The limit of stupidity as it approaches X is not genius.

Groupon won yesterday.

“Groupon still exists?” you ask.

It most certainly does, and it just made Presidents Day way cooler than it usually is.

The deal-of-the-day company is most famous for exploding in a good way about five years ago and then gradually imploding as the mass coupon model became unsustainable on such a grand scale. Yesterday, they saw a little bit of their old spark.

What they did, on the face of it, is really, really dumb. They announced a promotion that offered $10 off any $40 spent on a local Groupon (that’s not the dumb part). The gimmick was the (supposed) connection between the $10 and Presidents Day, because Alexander Hamilton is on the ten-dollar bill.

“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,” the site advertised.

Only, wait, good ol’ Mr. Hamilton may have been killed in a duel by Aaron Burr, and he may have been the nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, but if there is one thing he was not, it’s president.

Naturally, news media came to the defense of Founding Father Hamilton and they took the gloves off to make fun of Groupon’s ignorance of American history. How could this enormous, space-age, tech-savvy company, presumably with editors and access to Wikipedia, not know that Alexander Hamilton was never president? And what they also did, unintentionally but unsurprisingly, is make Groupon the hottest, trendiest story around.

Sure, the company rose to sudden Twitter stardom while being gleefully mocked, but so what?

Groupon just made a ton of money. Groupon just got a ridiculous boost in searches and sales. Groupon just surged in popularity, partly as corporate clown and partly as the once-beloved but long-forgotten friend who suddenly reappears to cheers of, “Groupon? I knew I liked that guy!”

There’s no downside for Groupon. Publicity is publicity is publicity.

(It reminds me a bit of Amazon’s recent foray into “drone delivery systems.” Remember? The online retail giant publicly tossed around the idea of ditching UPS and, instead, using flying drones to get packages from here to there. This was not dumb in the same way as Groupon’s faux paux, but both turned into absurd — and absurdly successful — publicity stunts.)

In the media aftermath, Groupon officers said the whole “Hamilton for President” show was a deliberate error. A spokesman said the stunt “was in line with our brand and sense of humor.”

If that’s true, that doesn’t make it that much less funny. It just takes the idea of playing dumb to a new level.

All of this to say that, despite misunderstanding marketing in general and, what is more, how Groupon actually works, I have to admire the cleverness. Also, maybe we should all go do the Groupon thing and save money by spending it.


The duel between Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.

Posted by Griffin Paul Jackson

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