The Audacity of Disrupting the Black Friday Status Quo

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As I read the Huffington Post article entitled; Black Friday Is Dead: How 3 Brands Have Broken Through the Holiday Retail Clutter, I was immediately struck by a quote from Scott Bedbury, former head of marketing for Starbucks. Setting the tone for the article, Bedbury observes; “”One of the surest ways to make something less special is to make more of it”

As early as the beginning of October, some retailers started promoting their Black Friday bonanzas. Designed to get consumer juices flowing, these Black Friday campaigns have extended what used to be a one-day event into month-long promotions. In an effort to capitalize on the traditional day-after-Thanksgiving retail frenzy, these overly ambitious companies may have facilitated the unintended consequence so eloquently offered in that quote by Scott Bedbury.

If establishing brand presence and offering brand differentiation are essential parts of your marketing strategy, following the retail crowd and this Black Friday marketing trend may be the last thing that you want to do. As outlined in the article, there are some select retailers that dare to be different; and after the traditional Black Friday fervor has dissipated, it is they who will most likely be remembered.

Take for example REI, a national retail co-op focused on outfitting adventure seekers with their outdoor apparel and gear. Consistent with its mission, which reads in part; “We are passionate about the outdoors and committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.” What are they doing to induce customers to patronize them on Black Friday? They’re closed.

As noted in the Huffington Post article, rather than “…follow the crowd, walking aimlessly through the doors of short-term sales and ‘first come, first serve pricing.”, REI will be closed and “…commit to what matters most–their employees and customers, encouraging all to head outdoors (and of course post their adventures using the hashtag #OptOutside).”

Through this audacious marketing stance REI is reinforcing its brand promise, generating a unique social media campaign and ensuring that they will not be just another retailer trying to get its sliver of the Black Friday consumer pie.

It takes a truly focused and self-aware company such as REI to have the marketing discipline to forge its own path during this time of the year, and for those marketing mavericks unafraid to take the road less travelled, the holiday retail boom may last through the New Year and beyond.

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