How to Consciously Approach Black Friday

Whether you fully moved your business online, launching a product, or looking to shift old stock, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be used mindfully.

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Updated: November 2023

Black Friday is coming up, yet once again. Let’s be honest. It can be a great way to grow awareness around your brand if you know how to use it wisely. With a growing understanding of consumerism and its environmental impact, you need to be mindful of how to drive traffic and conversions.

Yet, you can find a new, hidden opportunity in every challenge. Black Friday is still an event of incredible impact — over the past few years, consumers spent $7.4 billion online.

Now more than ever, it’s critical to consider how to use Black Friday for your brand. If you are wondering when you should start looking at your Black Friday campaign, this is your reminder to get inspired by how brands have been reinventing a trend.

How to Create Unique Take to Black Friday

A few years back, REI made waves by choosing to close its doors on Black Friday, launching the #OptOutside initiative. Rather than urging consumers to shop, they encouraged them to spend the day outdoors.

This bold move went beyond a mere campaign, sparking a conversation about consumerism and inspiring other brands to follow suit. It was a nudge to reflect on what matters amidst the buying frenzy.

REI’s campaign showcased a beautiful blend of brand values with consumer engagement, demonstrating that Black Friday can serve as a platform for meaningful dialogue and positive change.

Encourage Sales with a Purpose

How can you combine a sale with a great message you can share about your brand? Especially when tying your campaign with social media, in addition to conversion metrics, you might also want to set goals for brand awareness.

You could look to partner with a local charity, and it’s donating money from each sale or create a joint deal with a fellow business that shares your values.

Just Eat UK partners with a brand
Credits: Facebook UK

In 2019, Just Eat partnered with the charity FoodCycle this Black Friday, a company that serves meals from unwanted food across the UK, preventing waste. For every Just Eat order made on Black Friday, the company also donated 50p to the charity and raised over £250,000.

As another great example, in 2011, Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This Jacket campaign raised awareness about consumerism and has evolved and continued ever since, so much so that in 2016 they pledged to donate all of their Black Friday sales to organisations in local communities.

Patagonia’s post: “Today we’re donating 100% of sales to grassroots environmental groups”

Align Black Friday with Who You Are

Whether it’s your values or your unique tone of voice, you can re-invent Black Friday to fit with your brand’s voice and values.

For example, Black Friday at Lucy & Yak isn’t your typical sale frenzy. They’ve turned the day on its head, calling it “Fior Di Loto Friday.” This isn’t just a catchy phrase; it reflects a deeper commitment.

Credit: lucy & yak website

Instead of just slashing prices, Lucy & Yak use the day to drive positive change. Each purchase made contributes to sustainable and ethical initiatives, empowering customers to make a difference.

Their approach not only echoes their brand ethos but creates a ripple of positive impact, setting a splendid example of how Black Friday can transcend traditional discounting and foster meaningful engagement.

Lesson in action: Swap Black Friday for Giving Tuesday and showcase some of your favourite initiatives to support through your conscious business, the AMAZING work they do, and how it aligns with your brand’s story, values, and/or mission.

When it comes to giving the campaign a unique spin, Cards Against Humanity’s Black Friday email is a GREAT reminder to let your unique voice speak through.

They’ve shredded the typical Black Friday playbook, creating a campaign so out there that it’s impossible to ignore. No deals, no steals—just the cheeky request for a fiver. And it’s pure genius because it sparks curiosity, conversation, and yeah, even opens wallets!

Credit: cards against humanity

In the sea of Black Friday deals, being the odd one out can make you the most memorable. So next time you’re crafting a campaign, maybe take a leaf out of Cards Against Humanity’s deck and play it.

How to Plan a Black Friday Calendar

On the one hand, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are one-day events. On the other hand, many businesses now run promotions throughout the whole month of November.

Depending on the type of message you are sharing, the longer your campaign runs, the harder it can be to keep momentum.

Lesson in action: To help you decide on a timeline, build a simple calendar that goes back from the date and highlights the different ways you are looking to tease your audience.

Are you running weekly giveaways? Daily product spotlights? It will help to build a calendar. When in doubt, try to plan your activities around the 14-day mark.

The exception that confirms the rule comes from Deciem, which, since 2015, encouraged their community to shop slow and remove the time pressure. They publicised that every product was on sale for the entire month of November.

Inside Deciem, an employee sweeps the floor, and an orange sign that says “Please shop slowly; 23% off everything”

Less is More for Black Friday Campaigns

When creating a campaign, marketers tend to over-compensate. It’s always better to have less content that’s engaging than more content that’s poorly executed. Write down as many ideas as possible, but be realistic about the timeframe you’ll need to run your campaign and create assets.

When thinking about your content, remind yourself of what products or services you will be focused on. After that, highlight the best performing content in tour accounts to create a strategy focusing on the good assets.

Whether you are looking at the video, animations, graphics, or even photography of products, you’ll need to make sure you create a complete list of assets required ahead of the campaign.

Yet, sometimes you may have to think outside of the box. A great example comes from MeUndies’s campaign in 2016 on Facebook Live.

MeUndies ad of a woman laying on a couch with a laptop, with an arm outstretched to block her face. “Can’t talk, gotta shop.”
Credits: Instagram

The brand held a two-hour Facebook Live event for Black Friday, something unheard of at the time. The Live event attracted 13,300 viewers, who tallied 5,998 engagements. As a result, users converted at 25%, 13 times the average conversion rate for MeUndies on Facebook.

How to Choose Channels

There are many ways to convert your customers, from shoppable feeds and Instagram Live product recommendations to flash email campaigns.

If you choose a medium like Instagram, you can engage with your audience on various levels, including stickers in stories (small business stickers, anyone?) or your link in your bio. Similarly, you could focus on Idea Pins, shoppable Pins, and even ads for your Black Friday campaign.

In 2019, Chick-fil-A launched a charitable campaign titled Together Time, with a video centring around helping families give the gift of time for Black Friday and Christmas time, drawing upon the emotional impact of their customers.

How to apply this to your strategy

  • Challenge yourself to do less.  Choose your primary medium and optimise your campaign for it to create the right content and format. By only using one medium and one message, the brand virtually reached the masses.
  • Are you looking for more channels? Each channel you choose — Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Youtube — should have a slightly different strategy and approach because of how your audience responds and how each platform functions.

Collaborate with Others to Amplify Efforts

Want to go against the whole idea of Black Friday? Embrace Small Business Saturday instead and encourage your audience to support you and collaborate with fellow small businesses (there are a few hashtags, including SmallBizSat, on social you can use to amplify your message).

The campaign has grown each year significantly, with a record £1.1 billion spent with small businesses on Small Business Saturday in 2020 and 15.4 million people choosing to shop small.

If you are partnering with others, do not forget their timeline, adds Stephen McAllister, Head Of Business Intelligence at multi-award-winning digital marketing agency Absolute Digital Media.

“To prepare for Black Friday, plan out products/stock in advance, create a pre-during-post sale message so that you can warm up sales messaging and capture interest via email and post-Black Friday offers so that you don’t see a drop in sales after that.”

Where possible, link your campaign towards Christmas messaging, Stephen continues.

 Ensure promos/sales details are correct (not misleading) and not fabricating pricing by inflating just before and dropping during the sale (making sure you offer an actual sale). A quick sale today but with a bad review will impact your business for future promos!

Stephen McAllister, absolute digital media

A few Ways to Ace your Strategy

Black Friday is a massive opportunity for small businesses, but you must stay smart to keep afloat amongst the sea of sales and special offers flooding everyone’s senses in November.

 When competing against some of the world’s biggest brands, you need to use all the tools at your disposal to succeed – and Cecilia Grigor, managing director of Planit Scotland, has a few tricks up her sleeve:

  • Ensure you’re offering something that your customers want. It’s all well and good to provide gifts or extras with orders, but if they’re not actually of value to your target market, then it’d be best to stick to a decent discount.
  • Be careful not to devalue your brand. If planning a Black Friday sale, steer clear of other autumn and winter offers in the surrounding months. You shouldn’t send out a steady stream of discounts, or your customers will wait for the next offer to come instead of building true brand loyalty. Your Black Friday sale should be a special event.
  • Use every method at your disposal to get the message out there. Communicate your sale to existing customers first to reward their loyalty. Then spread the word far and wide. You can use your website, social media channels, newsletters and online ads effectively – and affordably – to get the message out there.
  • Capitalise on your success. If you’re selling online, ensure you have a GDPR-compliant sign-up option for your newsletter at the checkout. That way, you can keep in touch with new customers and convert them into future brand ambassadors.

Over to you. How are you going to make a difference this Black Friday? 

Whether you entirely moved your business online, are launching a new product, or are looking to shift old stock, Black Friday and Cyber Monday can boost sales when used mindfully.

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