As is the case with all American holidays, President's Day is simply an opportunity to transform a historical event into an opportunity for shoppers to inject our economy with some good old U.S. dollars. But are there limits to how companies should utilize the birth of our country's forefathers to further sales? Apparently not.
Still, some companies do a better job of linking their product to George Washington and his successors than others. Here's how they stack up in terms of how appropriate they are, according to us.
Metamucil is a brand that sells fiber supplements and laxatives. Not that there's anything wrong with products that help you, um, get regular, but maybe they shouldn't be used to represent our most beloved presidents, a la this ad:
Cheers to greatness! pic.twitter.com/ghX8KaW4el— Metamucil (@Metamucil) February 17, 2014
We do have to cut the company some slack, as we imagine it's very difficult to make laxatives attractive, and give them points for sticking with generic phrases like "Cheers to greatness" and "Happy Presidents' Day" instead of relying on scatological humor.
Angle: Putting a Lincoln hat and Washington wig on any product will make it adorable and patriotic and draw attention away from the actual point of the product.
Verdict: Inappropriate. Have some dignity, Metamucil.
The drive-in fast food company that goes by "America's Drive-In" has embraced its 1950s roots, employing car hops and roller-skating waitresses to deliver food to patrons. The hot dog deal is kind of off season, and makes us wonder what they're going to do on the fourth of July, but still basically aligns with their advertising ethos.
Angle: Hot dogs are a traditional American food-thing. We sell hot dogs. To celebrate America, we will sell them to you for cheap, so that you can feel the most American while thinking about George Washington and history.
Verdict: Sad, but acceptable and ultimately fitting.
Tootsie Roll Industries
Tootsie Roll seems to be trying desperately to raise its social media profile on President's Day, offering ten free Tootsie Pops to people who retweet their clip-art quality ad. This doesn't really seem like the best strategy to us, as most people aren't as plugged into their screens on holidays as they are during a work day, and Tootsie Pops are not a huge investment. Plus, you can order a bag of red, white and blue Tootsie Pops that include the "rare Vanilla Strawberry" straight from the Tootsie website, which makes us think it's not that rare.
Angle: Free stuff!
Verdict: Inoffensive (who isn't charmed by the Tootsie owl?), but largely irrelevant to the Executive Branch, and therefore inappropriate.
The mail-order clothing brand, which specializes in outdoor outfits and monogrammed backpacks, is using the holiday to peer pressure us into trying to dress like Abraham Lincoln:
We get that this is a jokey way to show off photoshop ability and remind people that L.L. Bean sells things like boots, but it's still kind of a cheap trick.
Angle: Abraham Lincoln looks so damn good in our boots. Don't you want to look like slavery-hating President Lincoln?
Verdict: Tacky and anachronistic. Plus, why should we believe Lincoln would have worn L.L. Bean? Plus, why would we want to dress like our most physically awkward president? Inappropriate.
Americans for Prosperity
AFP is not technically a brand, but it is certainly capitalizing on the holiday to sell its conservative ideas about taxation and economic policy. The Koch-backed "grassroots" group lobbies for climate change denial and limited taxation for the wealthy, among other things.
Happy President's Day! pic.twitter.com/7UF5VMb7bK— AFP (@AFPhq) February 17, 2014
No offense to Calvin Coolidge, but AFP's kind of scraping the bottom of the barrel with this one. Everyone knows that George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are the go-to quotable presidents, and straying from that norm makes it sound like Washington and Lincoln might not actually agree with your message.
Angle: One president said something once that we agree with, therefore our message is pro-America, even if it actually robs many individuals of freedom.
Verdict: Appropriate. America is the land of the free, and even groups that use empty tautologies to make their point are encouraged to quote presidents on President's Day.
Groupon was publicly fact-checked yesterday when they announced a deal in honor of "President Alexander Hamilton — undeniably one of our greatest presidents," because, as you may know, ten-dollar bill notwithstanding, Alexander Hamilton was never actually president. Woops. The company offered $10 towards a $40 purchase in honor of the 'president' because he is the "most widely recognized for establishing the country's financial system" (which is actually true.) The company played the gaffe off, rather unconvincingly, as a joke:
@RalphGMoore Hey, we’re always respectful of differing opinions!— Groupon (@Groupon) February 14, 2014
Groupon has also taken the criticism in stride, retweeting articles pointing out the mistake without issuing an apology. When asked about the error, Groupon spokesperson Erin Yeager said "we'll just have to agree to disagree."
Angle: This is either a failed attempt to make a tenuous connection between Alexander Hamilton and coupons or a risky, ultimately successful ploy to generate a buzz.
Verdict: Disqualified, Hamilton wasn't a president. Still, Groupon made an excellent show of American-style arrogance about their own ignorance that almost convinced us that this is an appropriate way to celebrate our forefathers.
Sexy, auto-tuned Lincoln and Washington jam about wanting to "four-score a deal with you," and "talking' about the red, white and bluetooth" in an ad for Honda's Presidents Day sales event.
Car sales events are pretty much par for the course on President's Day so its hard to say this is totally out of line, but it's still creepy.
Angle: If crooning presidents don't win you over, they'll at least make enough of an impression to remind you to go to Honda when you're shopping for a car on Presidents Day.
Verdict: Inappropriate, obviously.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.