THE BLACK FRIDAY BEAST: How to Deal
For businesses in consumer products and retail, Black Friday isn’t a singular event anymore. What used to be a one-day affair now spans anywhere from one holiday weekend to the entire month of November. Black Friday may have semi-humble roots, but the beast has grown too large to fit in the confines of just one day.
First, the boom in online shopping brought us Cyber Monday. Then, fierce competition on Black Friday pushed sales to start sooner and sooner, until it finally encroached on Thanksgiving Day. Now, many businesses have opted to offer “Black Friday all month long” sales. What began as a one-day sale has grown into a month-long event.
This behemoth shopping event isn’t exactly a friendly giant. It costs a lot of money to advertise during the month of November, and the extra hours and effort can put a strain on any workforce. Plus, there’s the huge problem of figuring out how to differentiate your brand’s sale from another’s.
However, there are serious benefits for businesses that manage to harness Black Friday’s power effectively. National Retail Federation surveys show that many shoppers can drop more than a third of their holiday budget from Thanksgiving Day to Cyber Monday. In 2018, shoppers spent a collective $717.5 billion during Black Friday weekend and 7.9 billion during Cyber Monday. KA-CHING!
Moreover, the brand equity and visibility you can build during a Black Friday/Cyber Monday sale can last throughout the year.
So, what’s a business to do about Black Friday/Cyber Monday? From our perspective, the best way to stand out in such a crowded market during the biggest shopping event of the year is to run brand-forward, creative campaigns that compel shoppers to participate in a way that makes sense for a company’s ethos.
Each company has a unique personality. The most successful companies utilize that personality to stand out. Here are some of our favorite examples:
Cards Against Humanity
Cards Against Humanity is no stranger to the beast that is Black Friday. In 2016, they created a massive buzz by raising $100,000 to dig a hole. During Black Friday in 2015, you couldn’t do anything on their website but put in your credit card information and spend $5…on nothing. They made over $71k. Each of these “campaigns” were done to protest the Black Friday madness.
In 2017, they started a “Cards Against Humanity Saves America” promotion. During this “promotion,” consumers paid $15 to get six surprises throughout the month of December. The prizes were not about consumerism. Instead, Cards Against Humanity used the money they raised to make political statements, launch a podcast, and send people a few stickers and cards.
These anti-consumerism, political “promotions” fit the Cards Against Humanity brand to a tee. We think they’re hilarious and clearly point out the company doesn’t need to participate in the Black Friday Beast to turn a profit.
Online men’s clothing retailer, Chubbies, used a humorous social media campaign to get potential customers interested in “Free Stuff All Day” during their “Thighber Monday sale.” Of all our examples, Chubbies definitely embraces Black Friday in the most traditional sense.
During Thighber Monday, consumers could expect a different free gift each hour of the day—and we’re not talking about some cheap giveaway. Because the retailer was offering free gifts people actually wanted, shoppers were encouraged to come back to the site each hour to scope out each new gift. The prospect of added value drives more traffic to their site, allowing Chubbies to take advantage of Black Friday/Cyber Monday profits.
This campaign helped Chubbies stand out in a sea of online retailers. It was especially smart because the company used their brand in a creative way, and had clearly researched their target market.
REI’s campaign, “Opt Outside,” urged customers to go outside rather than spend the day shopping. They were so serious about this campaign they closed their doors for the day. By staying true to their brand values, REI fostered consumer engagement and earned brand equity they can leverage any day of the year. The positive press probably didn’t hurt either.
Brand First, Black Friday Second
Making the decision to go all-in or all-out on the Black Friday/Cyber Monday madness depends on your customer base, your brand identity, and your company’s financial needs. Not every company can afford to not try to get a piece of that $700-billion-dollar pie.
Whatever your company does to try to tame or beat the Black Friday Beast, our best advice is to be true to your brand.