November is nearly here—the month when the holiday marketing machine swings into full gear, thanks to Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Thanksgiving in the U.S. But one holiday often gets either overlooked or given only cursory treatment—Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Although Veterans Day isn’t one of the National Retail Federation’s top 10 shopping holidays, here’s why it could earn a place in your holiday messaging lineup:
- It gives your customers’ inboxes a break from the “All Black Friday all the time” messaging that characterizes so many promotional email campaigns in November. You can choose to tie it to a promotion or send a simple and heartfelt message.
- Veterans Day is a timely way to honor the approximately 18 million U.S. veterans who make up 7.1% of the population. The U.K. has 2.4 million veterans, who make up 5% of the population over age 16.
- It’s also a natural fit if your brand supports veterans-related charities, such as the Wounded Warriors Project or general charities that count veterans among the populations they serve, such as housing or recovery services.
Veterans Day Background and Strategy
The meaning of Veterans Day has changed over the years. It began as Armistice Day, recognizing Nov. 11, the day the Allies and Germany signed a treaty in France to end World War I.
After World War II, many governments broadened the focus. The U.S. changed the name to Veterans Day, and Armistice Day became Remembrance Day in British Commonwealth countries like the U.K., Canada and Australia. In France, it remains “L’armistice de la Première Guerre Mondiale.”
But the day continues to be celebrated on Nov. 11. The observation of Veterans Day had been moved to the fourth Monday of October in 1971 as part of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved several U.S. federal holidays to Mondays to create three-day weekends. But, in 1978, Nov. 11 was restored as the observation day.
Whatever you call it, the holiday’s primary purpose is to honor the nation’s living military veterans. That’s an important distinction. Memorial Day usually gets treated as the all-purpose military-related holiday, but that holiday is intended to honor only those who died in active service.
If you want to send a “Thank you for your service” email, Veterans Day is the right time to do it.
Five Email Campaigns that Enlist Support for Veterans
1. Make it meaningful
Many brands stick to a generic “Veterans Day Sale” theme, but why not take a little extra time to come up with an email that says “Thank you” more effectively? You don’t have to write an essay. Rather, a headline and a heartfelt paragraph might be all you need to express your thoughts.
If your offer is for your physical locations, be sure your email content explains clearly who qualifies for your Veterans Day promotion, as this email from The Honey Baked Ham Company shows.
Some brands restrict their offers to active-duty personnel, while others include any veteran who can show proof of service, such as a Veterans Administration or Disabled American Veterans card, discharge papers, base access permit or other government-issued documentation.
This Timberland email takes a slightly different approach. The message doesn’t feature the patriotic themes or red-white-and-blue colorways of other Veterans Day emails in this collection, but its “Thank You” message is prominent in the middle body of the message. It also is explicit about the terms and conditions of its offer—the discount, the eligible locations, sale days and required ID.
Offering special promotions to veterans is another popular way of recognizing your veteran customers. If your brand regularly offers discounts or other benefits for veterans, the next tip gives you an authentic and on-brand way to publicize your program.
2. Tell a story
This approach is appropriate for brands that invest in veterans’ programs year-round, either by supporting veterans’ charities, giving preference to veterans when hiring or other means of contributing. Be specific in explaining what you do—better yet, use your email to highlight some of the people who have benefited from your efforts.
That’s what this Veterans Day email from Mizzen + Main is all about. The men’s clothing brand tells a straightforward story of one of the veterans its support has helped. Video brings this veteran’s story to life, and the brief backstory provides key details. Although the message promotes the brand’s support, the focus is on the story, with a muted approach to promotions.
Death Wish Coffee, based in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., uses its email platform to support a local veterans’ service agency with a unique fundraiser: selling a custom-designed mug commemorating the Battle of Saratoga in the Revolutionary War.
Besides giving customers a mini history lesson, the email hits the right authenticity notes for fundraising: It lists the goal, explains how much of the purchase price actually supports the effort, which group benefits and which population it serves.
3. Be diverse
About 2 million of the 18 million U.S. veterans are women, but most of the images we found in searching email databases like MailCharts or Really Good Emails focuses on men. Look for images that reflect gender and racial diversity.
Under Armour’s email promotes both its shoes and its UA Freedom program that funds several veterans’ organizations. The man and woman pictured in the email might not be actual veterans or active-duty personnel, but their images and the email copy reflect this often-overlooked diversity.
Wrapping Up: Keep It Real on Veterans Day
Each of the emails in this collection takes a slightly different approach to recognize Veterans Day. Most include a promotion, although The Honey Baked Ham Company offers a straight freebie—free sandwich and drink. Death Wish Coffee, Under Armour and Mizzen + Main soft-pedal promotions and devote their prime email real estate to their Veterans Day charitable efforts instead. Timberland adds a no-frills “Thank you for your service” message to a promotional email.
What do they all have in common? Each email stays true to its brand while still offering a meaningful Veterans Day message. Sincerity is important in Veterans Day messaging. If you don’t believe your brand has a relevant message, it’s better to skip the holiday than to send out a message your customers could perceive as offensive or missing the mark.
Not sure whether you’re on the right path? Ask a vet! If no one on your payroll is a veteran, look for a parent, sibling, cousin, spouse or friend who served in a branch of the military. Vets are an excellent sounding board to make sure your message strikes the right tone.
Want to learn from the veterans at Iterable? Watch the replay of our webinar with Shift.org with three of our amazing team members: Jamie Toulze, Army veteran and Security, Trust and Privacy Manager; Kris Vallecer, Army veteran and Accounting Manager; and Nate Meir, Army veteran and IT Client Platform Engineer. In this panel, they share their expertise and experiences transitioning into their post-military careers.