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Brands, Please Blackout Black Friday


As a consumer, does the idea of Black Friday get you all lit up like Central Park’s tree, excited for the deafening cacophony of competition for your dollars and attention? If you think about it from a supply/demand perspective, I guess consumers really could get a boost of serotonin simply from how hard brands work to get their special, pocket-fulla-cash-ready-to-spend attention. Then again, isn’t that really the issue? 

What once was an opportunity to score a product you might otherwise not have been able to afford, has “leaned in” so hard that a bevy of problematic issues are now widely associated with this (now considered) marketing activation. Just like any marketing opportunity, it is imperative that brands calculate the ROI of any activation as it relates to their goals. We don’t really think Black Friday stands up to that challenge. 

The History of Black Friday

Did you know that Black Friday was originally the name for a devastating stock market catastrophe that left thousands destitute in 1869? Yeah, wild, right? Apparently it hit farmers especially hard and that hits us right in the feels. (We love our farmers.) Plenty has been penned about the history and evolution of what we now know as Black Friday; just check out Huff Po’s Dark History or Investopedia’s for the details. 

Our takeaway? Seems like Black Friday is once again held with deference and associated with a darker, more sinister approach to sales and consumerism. The marketing opportunity for brands, especially the kinds of brands with whom we prefer to partner (values-led businesses), is getting much harder to justify or advocate. 

Risky Business

First, there’s the issue of stock. Black Friday forces the risk of going SUPER Goldie Locks on your inventory; are your supply numbers going to come in too low, too high or juuuuust right, matching demand for your blockbuster deals? With so many mitigating factors, it’s fairly difficult to plan for the exact right amount of stock that leaves each customer feeling satisfied. 

If you have too few of your Black Friday deals and run out quickly, customers are left with a sour taste of your brand. Not to mention, easy comparison is just a phone search away. Left dissatisfied, they will not hesitate to find themselves with your competition. 

If you have far too many of your Black Friday deals, you’re left with the challenge of how not to “lose your shirt” with that item after so many customers were already able to secure it at what you felt was its lowest possible price. And, if you offer further deals on that item, shoppers are wise and the allure of flash deals from your brand may start to lose luster in their eyes. 

And what about paying for your share of the day’s noise (market share)? Unless you’re one of the big ones (think Amazon, Walmart, etc.) with budgets as boundless as the universe, achieving a valuable market share on this holiday can be very, very pricey. Wouldn’t a better use of this budget be to devote a campaign to overcoming your lowest conversion rates within the buyer journey… a long term success plan? 

Sure, these concerns can absolutely be worth calculated marketing risks. However, the chance of possible damage to your brand equity PLUS profit loss and costly ad spends  just don’t seem worth it to us. 

Values & Brand Equity

Then there’s a host of value-based and moral reasons your brand should evaluate when considering Black Friday participation. Many consumers are starting to see the dark side of Black Friday and avoid brands who pander to the perceived scarcity mindset, encouragement of mass consumerism, promotion of poorly/cheaply made items that will soon populate our landfills, utilization of less than humane labor practices to produce said items, etc. etc. etc. 

We’ll list those for you again. 

Black Friday tactics can: 

  • Encourage consumers and businesses to think with a scarcity mindset, making decisions based on fear over strategy, need or value. 
  • Encourage mass consumerism in a world where many of us already have too much stuff. 
  • Promote cheaply made products which tends to 
    • exploit human labor forces in unregulated areas 
    • pollute our planet with toxic dyes, materials, etc
    • expand our landfills as these items don’t tend to last and are intended to be replaceable 
  • Promote shoppers to 
    • make impulsive decisions 
    • overspend their budgets in the name of “gotta get it now or else” 
    • experience decision fatigue and increased stress in order to find the best deal

Consumers are smart; they’re starting to see the BS latent in the entire system. You didn’t invest in all those Black Friday strategies, devoting budget and human resources just for customers to be disappointed in your efforts! Is it worth all these values-based risks when you know it may tarnish the brand equity you’ve been diligently building? Meh.

Accidental Commodification of Product, Owner & Labor

Finally, there’s the issue of commodification. When you offer your goods and services at significantly discounted rates, it can communicate to shoppers that your products are not high quality, special, valuable items… that what you’re offering is nothing more than a commodity they can purchase from many sources. Unless you are truly in the commodity trade, this is a giant risk for nothing more than expensive, low ROI market share for one shopping holiday of the year. 

As artists, makers and entrepreneurs ourselves, everyone at Noise 13 wants brands to feel pride in what they’re selling. Your handmade jewelry, individually sculpted figurines, gorgeous giclee prints, and heck, even your beautifully ornate strategy presentations…these things are acts of heart and head that deserve a price representing your years of training and practice, thousands of hours of dedicated time and too many sleepless nights that were required to produce the amazing thing you’re selling. Please don’t underestimate your value by extending deals that challenge your ability to thrive in business! It’s a lose-lose strategy, in our opinion. You are not a commodity. 

Not to mention, Black Friday deals are starting to dig into what’s now being called “Grey Thursday,” with deals beginning on Thanksgiving Day, itself. All this labor and extra effort…it’s not just hard on you, the business owner, it’s really hard on your support staff as well. I think by now we all know, the data is in, well treated, happy employees are far more valuable to your business than a single sales activation. 

So? What to do on Black Friday INSTEAD

Anything… 

Really…anything at all. 

Hang with your family (however you define them). Go to the park. Complete a puzzle. Tackle that online training you’ve been putting off, learning is fun. Read that book. Video chat someone you haven’t caught up with in years. Sleep in. Eat out. Cook a wildly delicious, funky meal made of only the leftovers. Start a meditation practice even if you finish it with just one session. Try the thing you’ve been meaning to, and gosh darnit, be kind to yourself. Be kind to yourself and others. 

Time is a gift and if you have time off from work on Black Friday, consider yourself the luckiest…a whole day to live as your heart desires. Life doesn’t begin when you get the promotion or your messaging goes viral. You certainly won’t look back on your life and wish that you’d spent more time thinking about and participating in Black Friday, not as a consumer and not as a brand leader. 

That’s why we have a challenge for you. Ask yourself these questions…. 

  1. What would your idol tell you to do on Black Friday? 
  2. What would “6 month from now you” suggest you do with a free day? 
  3. What would your most respected family member offer as advice for this day? 
  4. What would your kids (fur babies and beyond) suggest you do with Black Friday freedom? 
  5. If there was one thing in the world you’d love to do most, despite its barriers, what would it be? 

From those answers there is something, a way for you to spend this gift of a day, that you will absolutely look back on, for which you will find yourself grateful. Your business will thank you for feeding your dynamism with a day spent most excellently. 

And when you do return to work, the office, the studio, etc, we’re here to help! Building brands is our heart’s work and we’d love to support your incredible, values-led business. Hit us up at Info@noise13.com when your heart is full and your brain is bustling with hopes. We’ll be ready with our bellies, hearts and heads full of the best stuff!

 

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