The blackest of Fridays?

December 2, 2015 |

I was recently reading an article in Forbes called “12 Marketing Strategies Your Business Needs for a Successful Black Friday” and I wondered if many UK-based retailers would be taking heed.

If reports are to be believed, the bell is already tolling for our short-lived love affair with the price-slashing bonanza. Asda has announced it will be opting out of this year’s melee, joining the likes of John Lewis, Primark and Argos, who have all said it’s either a case of opting out of, or significantly scaling back, sales.

Could we be about to witness another fad joining the ranks alongside virtual pets, the Atkins Diet, shell suits and mini-discs? It’s certainly a bleak outlook for Black Friday.

Back to that Forbes article and one sentence in particular sums up the problem, “Point 2: Send Awesome Black Friday Emails”. It’s all very American. And, this is both its USP and its downfall.

Up until now, the event has done pretty well at generating its own PR, because of its international origins. It has challenged the British way of doing things. The perception of mild mannered brits forming an orderly queue and waiting patiently went straight out of the window and was replaced with images of crowds stampeding through shop doors and customers literally fighting it out for the best bargain. Of course, the media lapped it up.

Some have questioned if this is actually bad PR. However, my argument would be that showing consumers so passionate about a store and its offers, could actually be spun in a positive way. Even those who have had more serious incidents in store have weathered the resulting PR storm.

I’ve been asked a few times if I think it’s worth getting involved in the clamor for Black Friday stories to seek to stand out. My answer has mostly been no. Up until now it has been a seasonal event that has held its own. There has been little in-depth analysis, no requirement for thought-leaders and, unlike Christmas, Easter and Valentine’s Day, no need to develop a stunt to create a new angle. The event itself has been the hook.

Interestingly, as part of some client research, we spoke to a number of high profile retailers about changes they were making to their store environment for Black Friday. One leading brand came back with: “No changes as we’re not embracing Black Friday this year due to its un-sustainability.”

Of course, comments like this show that with every rise, there comes a fall and the downward spiral also comes courtesy of the event’s roots. For the average British consumer, it’s all a little too American to fully embrace it as a ‘tradition’ of our own.

The irony now is that there are so many more interesting PR opportunities. We all know that the media love nothing more than a good postmortem. Where has it all gone wrong, what could have been done differently and what does the future hold? Now is the time for our retail thought-leaders to come into their own.

Before we finish, one last look at the Forbes article. Point three suggests the use of #blackfriday. Pop ‘RIP’ on the end and I think you should be safely able to schedule your social media posts for this time next year.

Martin Stone