Apr 23, 2012 / by jay.krall

Supporters of the Stache Act revel in their fine mustachery at the Million Mustache March on April 1 in Washington D.C. Photo courtesy Alan Kotok

When H&R Block announced that it was supporting a bill that would offer Americans a $250 tax deduction to offset the cost of maintaining facial hair, some of the company’s tax preparers didn’t think it was very funny.

Neither did some consumers who didn’t understand that the campaign for a mustache-related tax break was just a joke, a plan hatched by Scott Gulbransen, H&R Block’s social media director, to raise brand awareness amongst younger taxpayers. But the tongue-in-cheek tone of the campaign is hard to miss in the Stache Act’s YouTube video, so the disapproving reaction on social media was funny in its own right, bringing more attention to the pseudo-legislative effort. And when commenters began channeling their outrage at special interest tax breaks toward the campaign for the Stache Act, Gulbransen said, “that was even funnier.”

Gulbransen presented the Stache Act case study at the International Association of Business Communicators Corporate Communication and Social Media Summit on Friday in Jacksonville, Fl.

Following the lead of older brands that have remade themselves for a new generation, such as Old Spice, Gulbransen says his goal was to piggyback on the resurgence in popularity that mustaches are enjoying with younger guys and in pop culture. Gulbransen himself suffers from BULD: Bare Upper Lip Disorder.

With a budget “less than a PR manager’s salary”, H&R Block worked with the American Mustache Institute, a (sort of) real organization based in St. Louis, to launch the campaign on Facebook and YouTube, asking users to sign a petition in support of the Stache Act. The campaign culminated with the Million Mustache March in Washington, which attracted about 200 marchers (mostly in it to show off their lip sweaters) and a police escort.

Garnering more than 250 million online impressions, the campaign helped H&R Block close the gap in share of online conversation with competitor TurboTax during tax season, and introduce the brand to 18-to-34-year-olds, many of whom have never set foot in one of H&R Block’s locations.

I thought the Stache Act was a refreshing case study from a brand willing to let its hair down. Or let it grow out, I guess.



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