Black Friday: Winning on Purpose

The biggest shopping season is nearly upon us. You all know what we are talking about: Black Friday. It’s intense.

Black Friday is a key period in any retailer’s calendar, as prices are cut and sales rise. If you want to dominate this Black Friday, then having a strong marketing strategy is crucial. You have to know your brand and your consumer so that you connect with the people who will engage with your product or service and hit that check out.

But what if engaging with Black Friday goes against your brand identity?

There is great pressure and a general assumption from consumers that retailers will want to jump on major discounts and compete for sales. But as the cost of living and environmental crisis continue to pervade our way of life, should the emphasis really be on excess consumption?

According to the WRAP, 30% of fast fashion clothing never gets worn – in the UK alone, around 300,000 tonnes of clothes are burned or buried in landfill each year. Bad for the environment, and bad for everyone’s bank account.

With so many adapting to afford the basics, shouldn’t we instead focus on creating a sustainable and environmentally conscious way of living? Surely we should be consuming carefully, and in a manner that helps both ourselves and the planet.

Google’s own studies find that 20% of shoppers prioritise and research sustainability specifically when purchasing. This indicates that selling to shoppers’ value systems can pay too.

There have been some amazing Black Friday campaigns by companies who choose to redefine what Black Friday means. In fact, these can end up standing out from the crowd far more than the discount-heavy emails sent out on Black Friday. 116.5 million to be exact.

Whether it is encouraging second-hand purchasing, charity donations, or boycotting the event altogether, here are some of our favourite campaigns which change the narrative of Black Friday.

Lucy & YakFior di Loto Friday’

Lucy & Yak are a sustainable clothing brand, which has grown from a love of selling vintage clothes on Depop to creating designs of their own. We’re all familiar with their funky dungarees, very cool. Given their history, they are passionate about upcycling and re-homing garments instead of seeing them ditched in a fast-fashion world. They even sell Re-Yak packs which contain cuts of fabric for you to repair your damaged dungarees and prevent wastage.

Instead of Black Friday, Lucy & Yak have Fior di Loto Friday. They choose to donate one third of their profits to the Fior di Loto school, and encourage other companies to get involved. They brand it in such a way that you know exactly how your money is helping, and what your purchase means for those on the other side. And because Lucy & Yak pride themselves on their sustainability (they are GOTS certified), you know that your purchases are being handled in a way that aims to be environmentally friendly – check out their impact report.

REI ‘#OptOutside’

This is a great example of how taking a stand can become a movement. It also shows the power of a UGC hashtag campaign when the message is right.

REI is a purpose-led brand who immerse themselves in all things outdoors. As well as acting as a vendor for all the necessary equipment needed to get exploring, they are really hands-on in a practical way. This takes the shape of offering classes to teach you things like trailside bike repairs, or camping basics. They also offer a trade-in service where you send in all your old gear in exchange for a giftcard to prevent waste.

Instead of Black Friday, REI promotes #OptOutside. In 2015, they closed their stores on Black Friday, while paying their 12,000 staff to spend time outdoors. America was encouraged to join them, pulling focus from consumerism to quality time in the natural world. What was the response? 1.4million people and 170 outdoor companies, non-profits, and organisations chose to spend their time outside. The following year, this number quadrupled. Pretty motivational if you ask us.

But #OptOutside isn’t just about getting outdoors. It is about making sure that enjoying time in the outdoors is accessible to everyone. They are partnered with some amazing companies like Wild Diversity, Center for Native American YouthAdaptive Adventures and Friends of the LA River  where they work towards the end goal of making outdoor culture an inviting and safe space for everyone.

IKEA ‘Buy Back Friday’

Everyone’s beloved furniture brand has their own sustainability campaign for Black Friday; Buy Back Friday.

IKEA has always been driven by the company vision to create a better everyday life for the many people.” In fact, IKEA’s founder Ingvar Kamprad started the company with his own family in mind after growing up in the depression. It is then unsurprising that prioritising a bring-back scheme on Black Friday was a key focus; it is a great way to encourage people to save money and resources rather than spend them. In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, customers can bring back old items in exchange for an IKEA gift card, which is a great incentive for those who are maybe on the edge of participating.

Maium “We are Off”

Maium is a Dutch outerwear brand.  Pledged to sustainable fashion, their raincoats are made from recycled plastic, and their polybags are biodegradable. Recycling for them is key, and they make it a focal point of their brand’s ethos.

On Black Friday, they chose to switch off by shutting down their online store and hosting an online 10 minute rain meditation instead (presumably inspired by their rainwear, a clever and thoughtful bit of marketing). They also pledged to plant 10 trees for every raincoat sold the following week to combat the negative impact fast fashion has on the environment. 

So, what now?

It is important to consider what other ways we can approach Black Friday in a world where over consumption is often encouraged. How can we tread the line of engaging with it while also considering what is good for the planet long term? As we can see from the above examples, there are ways in which you can participate in Black Friday’s sales without compromising your company’s values. Charity donations, or buy-back schemes work wonders. Or, you can encourage people to take some time away from consumption altogether by offering another option (we’d definitely be up for some rain meditation.)

Action Points to Take With You

  1. Resonate with your Customers; Sell on value! Build your campaign on a cause which your community care about and already come to you for. If your customer base is built upon people who are passionate about sustainability and the environment, then call them to action through rallying around this issue (eg. Maium). And the chances are that if this is your customer base, this is already something you care about.
  2. Make it Memorable; Out with the old and in with the new! Ditch the traditional #blackfriday and make it personal. The list of brands doing this to great effect goes beyond those mentioned above. Take Chatty Feet for example; their Black Friday slogan was #putasockinit, which effectively summed up their stance on Black Friday while simultaneously alluding to their marketplace.
  3. Own it; you are never going to win with all the noise if you sound like everyone else. Think about what makes your brand different and reflect this in your marketing. Is it a certain product? Is it a certain look? Or is the message? How can you own your category and customer relationship?

Black Friday doesn’t have to be about hyper-consumerism. It could be a thoughtful and considered platform where we support our communities and shed light upon important topics of conversation. Is it time for Black Friday’s role in our society to change?