Independence Day is an uniquely American holiday, replete with examples of exactly what happens when you give freedom to a rag-tag group of descendants of fanatics, misfits, debtors, dreamers and people relocated against their will.
There's Nathan's Hot Dog Eating Contest, held at the fast food restaurant's original location on New York City's Coney Island every year since about 1972. The world hot dog eating record is held by Joey Chestnut of San Jose, Calif., who ate 69 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes — a feat that at best can be considered bewildering.
You're Wearing What?
In Crested Butte, Colo., scientists from the 86-year-old Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory parade forward, then backward down the town's main street in outfits fashioned from the football-sized leaves of the skunk cabbage plant.
Some wear clothing underneath the vegetation. Others don't … leaving spectators to wonder which is more unusual: the fact that grown professionals are dressed in foliage or that they are playing an odd medley of instruments — trombones, kazoos, pots and pans.
And even though Americans will pay the highest Fourth of July gasoline prices in six years, there will be no shortage of celebrations nationwide.
People love to party on Independence Day, which Hedonometer, a big data analytics project, describes as one of the happiest days of the year. Conducted jointly by the University of Vermont and MITRE Corp., the Hedonometer maintains a repository of approximately 10,000 words, each ranked on a scale of one to nine for its relative indication of happiness. Each day, it runs a random sampling of some 50 million tweets (about 100 gigabytes of data) through an analytics engine that looks for those words.
On July 4th, there are a lot of tweets about freedom, independence, family, friends, sun, fun and beaches. How that happiness will be affected by this year's hurricane warnings for the US East Coast remains to be seen. But it's safe to assume most people will celebrate anyway, indoors or out.
Of course, not all Independence Day parties end as happily as they begin.
The number of fireworks-related injuries soared to their highest level in more than a decade last year, according to a US Consumer Product Safety Commission report released last week. An estimated 11,400 injuries were reported during 2013, a 31 percent climb compared to 8,700 injuries reported the year before.
So what's all this got to do with digital marketing, customer experience and the like? More than you may think. Here are five things you can learn about your customers from the ways Americans behave on July 4th.
A lot of people who claim they hate hot dogs eat one — and enjoy it — on a national holiday: Realize your customers may not always do what they say. Takeaway: While text and sentiment analysis can provide interesting insight, marketers may learn more from statistical analysis of purchases, order histories and in-store or online visits.
Most people expect to have a taste of watermelon, even if it's cubed, mixed with mint and sprinkled with feta cheese: Say what you want about creativity and innovation. But there is still a place — and an important one — for history and tradition. Takeaway: Incorporate the best features from your oldest sales and marketing programs into your newer channels.
People lose interest if the fireworks last too long: Sure they're beautiful and amazing. But the spontaneous "oohs" and "aahs" are always louder and more authentic at the start of the pyrotechnics. Takeaway: Limit the duration of your specials and promotions if you want to retain maximum interest.
No one attends a parade to watch politicians in convertibles throw candies into the crowd from their cars: Recognize that an event is often just an excuse to see friends and socialize.Takeaway: Try to understand what really motivates your customers and incorporate that into your marketing.
A few rain showers rarely dampen the enthusiasm at a good July Fourth party: Perfection is overrated. Perfect weather, perfect food, perfect entertainment ... none of it is essential for a great experience. Takeaway: Focus on warmth, honesty and how you make your customers feel, rather than some abstract notion of a "perfect" customer experience.
So fire up the grill, enjoy a cold drink, relax with your family and friends. Heck, put on a skirt made of foliage and see how many hot dogs you can eat in 10 minutes. We're not judging.
We're just wishing you the happiest of holidays — for all of our readers, in the US and beyond.