Most holidays give businesses another excuse to target all consumers, but Veterans Day is different.
"This is actually something that people put lives on line typically, then earn the right to really celebrate," says David Berkowitz, Chief Marketing Officer for the New York marketing firm MRY.
Berkowitz says the holiday does give the rest of us a chance to recognize the country's 21.9 million veterans, but there are no hard rules for businesses that want to do it with discounts.
"It is going to be a bit of a moving target," he explains. "It’s not like 10 percent off is enough, but 20 percent -- that’s great. What is something that is a bit above and beyond what someone will find in a typical circular, or that veterans will be especially excited about. If it's something really good they'll want to spread the word about it, so another thing that's also really important today is having that hook to make it easy to share."
Military.com lists dozens of discounts this year for veterans and their families - everything from free admission to National Parks to a free meal at Hooters. But where’s the line between recognizing military service and boosting profit margins?
"We exist in a marketplace where consumers are very much concerned with authenticity," says Kelly Martin, Associate Professor of Marketing and Ethics at Colorado State University. She says it’s hard to tell which companies are trying to recognize veterans and which ones just want their money. "A lot of it comes down to how it makes them feel, right? If it doesn’t feel authentic, my guess is that it’s probably not."
Regardless of intent many veterans are grateful for the discounts, according to Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW).
"Military folks, I mean they’re not driving up to these restaurants in Mercedes," says Davis. "For the most part, a lot of them are living paycheck to paycheck, so any discount that any commercial business can provide them is a good discount.
Besides, Davis adds, anytime Americans thank our veterans "that’s a good thing."
“I think the best compliment I can give is not to say how much your programs have taught me (a ton), but how much Marketplace has motivated me to go out and teach myself.” – Michael in Arlington, VABEFORE YOU GO