What’s so special about November 30, 2020? It was only the biggest ever day for online shopping in US history, with over $10 billion in sales. Sales were highest between 7pm and 8pm Pacific time, at $12 million per minute. Over 35% of purchases were made on smartphones, and curbside pick-up was up 30% over the previous year.
Yes, Cyber Monday 2020 was peak pandemic, so these figures are not surprising. Even so, they highlight just how competitive Cyber Weekend has become for retailers, and why Black Friday and Cyber Monday continue to be the busiest and most important times of the year in the seasonal marketing calendar.
In such conditions, one of the things that marketers can really use is a bit of extra inspiration, and especially if they want to stand out in crowded BFCM markets. You don’t need to come up with a genius idea – you just need to find that hook to grab the attention of your target audience. This takes some originality and creativity, but it is doable.
Let’s take a look at Black Friday campaigns that we thought stood out for their brilliance and performance, and perhaps these will help inspire your next Black Friday marketing win.
Walmart – #Unwrapthedeals
Every marketer knows that interactive content works, but creating something that really stands out is a challenge. That’s why we loved Walmart’s TikTok campaign that turned Black Friday sales into a fun, engaging, gamified experience. The campaign used a shoppable TikTok filter that enabled customers to “unwrap” virtual deals and discover Black Friday surprises. Using the #Unwrapthedeals hashtag, TikTokers posted their challenges for all to see, and if they liked their win? They could click straight to the product page on Walmart’s website and buy it. The campaign was a phenomenal success, with over 5.5 billion hashtag views, and an 18.4% engagement rate, breaking all TikTok Hashtag Challenge benchmarks.
IKEA – #BuybackFriday
Today’s consumers are super aware of global issues like sustainability, and they love brands that share their values. Rather than just relying on the usual Black Friday discount concept, IKEA meshed its brand values with its annual Black Friday marketing to launch the #BuybackFriday campaign. The campaign, which ran for a week in 27 countries, gave customers the opportunity to return used IKEA furniture and receive a credit voucher for up to 50% of the value of the item. Items that could not be resold were recycled or donated to communities in need. This is a great way to celebrate Black Friday and offer genuine discounts to customers while ‘walking the talk’ of commitment to brand values.
Best Buy – Black Friday… in July
Getting ahead of the competitors is always a good tactic in marketing. Best Buy decided to take it to the extreme, offering a “Black Friday in July” sale with big discounts on open box and clearance items – in July. At the end of the day, this campaign was simply a cheeky way to leverage the buzz of the “Black Friday” concept a few months early. And it’s a smart way to bring attention to the brand, at a time when no one else is talking about Black Friday. Why wait till November, when customers are absolutely bombarded with Black Friday offers everywhere they turn? The early bird catches the worm, so to speak.
Costco – The day the deals “leaked”
Speaking of cheeky marketing tactics, there’s nothing like a “leak” to drive interest and attention. In this case, a news item presented the (shocking!) news that Costco’s Black Friday ad had been leaked early online, giving a sneak preview of some of the sales and discounts that will soon be on offer, like $499 large screen TVs and $200 laptops. Although transparent, somehow it does the trick of building anticipation and making sure that Costco stays top-of-mind among consumers in the leadup to the big day.
Patagonia – ‘Buy Less, Demand More’
Outdoor clothing and gear brand Patagonia is well-known for its challenging, value-based approach to everything it does, and its 2020 Black Friday campaign was absolutely no exception. The company wrote and promoted a ‘reversible’ poem to raise awareness about the urgent need to save the planet. And there’s no better time to remind consumers of the importance of ‘buying less’ than during the frenzied shopping season. The poem can be read in both directions – start to finish, or in reverse. Read normally, it is a lament about the state of our world; read backwards, it’s a call to action. The ad was promoted with a full page ad buy in the New York Times, and while it took a 180-degree turn away from traditional Black Friday marketing, it definitely turned heads.
The Verge – Mystery bag
Grabbing consumer attention around Black Friday is tough. So many sales, so many deals, so many ads! People love free stuff, so a good quality competition will always be a winner, and that’s exactly what The Verge tech news website did. To celebrate Black Friday, it created a competition to win a mystery bag full of their favorite tech gear and gadgets, But as we all know, nothing is ever really free, so in order to enter the competition, people were asked to follow @VergeDeals Twitter account. Existing followers just had to log in to Twitter to get entered into the competition, and they could even enter again in exchange for a retweet. It’s a lot of potential reward for a few clicks – totally worth it and also a great way to engage readers and get those retweets during the tweet-filled holiday period.
Amazon Fire TV – Influencer marketing
What do you get when you mix macro-influencer marketing, pop-up stores, and live content sessions? You get an awesome Black Friday marketing campaign for Amazon Fire TV. OK, so this is an example of a resource-intensive campaign that won’t suit many businesses, but it’s a great source of inspiration for how to stand out and create Black Friday buzz. During the campaign, celebrities hosted a week-long schedule of curated programming at an LA mall, building brand awareness for Amazon Fire TV with live sessions demonstrating how to use the product to prepare for the holidays. A pop-up store was nearby to capture foot traffic of engaged customers, and local LA-based influencers were invited to visit and receive a free device in exchange for exposure on their social media accounts. The best of the Hollywood spirit and the best of Black Friday marketing.
Banana Republic – Video ad
2020 was not your average year, so it wasn’t your average Black Friday either. Due to pandemic lockdowns and social distancing, there was more online shopping and less in-store shopping. Plus the mood was more subdued than usual too. Banana Republic did a nice job under these conditions with a warm and mellow Black Friday ad. Set against scenes of loving couples and families in quiet, isolated settings, there was of course the obligatory 50% off promotion. And while the 2020 campaign was focused on providing Black Friday shoppers with all they need online without having to leave home, this year the brand will also put more effort into getting foot traffic back into stores.
Space Camp – Buy now, experience later
One of the powerful aspects of Black Friday deals is that they are instant. Get your heavily discounted microwave today and start cooking! That works great for products, but what about services? What about events or happenings that might only occur a few weeks or months from now? That’s no reason not to get on the Black Friday bandwagon. Space Camp does it every year, offering early registration to summer camps and seminars at discounted Black Friday prices. Black Friday is actually a great way to secure those bookings and revenue well in advance, by offering discounted prices for future events. If you are selling a service or workshop that customers will be using in the future, consider offering advance bookings at special prices for your Black Friday marketing tactic.
We’ll be updating this post every year with exciting and engaging examples of Black Friday campaigns to inspire you to stand out. Stay tuned for more.