On April 1, millions—OK, probably more like hundreds, or at least dozens—of mustachioed men will march from the Capitol to the White House to fight for a $250 annual tax refund for Mustached Americans.The American Mustache Institute (AMI), a very real, albeit irreverent, organisation that surprisingly wasn’t founded in Brooklyn, has partnered with H&R Block to publicize the ‘Stache Act, which would give “people of Mustached American descent” a tax break to cover the cost of the grooming paraphernalia necessary to enable them to serve America with above-average good looks and water conservation from a lack of shaving.
The campaign has certainly made waves. Celebrities including the Office’s Ellie Kemper, and there are rumours of Shaquille O’Neal, have made PSAs for the campaign. Dr. John Yeutter, a tax policy professor at Northeastern State University, has written a white paper and, although no legislation has actually been written, Maryland U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett referred the act to the Ways & Means Committee for “study.”
The only thing more surprising than the fact that some people are taking the act seriously (come on, Weekly Standard and CBS, the Million Mustache March is set for April Fool’s Day) is the gusto with which H&R Block is promoting this spoof-like movement with a full fledged and highly visible social media campaign.
The Odd Couple
AMI president Aaron Perlut, also a partner at the St. Louis-based PR and marketing firm Elasticity, approached H&R Block’s director of social media Scott Gulbransen about the ‘Stache Act years ago when Gulbransen was at Turbo Tax. (In between working for the tax competitors, he did social media for Applebee’s).
In a column for Forbes, Perlut wrote:
As successful as the H&R Block may be, the company doesn’t scream: “HEY, YOU 22-YEAR-OLD DUDE WHO LIKES humour! LET’S PARTY AND AFTERWARD WE’LL GO ROCK OUT AND DO YOUR TAXES AND GET YOU A FREAKING NARLY RETURN!!!”
Gulbransen, who only started working at H&R Block in September, told Business Insider that Perlut’s assessment “is dead on, but we’re starting to see that change.”
For example, this year’s TV ad campaign (by ad agency Fallon) included a 28-year old teacher/beat boxer.
“We’re a brand that’s been around for a long time, but at the same time we are not old and stodgy,” Gulbransen, a self-proclaimed torch carrier for the facially haired challenged, said. “If you think about what Cadillac did, 10 years ago the car seemed something my grandfather would drive but now it’s a luxury car driven by a younger, cooler demographic.”
Still, while print, radio, and TV ads have to appeal to a mass market, the mustache campaign reaches the 18-30 demographic that is newer to the tax process. The fact that the Million Mustache March is taking place two weeks before Tax Day certainly isn’t a coincidence.
By having the H&R Block logo all over posters for the ‘Stache Act, and even dedicating a portion of its Facebook page to the great facial haired cause, H&R Block is gaining street cred for something unrelated to its brand.
H&R Block is also donating up to $10,000, depending on participation, to Millions From One, an organisation that provides clean drinking water to those who have difficulty receiving it on their own. “This shows potential clients we aren’t just in this to do business for ourselves,” Gulbransen said. “The quirky nature of the campaign is great but H&R is also looking to do good.”
Considering that the ‘Stache Act is completely ridiculous, Gulbransen faced resistance from executives in the upper echelons of the company. But considering mustaches’ recent popularity, they seem like a worthy (if not viral) cause.
“I had a lot of data because mustaches themselves are trending and I’m not talking about just growing them,” Gulbransen said, noting that many bars host mustache nights (or at least serve beer out of ironic mustachioed cups).
Perlut emailed BI that “The AMI believes about 42 per cent of Americans today have some form of facial hair, which is up about 8 per cent from 10 years ago.” This isn’t the soundest data—a “study” AMI’s nuclear mustacheology department found a mustache approves looks by 38 per cent.
In its six years of existence, AMI says it has received more than 1 billion media impressions, and its website has 100,000-plus monthly unique visitors, 20,000 members, and an active Facebook page with more than 11,000 people.
*Disclaimer: the reporter’s father has a mustache.
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