Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

What does Black Friday mean during a cost of living crisis?

Ahead of Black Friday, NDA asked industry experts for their views on what this year’s event means for the industry.

Alex Walker, Senior Strategist, Tribal Worldwide

Álex is a seasoned Brand Strategist with over twelve years of experience solving advertising problems for blue-chip brands like Nike, Volkswagen or AB InBev across a diverse media ecosystem – leading to award-winning campaigns such as Cannes, Effies or Ojo de Iberoamerica. He’s particularly excited about the changes that digital is bringing to people’s lives and their relationships with brands.

It’s that time of the year again: with Halloween behind us and the holidays ahead, businesses are bombarding our mailboxes with promotional emails, and our social media feeds are filled with one thing—Black Friday.

And rightly so. With the current political turmoil and global events affecting our economy, 67% of brits are more interested in Black Friday this year due to the impending cost-of-living crisis, according to research from LoyaltyLion.

As consumers are preparing to stock up, companies should too. There’s (yet) another cataclysm for which the best future-facing brands are already preparing for: the cookie-less future. Chrome is planning to block third-party cookies in 2024, and (most probably) 2022 and 2023 will be the last years to anticipate non-third-party data digital marketing – massively increasing customer acquisition costs. 

Black Friday is a fantastic window of opportunity to collect data. According to 71% of consumers are willing to share this information with marketers in exchange for personalised recommendations. 

Why not start with your existing clients?  55% of brits felt that brands should focus this BF on making their existing customers feel special over winning new customers.

In exchange for value, explicit data collection – aka zero party data – will result in a greater understanding of your customers and build long-lasting relationships that will prepare both valuable customers and respectable brands for whatever storm may come.

Rowenna Prest, Chief Strategy Officer, Joint

Black Friday is a reasonably young concept in the UK. For many of us born pre 2010, the key sales moment in the calendar was Boxing Day. And from a consumer perspective, this made sense. Stores had stocked up for the Christmas period and anything that hadn’t been sold by the 25th needed to be gotten rid of – and quickly – so, the discounts were queueing-from-the-early-hours worthy.  The benefits for customers were undeniable. And a no-brainer to advertise.

By contrast as an American import, Black Friday can seem a little contrived. In sunnier times this didn’t really matter – after all who doesn’t love a bargain?  But with the Consumer Price Index currently at 8.8% compared to 1.1% when Black Friday first took off in the UK, what consumers need is radically different.

Whilst communicating great deals in the short term will inevitably create a spike in sales, the longer-term brand impact is likely to be less. As people struggle with the rising costs to heat their homes, fill up their car and put food on the table, being told you can buy a cut price TV might feel a little tone deaf. If advertisers do want to take advantage of Black Friday then they need to make sure it doesn’t come across as a one-off sales-driving spike. It needs to feel part of a broader brand narrative which is focused on supporting consumers through this difficult time.  

Holly Gammage, Senior Copywriter, Interbrand UK

Given the cost-of-living crisis, it is imperative that brands show an awareness and empathy for the reality their consumers face. And, of course, as Black Friday approaches, how brands show up will rightly be called into question. There needs to be a cognizance that bare-faced ‘buy buy buy’ messaging is simply not appropriate when so many families are struggling to heat their homes or put food on the table. Instead, brands might consider a few different approaches, with varying degrees of impact: 

  • Instead of slashing prices, keep everything full price, and donate the percentage that items would have been discounted to a charity that helps people living in hunger and poverty. Make sure you advertise this charitable initiative with consumers. 
  • Instead of dramatic one-off price cuts that encourage bingeing, opt for more consistent deals and offers, beyond Black Friday, that will help people in the long run.
  • Show you are on the consumers’ side, rather than staging a money-making frenzy. The best way to do this is to be open and honest. Speak to consumers in a way that addresses the elephant in the room. Use inclusive language, showing that we are all in this together. Don’t be blinded by the temptation to sell when you might be missing an opportunity to build a connection. Building trust and loyalty is something to be prioritised in trying times.   
  • Create opportunities for consumers to donate essential items or money to relevant charities at the checkout. E.g. Would you like to add a pair of warm socks for a person in need to your basket? Be part of a solution, rather than remaining blind to the problem.