Did Owning the Black Friday Conversation Prove Negative for Brands?

Dana Oshiro Senior Analyst and Publishing Strategist, inPowered

Posted on November 29th 2012

Did Owning the Black Friday Conversation Prove Negative for Brands?

Maybe I'm wrong on this, but it's my understanding that Black Friday / Cyber Monday has traditionally been a time where retailers place large discounts on surplus goods to make way for newer holiday inventory. So the question remains -- if a brand owned the conversation on Black Friday / Cyber Monday is that a good or bad thing? In other words, do steep discounts pre-holidays send the message of failure? 

Black Friday

In a recent Fortune article, the reporter shows how the Apple store in the Mall of America sold approximately 11 iPads per hour on Black Friday versus zero Microsoft Surface tablets. Clearly there was greater traffic to the Apple store, but in this case we've got no idea as to the version of the iPads sold and therefore the data is tough to read. I should hope that newer items like the iPad with retina display and Surface tablet aren't going for bargain basement prices. They're less than a quarter old and steep discounts this early would only be admitting failure.

The article reminded me of a conversation with Sony Electronics President Phil Molyneux where he mentioned that many of Sony’s products would roll out with unilateral pricing. Molyneux explained how this pricing would limit retailer markdowns on products saying, “The market is very focused on volume, and there is a push to promote products not necessarily for the value of the product, or service, or content -- but more as a special of the week. This race to the bottom ultimately puts the emphasis on quantity rather than quality.”

I’m curious to hear your thoughts about owning the social and earned media conversation during Black Friday. Has this been positive for brands or do you think it sends the message of a fire sale / failure?


Dana Oshiro

Senior Analyst and Publishing Strategist, inPowered

Dana Oshiro is a Canadian blogger, PR pro and publishing strategist with a love of tech and an interest in how new innovations affect our societies and lives. She is a contributing writer at TheNextWeb and Mashable, and was formerly the startup channel lead at ReadWriteWeb. She's currently inPowered (formerly NetShelter) Senior Analyst where she works on increasing the influence of earned advertising in the marketing community. You can reach her on Twitter at @suzyperplexus

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Posted on November 29th 2012 at 6:52PM

Dana - hate to say this, but your understanding of Black Friday is off the mark.

The time between Black Friday and the end of the year is traditionally when a retail business will derive around 60% of their annual revenue, and become profitable. Hence the name "Black Friday" is when the company will go in the black from the profit/loss point of view.

The deep discounts that are advertised are to get people into the store and then spur impulse buys for other items on sale.

The deep discounts, btw- are typically down to either cost or slightly below cost to the retailer. It's not that they are inferior goods - they often top-tier items that people want quite badly. But the retailer will offer a limited supply of those products to create scarcity and high interest. ie: lots of shoppers in the store for the handful of iPads that are on sale.

But once the shopper is in the store, if they DIDN'T get the iPad on special, they are probably going to find some other suitable substitute or some other items on their shopping list.

It's not a fire sale or failure at all. In the US, many people look forward to Black Friday as the best shopping day of the year.