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Are Consumers Buying Black Friday Marketing?

While Black Friday is an apocalyptic-sounding moniker for the day after Thanksgiving, the kick-off to the holiday shopping season gets its name from a simple economic milestone.

“It is the first day of the year that retailers basically surpass break even and end up in the black,” said Eric Hogue, assistant professor and director of Marketing Communication.

Eric Hogue

Hogue, who has been a marketing and business analytic thought-partner for almost 30 years, and has advised senior management in telecom, consumer packaged goods, travel, banking, hospitality, and social media, said Black Friday continues to be a very important day for retailers.

“It’s a big day, and something retailers invest in with marketing and merchandising to have a positive outcome for that weekend,” he said.

After Black Friday comes Small Business Saturday, then Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, creating a five-day stretch aimed at consumers.

Marketing Communication Assistant Professor and Graduate Program Director Sereikhuoch Eng agrees with Hogue that the block of marketing days continues to be very successful for retailers. Prior to academia, Eng held positions in advertising agencies and corporations, and managed portfolios in telecom, CPG, banking, and premium brands such as Nestle, Unilever, Heineken, and Jaguar Land Rover.

“[Black Friday] gives retailers the opportunity to target audiences, and provide incentives and reasons for consumers to shop,” said Eng. “Particularly around Thanksgiving and the holidays, we’re all in a good mood to celebrate. It’s also an opportunity for brands and retailers to push out remaining stocks and inventory before closing the year.”

Digital companies such as Amazon probably have stronger Cyber Mondays, and brick and mortar businesses like Walmart perform better on Black Friday, when shoppers are off from their jobs and can visit stores, said Hogue.

This year’s online Black Friday sales were strong, which is good because a poor Black Friday could signify an oncoming recession period, said Hogue. NBC reported that Black Friday generated $9.8 billion in U.S. online sales, according to Adobe Analytics, up from 7.5 percent from a year ago.

Sereikhuoch Eng

Eng said consumers post-pandemic are getting back to a heightened sense of business as usual.

“Inflation hasn’t gone down to where the Federal Reserve wants,” said Eng “But there’s consumer confidence. There are many areas that are quite uncertain, like the job market and economy. But consumers in general are looking at getting back to normalcy, and ready to celebrate holidays.”

Small Business Saturday, which was created in 2010 – ironically enough by the behemoth financial services company American Express – pulls in a lot of money. According to the American Express 2023 Saturday Consumer Insights Survey, the projected spending of U.S. consumers who shopped at independent retailers and restaurants on Saturday, reached $17 billion.

“It resonates with consumers to support and pay loyalty to small retail merchants in their community,” said Hogue. “I was out on Saturday and did see an elevation in foot traffic. Out on …Cape [Cod], retail businesses are typically slower during the offseason, but there were a lot of people shopping.”

Hogue also runs a small Bluegrass record label that received a Grammy nomination in 2021 for Best Bluegrass Album.

“This week is a pretty big week for us. We do 20 percent off on Friday and keep it open through Monday,” said Hogue. “Sales elevate on Friday, tends to level out on Saturday and Sunday, and then we see a peak on Monday.”

#GivingTuesday is Not a Heavy Lift for Nonprofits

Giving Tuesday is an important fundraising day for nonprofit organizations, but not as vital as the other three marketed days are for retailers. Hogue said the end of the fiscal year and the end of the calendar year are also big fundraising times.

“There are also heritage dates, like World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, and Earth Day is a day when sustainability organizations reach out,” said Hogue. “World AIDS Vaccine Day is a big day for giving.”

Hogue added that unlike retailers, who spend millions on advertising the holiday shopping days, Giving Tuesday is not a heavy lift for nonprofits because they just hit up their contact lists via email blasts.  

Having the shopping days segue into Giving Tuesday works well, says Eng.  

“Giving Tuesday has a strong theme for folks looking to do good deeds, and to help out people,” said Eng.

Is There Room for a Special Marketing Name for Sunday?

Pardon Super Bowl Sunday, but there may be an inclination to provide a marketing moniker to the Sunday sandwiched between the four other marketing days.

“Sunday is available for now,” joked Eng. “Sometimes it’s ‘Cyber Week’. Sunday doesn’t necessarily have a name of its own. Sunday could have theme around it, but retailers will have to come up with something strong and unique. You don’t want consumers to think it’s just another day. Retailers want consumers to have a strong incentive to spend on their brand.”

As to whether religious groups would object to marketing Sunday, Hogue imagines some people would not be happy.

“Undoubtedly, we are such an activist culture, and somebody would speak up about it,” said Hogue. “That is another thing that retailers have to be very, very careful of. They pay attention to these things. They are not immune to being called out for being over-commercialized, callous, or politically-aligned. Brands don’t want to draw the ire from any political arrest that can be created.”

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