Stay true to your brand this Black Friday

Posted on 10/11/2021 by Ben Wood

In the second instalment of our new blog series, we explore staying true to your brand throughout the Black Friday madness.

When they zig, you zag. You’ll see this on the walls of many agencies – and then you’ll see very similar strategies pushed each time Black Friday comes around.

‘Make your sale memorable’
‘Use urgency messaging’
‘Only the brave and the bold win’

But this all revolves around one thing: embracing the one-shot sale approach. Selling on price and not value could potentially undo all the work you’ve done throughout the year to establish your brand as aspirational.

2021 brings new pressures, with global chip shortages and supply chain issues rife, as well as cost-of-living increases in the UK and beyond. It’s hard to stand out when you’re competing in a race to the bottom. Amazon’s one-day discount fest has become a month-long extravaganza across the market. Brands in every sector discount because everyone else is. And here we are.

Know your value

It’s easy to assume that customers buy purely on price in November. And, of course, price is an integral part of any purchase decision. But quality, ability to meet a customer’s need and the intangible emotional benefits of a product or service don’t suddenly disappear as the calendar hits November.

Barnes & Noble are an excellent example of delivering emotional benefits over rational price decisions. If you buy books, you go to Amazon. But B&N offered signed editions that you could only buy in-store. Same book. Different benefits. Another way to stand out.

Customers want to buy the right thing for their budget and needs – not the cheapest thing. If people wanted to buy the cheapest product, Apple would have fallen over many years ago.

Your prospective (and existing) customers don’t all suddenly need new things in November. Planned obsolescence isn’t quite that prescriptive. They buy on Black Friday because they think it will cost them more to buy on any other day, despite that being a fallacy.

So, are they more likely to buy the right thing if you take 10% off the price? Maybe. But studies have shown that a higher price can also increase sales. So it’s not quite as simple as cutting prices to drive sales. You’re dealing with humans, and they don’t buy rationally. Try to explain something like Pokémon rationally…

Make your voice heard

Your challenge isn’t to stand out on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and ‘We still have stuff we need to shift Wednesday’. Instead, your challenge is to build a brand that resonates with your audience and deliver messaging that increases salience throughout the year.

But when you reach Q4 and feel the pressure to compete with the market, it’s incredibly easy to fall into the trap of presenteeism and discounting because you feel you have to. 58% of customers say that the deals they’re offered on Black Friday and Cyber Monday have an impact on their trust in a brand – and not in a good way.

What if you choose to compete on something else? If your product is renowned for its longevity, run a ‘buy now, stay later’ campaign. If you’re an ethical producer concerned about sustainability and hyper-consumerism, engage your customers who view the sale season negatively. Offer a value exchange – a deed for a purchase. But no discount.

Outdoor clothing brand REI have taken it a step further. For the last three years, they’ve closed all 151 of their stores on Black Friday as part of the #OptOutside campaign. They don’t even process online orders. Yes, they do lose revenue on the day, but they build a stronger connection with like-minded customers.

Or you could sell your product more like Cards Against Humanity does. It’s different, it’s counter-intuitive, but it also works. Black Friday is noise. The only way to stand out is to take a different angle.

Hubbub took a different approach. It launched Bright Friday, a call to buy clothes on Depop or charity shops to reduce fast fashion and save people from crowded stores and overloaded websites. There are creative opportunities everywhere and, if you find one that resonates, you can cut through the noise.

The sure-fire way to not stand out is to discount, send promotional emails and then retarget at high volume for a short window without any creative thought.

Communicating a discount

For some brands, Q4 revenues swamp those from earlier in the year. They take part in Black Friday because they can’t afford not to.

Most suggested Black Friday strategies rely on personalisation, with offers based on purchase history or demographic and behavioural data. But that requires effective data handling and a deep understanding of your customer, along with the tech to deliver personalised offers, weighting and experiences.

There’s one thing that doesn’t require a vast tech stack, armies of consultants, and reducing your brand to a market-stall price war – an idea.

Gymshark delivers an annual blackout: they discount, but they use Creative that stands out in the sea of bright, attention-grabbing creative. A silent TV advert can grab your attention because the absence of sound is so alien. Just as creative can stand out if it purposefully goes against convention.

Keep this in mind: most brands are discounting. They will email consumers. They will retarget them. And this will happen over and over again, with 116.5 million emails sent out by brands on Black Friday, and 106 million on Cyber Monday. The recipients are 138% more likely to spend than those who don’t receive emails. But that glosses over the fact that customers are swamped, and those receiving emails are already customers or warm prospects.

The holiday season raises the temptation to put aside everything your brand stands for in a quest to out-discount your competitors. Resist that. Use your market and customer knowledge and the power of your offer, to talk to both the rational price-conscious mind, and the emotionally-driven feelings of your audience.

Tell them you exist. Tell them why. And demonstrate your value. Not your cost.

Next week, we look at changing the channel from just your website for Black Friday. Don’t fancy waiting until next week? Download the full eBook below for all the data, insights and expert commentary you need to hone your Black Friday strategy.

Download the full Black Friday eBook

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