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“The Culture around Black Friday Is Changing; But Not Because of Covid"

Trends and Insight 115 Add to collection

Five by Five’s client service director George Roberts outlines what will - and what won’t - be unique about Black Friday 2020

“The Culture around Black Friday Is Changing; But Not Because of Covid"

A digital watch for dad, headphones for your partner, and the latest gaming kit for the kids - all at bargain prices. Perhaps this year more than any other, it doesn’t take much to figure out why Black Friday is always so eagerly anticipated across the world.

And nowhere will that anticipation be more keenly felt than in the marketing and comms industry. With the traditional retail model (along with so much else) cast asunder in 2020, the year’s ultimate sales event stands as an enormous opportunity to make the most out of a particularly challenging twelve months. Millions will be hoping for a significant uptick in business in order to counteract the missed opportunities of 2020.

Fortunately, there is reason to believe that these unique circumstances won’t necessarily translate into a lacklustre Black Friday as some have suggested. Along with the Five by Five team, I’ve been looking into just what marketers and businesses should - and shouldn’t - expect from 2020’s final flagship sales event.


Change in the Air?

First of all, what can we expect to be different this year? Online will be the dominant venue for businesses and shoppers alike - perhaps even the exclusive venue in the UK, at least. As a result, we’re going to see an increase in spend for digital and social channels.

Amidst the historic focus on digital, however, I would caution against neglecting traditional TV advertising. As lockdowns of varying shapes and sizes have kept us indoors, the TV has become something of a social hearth in 2020. Just take the recent launch of the latest ‘I’m A Celebrity’ series; despite the modern digital revolution, the show pulled in the highest ratings it’s ever enjoyed. At least 2020’s been a good year for Ant and Dec, then. 

One concrete change we might expect to see are the categories expecting to have a good Black Friday. The event has always been a stellar one for tech and electronics, and there’s no reason to expect that to change this year. Less traditionally, however, it will be worth seeing whether home improvement and DIY products continue their impressive 2020. Clearly, our increased time inside four walls motivates us to enhance them. On the flipside, it could be a tough year for fashion as fewer of us than ever see a need to glam up for a night on the town.

That changing landscape carries with it an extra sense of importance this year. Given that we might expect consumers to spend less than they traditionally do during the holiday season, I believe that brands will be in competition with each other far outside of their own categories. With a finite budget in our wallets, brands will find their set of competitors broadened to include alternatives as opposed to regular competition. 


A Time for Tradition? 

Despite the unique context, Black Friday 2020 won’t be unrecognisably different from previous years. This pandemic did not invent online shopping, it simply accelerated the already fast-moving trend towards it. 

I believe this story of evolution rather than revolution could well be exemplified in the tone of ads and comms surrounding the event. Whilst we might see a slightly different approach from brands this year, our contention is that this will be driven by ideas relating to purpose - in particular sustainability - rather than a direct response to Coronavirus or lockdown. 

I’ve had a few conversations with clients regarding their approach to advertising and comms for this festive period, and there’s been a notable reluctance to go out with an unashamedly sales-based ad given the supposed national mood. 

Our advice, however, has been for brands to be consistent with communications that align with their core values. Our work with Screwfix this year underscores this point - when you maintain a consistent style of communication, you’ll build an audience that responds to it. To put it more bluntly, not everything needs to have a sombre, grey piano playing over the top of it. In fact, it could well be that people will appreciate some lightness and colour in their ads this year more than most.


The Bigger Picture

Ultimately, the culture around Black Friday is changing; but not because of Coronavirus. The changes we’re seeing this year - be it the importance of online shopping or the rise in purpose-driven brands - are driven by forces that long predate the pandemic. 

For that reason, Black Friday 2020 can’t be treated entirely as a one-off. The digital revolution won’t be stopped by a Covid vaccine, and the demand for sustainable brands will be there long after kids start learning about 2020 in history class. The industry of the future is digital, and it’s driven by purpose - and that’s a good thing.


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Five by Five, Fri, 27 Nov 2020 10:07:25 GMT