Somewhere… probably now happily retired, is the marketer who came up with the idea of Black Friday.
But what started out as a simple marketing idea has grown – as these things will, into an uncontrollable monster of a day for marketers.
Here’s what you’ve got… one day. One day during which you slash your margins and hike up your ad spend to try and to beat your competitors to be the trader making the least money on every sale. He who makes the least wins. And the more of the less you make the better… somehow.
So we have educated our customers to wait. Wait until Black Friday to get that TV they were going to get in time for the holidays. Wait to buy those Christmas presents that were already on Santa’s list. And shop around like never before because, well, that’s how you’ll get the very best deal going. It’s a race to the bottom.
And we, as marketers, have only ourselves to blame. We jump on the bandwagon. Our clients want to run a Black Friday promotion and we gleefully prepare the campaigns. But we need to take a step back and consider the bigger picture. If our client is happy with the margin he can make on Black Friday, then surely these are the prices he could (perhaps should) be charging throughout the year. His volume would surely increase. But he cannot. The prices offered on Black Friday only make sense to the very few retailers who can genuinely crank up their volume and make the effort worthwhile. For the rest it is nothing more than an illusion.
More customers. More sales. More cash flow. But also more costs and lower margins. And that means less profit. Most of the purchases made on Black Friday will be one off purchases. Often bigger ticket items. And gifts. Not things which people buy repeatedly. And there will be no loyalty built – it is a mercenary exchange.
As a result, we give ourselves a false sense of achievement… we ran a Black Friday promotion! We convince ourselves that the very feat of running the promotion is the definition of success. It isn’t. We’re here to make money, not lose it.
If we do not wake up to this fact, then we will end up with a White Friday in March to mark the beginning of Spring. A Pink Friday in May where all things girly are reduced. A Purple Friday in July where all outdoor equipment is on offer. A Green Friday in September to celebrate the Harvest. And on and on. Eventually, every Friday will be reduced and we will all shop only on Fridays. Then someone will buck the trend and run their Crazy Tuesday and off we will all go again. Black Friday is already a week long for most companies as they desperately try to balance the books.
The Black Friday marketing concept falls into the lowest common denominator category. If we can’t think of ways to promote our products in such a way that our potential customers are beating a path to our door then just slash the price. That always works.
But, the truth is – the Emperor is still naked.