of people eating, drinking and listening to Mexican music.  The Distilled Spirits Council predicted tequila sales would more than double this weekend (there’s a reason the day has been nicknamed Drinko de Mayo).

But Mexican restaurants don’t have a monopoly.  Many restaurants and pubs get in on the action.  You just need a few Mexican items on the menu (or be willing to add them for the day) or serve Corona or some other Mexican beers and you are in.  Come May 6, you can take down the decorations and specials, and it’s back to business as usual.

So how does a day a holiday in just one part of Mexico become such a big deal in U.S.? When marketers are looking for an angle, anything will do.  What started more as a promotion for Mexican restaurants has spread to a wide swath of American culture.  Who cares if most American’s don’t know what the day celebrates, just hoist a Corona, chow down a chimichanga and enjoy yourself!

So on this very important weekend, May the Fourth be with you and buena suerte (good luck) with your branding and marketing.

P.S.  I was just about to post this when my son asked if we can go to a Mexican restaurant tonight.  I guess the marketing is working!

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