The annual consumer feast known as Black Friday returns this week. If you didn't notice by looking at your calendar, you could be clued in by the ad campaigns seeking to enlarge the piece of the consumer spending pie that is sliced up every year at this time. (Side note: while it's commonly believed Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year, that is incorrect. It is actually the Saturday before Christmas. So plan accordingly.)
While it's a far cry in significance from the effort most brands put into their Super Bowl ads, luring customers on Black Friday is fast becoming a marketing staple. Here's a look at the top four campaigns I've seen this year:
Honorable Mention: Macy's Beliebers
Truth is, I hate giving credit to anything that features Justin Bieber. But you can't deny his star power among pre-adolescent girls, and apparently, among the over-30 female set. That's the smarts in this campaign. Macy's appears to have done its homework and is using a celeb that appeals to people in Gen X and Gen Y - both of which will make up the heart of the Black Friday shopper demo.
Extra style points for taking over the top third of YouTube to promote its sale as well.
Buzz-worthy: JCPenney Foursquare
If nothing else, shopping is a social experience. At least one retailer is acting on that insight and doing good at the same time. For every Foursquare check-in made at a JCPenney location on Black Friday, the company will donate $25 to the Salvation Army. The brand will score major points for doing social good, and will definitely see positive conversations about them in the social space. And that will be a welcome change from this past summer.
Funny, But Not in the 'Ha-ha' Way: Target's Crazy Woman
It's probably the most well-known Black Friday campaign: The woman in the red jogging suit, known as "Christmas Champ," cross training to prep for Target's sale. The campaign is in its third year and is creeping out people in record numbers. Worth the read is this analysis from Adweek.
New this year is a Twitter account of tweets ostensibly from our platinum blonde bargain hunter, @ChristmasChamp. It's worth the follow for the humor, and credit for Target for embracing the character full-on and extending the campaign into social.
Best in Show: Wal Mart
For me, the best campaign is the series of a half-dozen or so 15-second spots supporting Wal Mart's Black Friday sales. The brevity of each allows the ads to conclude before the audience is annoyed. And while none are knee-slappingly hilarious, this ad titled "Hand Cramp" deserves credit for working hard to deliver a message reminding people of Cyber Monday (or Cyber Week), the traditional start of the online shopping season.
Worst Idea Ever: Kohl's
I'm struggling to analogize the campaign Kohl's is undertaking featuring the most annoying song of the millenium to date. Incorporating Rebecca Black's "Friday" into a song about your Black Friday sale may have made sense in the oxygen-deprived board room where the idea was spawned ("Rebecca...Black... Friday. Get it?"), but the advertising world is now worse for having to endure this:
Few songs have garnered universal derision in the way this one has. And while I normally applaud brands for taking a risk, this was not a smart play.
What do you think? Any campaigns I did not include, but should have? Do you have anything to add? Please leave a note in the comments below.
And from my house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving, and happy shopping!
A while back I blogged about a new ad campaign launched by the NBA to rekindle the love formed by many fans of the Jordan-Magic-Bird era. It wasn't a terrible idea and the creative was original, but there's danger in reminding your customers just how much your product has changed - and for the worse - over the years.
At first I thought I was just being nit-picky by over-thinking a single ad campaign. But the ongoing lockout that now threatens the entire NBA season is symptomatic of the same serious PR problem that spawned that ad campaign. The problem is a brand that exudes hubris and tone-deafness, completely unaware that they are spiraling toward total irrelevance.
The timing for this continued stoppage couldn't be worse. The college football and NFL seasons are entering the home stretch, the interest in both rising with the stakes implicit in each game. College basketball - which has for years gained on the NBA in popularity, to the point where many people now prefer it to the professional game - has just started its season, offering a purer alternative for fans who simply can't do without hoops.
In other words, very few people are going to miss the NBA.
Sports provides all kinds of analogies to advertising and PR, because of the raw emotional bond between a game (brand) and its fans (customers). The NBA's overestimation of its own importance is like a brand that operates under the false belief it has a monopoly in its industry. Sure, there is only one prominent professional basketball league (NBDL aside...go Mad Ants), but the entertainment and release sports provides - its brand promise, if you will - are not unique to the NBA. Anecdotally, fewer people are claiming pro hoops as their spectator sport of choice.
I don't know exactly when the NBA starting losing its Jordan-era swagger. (Though if I had to pick a date, it would be when this sort of thing started up.) But if the league isn't careful, it will do irreparable damage to itself and its brand. A brand already falling in popularity risks complete irrelevance when it fails to accurately diagnose its position - in this case, one of striking weakness among its customers.