Why Talk Like a Pirate Day?

September 19, 2016

Back in the 90s, I worked at Morgan Stanley and ran a group that was responsible for worldwide media events. We were responsible for 850 events a year and worked with many vendors to pull off the creative, technical and logistical gymnastics necessary to make that happen.

During the December holidays, our team would get gift basket after gift basket. It was really nice and we appreciated being appreciated, but after a while, they all looked the same and our eyes would glaze over. Vendors typically send gift baskets to say thanks for the work, but also to remind the client that they're there and would like more work. In most cases, gifts are motivated by sincere appreciation, but giving a token of appreciation is also good marketing and another touchpoint in relationship building.

Here's the scenario: a valued vendor would spend $100 or more on a beautiful card and great basket. We'd think, "how nice" and then put it on the pile with all the other baskets. Total exposure was about 15 seconds. Think about that: $100 for 15 seconds of exposure to only a few eyeballs. That's $24,000 / hour, which is not quite Superbowl rates, but more than I think most people would probably want to spend -- especially when lumped in with everyone else and having minimal impact in the moment and no long-term memorability.

When I started Animus Rex 16 years ago, I thought about my experience on the client side and wanted to approach things differently. Rather than be one of many, I wanted a day all my own. That way my thanks would be noticed and we'd be remembered.

I thought to myself, "what's the next holiday after Christmas?" New Year's day. Too soon. MLK day? Too specific and poking fun on a serious day would be disrespectful. It had to be a day that nobody else would celebrate and few could take offense...

That turned out to be Groundhog Day, February 2. Dead of winter. Nobody's expecting anything on that day other than perhaps a rodent biting a mayor or giving us bad news about Spring never (ever) coming. Perfect!

So we started celebrating Groundhog Day and over the years have sent our clients and friends everything from Groundhog plush toys to DVDs of Groundhog Day, the Bill Murry movie, to Dean & Deluca gift baskets. A gift on a cold gray winter day is a great surprise that brightens everyone's mood! Exposure: at least a day, maybe more. Cost: $80-200/client, depending on how large a client they are and how many people are on the team we work with. Average cost per hour of exposure: about $5/client. Big difference in cost and zero competition for attention.

Back in 2007, Bev told me about "International Talk Like a Pirate Day," a silly made-up holiday that happens in September. It was another perfect oddball day to celebrate. I live on a sailboat, have always had a bit of a rogue spirit, and sincerely wish I looked more like Johny Depp! ;) 

Though real pirates are pretty scary, talking like a pirate was fun and light hearted. We started designing tee shirts and sending them out to all our clients, friends, and even some prospects. At first, the designs were pretty primitive but we got better and over the last several years have made some pretty good shirts. Needless to say, they've become a big hit! The timing is also good since it's right after the Summer break and everyone's thinking about what to get done by the end of the year. Win/win! Cost: about $10/shirt. Exposure: years per shirt (some clients have a collection).


  • Be unique rather than following the pack
  • Have some fun and show your personality
  • Make sure what you do is authentic (that part is critical)
  • Spend money, but do it effectively
  • A little edgy is probably fine (safe = boring = ineffective)
  • Execution can be refined over time

One of our mottos is that it's better to start something and refine it over time than never get anything off the ground. Start something today -- and if you can, have a little fun doing it!

Many thanks to our clients, friends, and family. We couldn't do it without you.

Much love and gratitude!
- Todd

If you have any comments, questions or just want to say hi, please email me at todd.rengel@animusrex.com.

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