Many people don’t know this, but Julius Caesar was behind the origin of the leap year as we know it today. Although ancient calendars often included entire leap months, Julius Caesar became convinced that the Egyptian solar calendar which was 365 days long was far superior to the Mercedonius calendar popularized by roman politicians and consuls. Caesar calculated that a year was exactly 365.25 days and he was very close but overestimated this calculation by about 11 minutes. In fact, a year is approximately 365.2425 days or 365 days, five hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds longs. This overestimation was a problem for the Catholic Church, as the date of Easter had drifted away from its traditional place, the first Sunday after the first full moon following the vernal equinox, by roughly ten days. Pope Gregory XIII commissioned a modified calendar, one which kept Leap Day but accounted for the inaccuracy by eliminating it on centurial years not divisible by 400 (1700, 1800, and 1900 were not leap years, but 2000 was). The introduction of the Gregorian Calendar marked the last change to the Western calendar as we know it today.
In Irish culture the Leap Day is associated with gender role flips and was known as the day women could propose to men. Popularized by St. Patrick, this tradition spread to England, and was declared that if a man rejected a woman’s proposal on Leap Day, he had to pay her several pairs of fine gloves, probably to hide the fact that she lacked an engagement ring on her finger.
Birthdays are another issue in contest with Leap Year. There are approximately 5 million people in the world, called "leaplings," who are born on February 29. These leaplings include several famous individuals like Ja Rule, Tony Robbins and Dinah Shore. Leaplings technically only get to celebrate their birthdays once every four years, but they do get to be part of an elite group. Typically, most of these individuals celebrate their birthdays on February 28. There are also many superstitions surrounding leap years, Greek culture believes it to be bad luck to be get married during a leap year.
So how do we, as marketers, create valuable campaigns for our companies during a leap year?
Photo by William Iven on Unsplash
Well the most obvious answer is time. We have an extra 24 hours in the calendar year to plan, evaluate and market a campaign. This means shoppers have an extra 24 hours to buy. In 2016, a popular campaign called “What would you do with an extra 24 hours?” was launched by several companies, including Nokia and Harley. But looking even deeper than that, an event that only occurs once every four years would be a great idea. What if marketers created an opportunity and devised a strategy that made Leap Day the new Black Friday? Perhaps they could profit more on this single day than they have in the first quarter all together.
For example, most consumers enjoy things like club memberships, customer loyalty programs or some sort of exclusive group within a company. With only 5 million people in the world with leap day birthdays, these potential customers are already a part of a very limited and exclusive group of people. Naturally it would make sense for international companies who can reach these individuals on a global scale to create some sort of exclusive birthday event, sale, or promotion to honor them.
My personal favorite would be to create a Leap Year Festival. The festival would have to take place in a major metropolitan area able to support the international travel and tourism of millions of people. Individuals who are born on February 29th would receive a discount on their ticket to the festival, but the festival would be open to everyone. The festival would feature some of the world’s best performing artists at several venues across the city. Streets would be filled with national and international vendors and sponsors. The appeal is that leaplings are cordially invited to attend an event surrounded by other individuals who are born on the same day as them and celebrate each other. There would be exclusive areas for leaplings only. The festival would compare to that of EDC Las Vegas, Mardi Gras, Coachella or even Tomorrowland, but on an even larger scale. Only occurring once every four years would allow for time to plan logistics, concert venues, hotel bookings, sponsors, vendors, street closures, security etc. It would be the largest festival in the world with an opportunity for sponsors to come face to face with millions of customers in one location and an opportunity for digital marketers to geofence.
In all, there's a lot marketers can do to benefit from a leap year. What are some fun ideas you have? Tweet us at @intrepidmg and let us know!