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Performance Marketing November 30, 2018

Black Friday & Cyber Monday: Outstanding Opportunity or a Marketing Mishap?


We’ve just experienced the biggest promotional event of the year: Black Friday / Cyber Monday weekend. Across the UK, thousands of brands offered heavily discounted prices to lure consumers during the busiest weekend in the calendar for pre-Christmas shopping. But is this really an effective tactic?

With many consumers poised to spend big money, Black Friday is a great opportunity for companies to generate short term revenue, but could an event where the key focus is on price also hinder longer term marketing investment? This blog post discusses some of the key mistakes we’ve seen brands make over the weekend, and some of the brands who have effectively used this huge promotional occasion to their advantage…

Where did brands go wrong this weekend?

In partaking in promotional events such as Black Friday, brands are competing with not only their direct competitors, but also with hundreds of other brands all with the same goal: get the consumer to pay attention to their Black Friday deals. For the busy consumer, inboxes become a sea of monotonous ‘Black Friday Bargains’ subject lines.

Here’s a snapshot of my inbox within a two-hour period last Friday. Although several very different brands were sending me offers, all of them had very similar subject lines and none of them had enough standout to make me engage:

ImageThe abundance of Black Friday messaging doesn’t stop at subject lines. These three very different clothing brands sent email communications which all followed the same basic design principal: A dark header with prominent “Black Friday” messaging:

As customers receive copious, similar looking emails, it’s very easy for Black Friday to overpower the unique product offering of these brands. With none of these emails prominently showing a product offering or a unique selling point, the Black Friday discounts became disjointed from each brand’s unique value proposition.

Another important factor which is often overlooked on Black Friday / Cyber Monday is segmentation. Black Friday weekend is an example of brands blasting their entire database with a ‘one-size-fits-all’ communications approach. Without proper segmentation, this can have a detrimental effect on revenue and a brand’s relationship with their customers.

Speaking from personal experience, I recently decided to make a very considered investment in a new mattress. The brand, SIMBA, has rave reviews and a friend of mine gave me a coupon code for a small discount. Then, a week after making the purchase, I received this text message from SIMBA on Black Friday:



Annoyed that the item I had recently purchased had now been reduced, I went back to SIMBA, who agreed to refund me the difference on the price I had paid versus the promotional price. Great for my bank account, but SIMBA missed out on an extra £70 worth of revenue by not segmenting me out of their Black Friday campaign.

So which brands got Black Friday right?

Apple was the first stand-out brand that used Black Friday to its advantage. It positioned its promotion as an ‘Apple Shopping Event’, incorporating its own branding into the promotion, with no mention of ‘Black Friday’. This enabled the brand to take advantage of those consumers poised to take advantage of the sales, whilst standing out from brands explicitly marketing under ‘Black Friday’.

The email design is clean and creates urgency. It communicates a key selling point, while including strong visual imagery of its product offering in the header. This is consistent with the brand’s usual branding, putting Apple, not Black Friday, at the forefront of the promotion. As such, Apple is still propositioned as the high value brand that consumers desire.



Another good example of a brand that clearly strategised its Black Friday proposition is Virgin Trains. Like Apple, Virgin Trains did not present discount offerings as part of a Black Friday promotion. Instead, the transportation company harnessed the power of personalisation to offer its customers a discount on a specific route that they’ve previously travelled on. Presenting each specific customer with a discount on the product or service which is most likely to have value for them is a fantastic tactic to encourage customer loyalty and repeat sales.



Another brand worth a mention is food delivery company Deliveroo. This brand used the context of Black Friday to create a clever and timely discount proposition encouraging its customers not to “shop on an empty stomach”.

With well-written copy about being “bombarded with bargains” and “fighting through seas of people”, Deliveroo was able to effectively address consumers’ Black Friday experiences and enhance those experiences with a discounted service offering.



Three rules to Black Friday success

To conclude, Black Friday and similar big promotional events can be a great way for brands to generate fast, short term revenue. However, in order to gain the best return on investment for their marketing efforts, keep customers loyal and generate repeat sales, brands must remember a three important rules:

1.       Never allow a promotion to overpower their own branding;

2.       Always have a proper segmentation strategy;

3.       Utilise personalisation to offer products that customers are most likely to want to purchase, based on historical transactions or behavioural data. 

If you’d like to find out more UK consumers and what drives them to be loyal to a brand, check out our latest research study, ‘How Brand Loyal are UK Consumers’.

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