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Published May 10th 2023

How “Unofficial” Holidays Can Boost Your Brand

"Unofficial" or “social media” holidays provide an excellent opportunity for brands to engage with their audiences. As organic reach declines, incorporating those unofficial holidays into marketing strategies can help brands create conversations and boost their online presence.

Almost every day, there is a special occasion to celebrate with your audience on social media and beyond.

Unofficial holidays are a fun and creative way to connect with your followers over shared interests, both online and offline. 

Informal holidays give consumers another reason to celebrate life, be silly, and enjoy themselves in the process. For brands, they offer an opportunity to boost engagement and build a positive brand image by joining in on the celebrations.

By tapping into unofficial social media holiday celebrations and understanding the online conversations around them, brands can build meaningful connections with their audience that extend beyond the traditional transactional model.

How can brands leverage unofficial holidays to boost brand image and build engagement?

Let’s take donuts, for example. 

Donuts on social

People love their donuts. Need proof? Statista predicts that global revenue from donuts will reach 55 billion US dollars in 2024, a jump from 50.79 billion dollars in 2022.

We used Brandwatch Consumer Research to analyze the donut conversation on social media in the last five years.

As shown on the chart, both the conversations relating to donuts and the volume of unique authors joining the conversation have grown since 2018.

Looking at emotion-categorized mentions, joy was by far the most popular emotion in donut-related conversations on social. It appears that donuts bring people joy. 

We visualized the most popular words and phrases in conversations mentioning donuts and flavors or toppings using a topic cloud. 

In this cloud, we see the types of flavors and ingredients people mentioned the most in conversations relating to donuts.

The most popular flavors 

We ranked flavors and ingredients based on the number of times each keyword appeared in conversations between January 1 and December 31 2022.

It’s impossible to miss the 5125% increase in lemon-flavored donut mentions in the given period. We took a look at why there was such an increase in mentions and found out that an image of Jung Kook trying a lemon-flavored donut in 2020 resurfaced in January 2022, generating a massive spike in conversation.

When looking at the data, it’s hard not to notice the influence of BTS on consumers and their preferences. 

Eyeing an opportunity there, a local bakery in Vegas got scrappy and crafted a special BTS donut ahead of the band’s Las Vegas concert.

Let’s look at the donut conversation through the lens of an unofficial holiday: National Donut Day.

National Donut Day: The breakdown of the conversation 

We looked at online mentions relating to National Donut Day going back to January 2013. 

When the donut conversation peaked in 2015, brands and social media personalities actively used National Donut Day to engage with their followers and promote their products. These three posts generated the most retweets, causing the biggest spike in conversation in the last 10 years.

In these tweets, popular fitness coach Jen Selter wears a donut floatie, captioned with the pun: “D🍩NUT judge me.” The second tweet is from NASA, who used the holiday theme to share the news of spotting a doughnut-shaped cloud with a black hole filling. And the last tweet is from Benefit Cosmetics, who ran a makeup giveaway and used Krispy Kreme donuts to frame the promotional giveaway products.

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While the National Donut Day online conversation saw a decline between 2015 and 2020, there seems to be a gradual uptick in activity recently. 

Which brands joined the #NationalDonutDay conversation in 2022?

Brand share of conversation

Looking at the data filtered by organizations, these seven brands gathered the most mentions in conversations about National Donut Day.

  • Krispy Kreme
  • Salvation Army
  • Dunkin Donuts
  • Lifeway
  • IKEA 
  • Pepsi
  • Safeway

Krispy Kreme led the conversation with 1.4k brand mentions, followed by The Salvation Army with 907 brand mentions.

How did these brands do it?

1. Free stuff

Everybody loves a donut, but a free donut sounds even better. On the day of the celebration, news about several companies giving away free treats spread on social media, generating a buzz and garnering reactions from excited consumers.

2. Storytelling 

Using storytelling in marketing can deepen brand-audience connections and keep brands top of mind.

3. Provide value beyond your product or service

To celebrate National Donut Day, Lifeway shared a healthy smoothie recipe featuring one of its products as an ingredient. In addition to the likes and shares, the post was also bookmarked six times. Not bad for a tweet about kefir!

Three ways brands can use data to engage with consumers 

1. Brand exposure

Do you really know how your brand is performing online? We’re not just talking about vanity metrics like shares and likes. 

We used Brandwatch’s Image Insights to analyze brand logos and their performance on social media in conversations relating to National Donut Day.

As an example, consider this 2017 post by American actor Verne Troyer. In the picture, he’s wearing a pair of Nike sweatpants that continues to generate engagement and brand exposure for Nike to this day.

This post was among the top 15 with the highest reach in conversations relating to National Donut Day in the last 10 years (January 1 2013 - December 31 2022). 

In this photo, we see Marc Márquez Alentà, a Grand Prix motorcycle racing champion, take a victory bite from a donut.

Red Bull and several other brands in the photo could make the most of the #NationalDonutDay conversation by joining and engaging in the thread.

By keeping an eye on the brand logo performance, brands can closely monitor when an opportunity for engagement presents itself, especially when the post’s sentiment is highly positive. 

2. Track and maximize the potential of untagged mentions

The quality of data can impact decision-making at an organization, and untagged mentions often present a significant portion of the conversation online brands shouldn’t miss out on. 

3. Make it exclusive or make it a game

Exclusivity can create a sense of desirability and urgency among consumers, making them feel special. Adding a gaming element can further enhance engagement and enjoyment.

Consistently leveraging social media holidays can substantially increase brand engagement – even without increasing the ad spend. 


Unofficial or so-called social media holidays are an opportunity for brands to better connect with their audiences and generate brand awareness. 

By tapping into trending and popular topics like National Donut Day, brands can create relevant and engaging content that resonates with their target audience and generates buzz both on and off social media. 

Social listening solutions like Brandwatch Consumer Research can help brands stay on top of relevant trends and conversations and identify opportunities for audience engagement. 

By tracking mentions and hashtags related to each celebration, brands can gain insights into their audience’s interests, preferences, and behaviors and develop data-driven content strategies that align with those preferences and interests. 

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