Guest post by Michael Shmarak, principal of Sidney Maxwell Public Relations.
OK, a quick show of hands – how many people got out of bed at some ungodly hour and stood in line for any number of Black Friday deals last month?
For those who raised hands, may I ask that you take that hand, form a cup with your other hand, and splash cold water on your faces? Sorry to rain on your parade, but you need a proverbial wake-up call. Your deal might have been good, but was it a deal at all?
I don’t know why the day after Thanksgiving is called Black Friday, anymore. According to retail data, shopper patterns, and any number of measurement tools, it is not the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is a myth.
If this year was any indication, this year’s Black Friday should be called Gray Friday or Foggy Friday. There just was not a lot of buying activity. While store traffic might have been up in some parts of the country, registers weren’t ringing – which is what retailers really want to see.
Despite evidence that shows Black Friday isn’t what it was once cracked up to be, retailers still spend excessive amounts of money on marketing and advertising leading up to the day after Thanksgiving. And many PR teams continue to push the same old Black Friday buttons, with merchants opening early on Friday, or open on Thanksgiving, or pulling some other stunt that a journalist, blogger, or camera crew will cover.
The American public is used to seeing these “traditional” holiday stories, but where do we, as PR counselors, draw the line to say enough is enough? Why does the PR community propagate a myth of something we know isn’t true? Is it right – or ethical – to keep carrying on these activities?
Let’s be clear here – I am not seeking the Ebenezer Scrooge Award for Worst Holiday Spirit. What I am saying is we marketers should leverage merchants’ resources – along with our consumers’ intelligence – and establish a position that gives customers credit for what they know, what they want, and how they want it, as opposed to what retailers think customers want.
This is among the reasons why online and mobile shopping has become so prevalent. Technology has helped tailor messages and products in a way that best fits customers’ needs. The mass-produced one-size-fits-all marketing message doesn’t work anymore.
Still, those of us who have retail clients know 2011 holiday planning will be upon us soon. Let’s hope that in future years, we can help our clients reap greater returns from their holiday seasons – and we can all sleep in a little later the day after Thanksgiving.
Sidney Maxwell Public Relations Principal Michael Shmarak’s 5 ½-year-old daughter tells people, “Daddy gets paid to make other people look good.” She’s right, but there’s a lot more than that. The company strives to build deep relationships with its clients to create, distribute, and merchandise meaningful content.