Black Friday: for brands, it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Black Friday: for brands, it’s a marathon, not a sprint

Our co-founder Conrad Persons takes a look at the Black Friday phenomenon and gives his recommendations as to how brands can build brand equity and win customers during the Christmas period…

Most retailers who put all of their chips in one place – betting that a single day in November will change their fortunes and drive most of their Christmas volume – are in for a nasty surprise. Black Friday is not one thing – it is many things. If brands see it as purely a 24-hour bonanza to shift product, they are missing the point.

Playing the Long Game

Black Friday is not a day, it’s a season.

One of the key early adopters and part of the Walmart family, Asda, has decided not to take part in this year’s Black Friday, instead opting to offer “£26m worth of discounts throughout November and December.” This is having a knock-on effect on shopping patterns for much of the Christmas period and is also being exploited by smaller, independent businesses.

Some of the Winners of Black Friday may not even be open on the day

REI is closing all of its stores on Black Friday, a story that has been endlessly covered in the American press. It would be easy to read this as REI not participating in Black Friday, but that would be missing the point. They are participating in as much as they are using the day – and their store closings – as a massive brand-building exercise, taking a pointed view on a hot topic, and relentlessly publicising it at every opportunity (good on them).

Black Friday is not just a chance to put money in the till, it’s also a chance to build long-term brand equity, highlighting what a brand represents: what it will say yes to, but also what it will reject.

Selling Stuff is Different to Growing a Brand

There may be hordes on the streets, but that doesn’t mean sales will skyrocket. Or that those hordes will buy anything at all. The path to purchase is messy. Shopper habits are complex, online offerings abundant, and sources of influence plentiful, in everything from mobile phones to fast fashion.

Because of this, Black Friday could significantly boost the lifetime value of a consumer – even if they don’t buy anything at all on the day. Black Friday can help do everything, from feeding social media to introducing new consumers to the brand. It could drive talkability that pays off months, even years, later. As brands think about how to drive penetration, they should be thinking of Black Friday as a way to expand the audience, not just preach (and sell) to the converted.

It’s not going anywhere

For all the negative press, Black Friday looks set to stay an integral part of the retail calendar; and the opportunity for brands, both large and small, is clear to see. The brands that diversify their strategy and think smarter during the pre-and post-Black Friday periods will be those that capitalise on the hype and create something that’s still standing on Saturday.