Did Groupon bait us into publicizing their President's Day sale?
It certainly looks that way. Otherwise, Groupon is staffed by some of the most ignorant people in America.
Groupon headlined their press release: "Groupon Celebrates Presidents Day by Honoring Alexander Hamilton."
The body of the release was even more ridiculous:
Starting tomorrow, Groupon ( www.groupon.com ) (NASDAQ: GRPN) will be kicking off Presidents Day weekend by giving customers 10 dollars off 40 dollars when they purchase a deal for any local business. The $10 bill, as everyone knows, features President Alexander Hamilton -- undeniably one of our greatest presidents and most widely recognized for establishing the country's financial system.
Several websites immediately picked up on the "gaffe" and had a lot of fun at Groupon's expense.
Or were they? And who may be having the last laugh?
Sounds like somebody used a Groupon to find a history tutor, right? Not really. Suspicious that this deliberate display of shocking ignorance might just be a ploy to draw attention to its press release -- thereby drawing attention to its Presidents Day deal -- I e-mailed Erin Yeager, the author of the release and one of Groupon's "communication specialists."
"I have a question about your Presidents Day press release," I wrote. "Was the reference to Alexander Hamilton as one of America's greatest presidents inadvertent, or was that deliberately done in the hopes that the error might make the release go viral and expose more people to Groupon's deal this weekend?"
To her credit, Yeager replied almost immediately:
We're big supporters of celebrating great American presidents.
So are we, Ms. Yeager. So are we.
Other cryptic replies from Groupon to queries about the release make it pretty clear that this was a marketing ploy, and not a demonstration of ignorance about American history from the company.
What's interesting is that companies have been pulling stuff like this for years on social media in order to get a product or service to go viral. Word of mouth - or Twitter, Facebook, etc - is more valuable, and a lot cheaper, than buying advertising at today's rates.
I'm sure people will be scrutinizing future press releases from Groupon. And isn't that the point?