Friday, November 13, 2009

How Word-Of-Mouth Marketing Changed Black Friday Forever

As marketers, we tell our clients - "Don't create a Web site or a blog if you don't have a plan to maintain it." Practice what you preach, right? Apparently life seems to get in the way of great blogging intentions, and we'd wager a guess that we're not alone in that. Please pardon our lengthy blogging hiatus.

Back to today's post...Black Friday, the most sacred of bargain shopping days and the official kick-off to the traditional holiday shopping season, used to be the highlight of opening the Thanksgiving Day newspaper. It was so stuffed with advertisements that you felt sorry for the neighborhood kids stuck with paper routes that day, lugging around bags full of newspapers 10X the size of a Sunday paper. Newspaper and TV ads promoting "lowest prices of the year" and "doorbuster specials" were the media of choice for retailers. And consumers were limited to a 24-hour sneak peek at those great bargains.

In the last few years, either employees of the printing companies responsible for the ads or store employees looking to share the inside scoop with friends and family, discovered that scanning the ads and e-mailing copies of the circulars could make them instant heroes. That inside information was power. Not only could you find out where all the great deals were a few days before the Shopping Holy Day, but you could map out your shopping strategy for the morning in hopes of knocking out your entire Christmas shopping list in a matter of hours.

Oh, has technology changed that. There are now e-mail lists, Web sites, Twitter accounts and Facebook pages dedicated to Black Friday (BF). If you're a dedicated bargain hunter looking for BF deals, you're on the prowl more than a month in advance. Retailers recognize the increased sales potential and are likely leaking copies of the ads to prominent bloggers and Web sites to encourage the hype. Poor-quality scans of the circulars are making their way online already in late October. Sites like http://www.bfads.net/ and http://www.blackfriday2009.com/ have loyal fans and subscribers to their e-mail alerts and more than 64,000 followers on Facebook. While those sites go quiet in the shopping "off season," the fans and followers remain loyal - hoping to be the first to hear of leaked ads and this year's great deals. Shoppers are resourceful and willing to help other bargin hunters, sharing secrets and shopping tips to find the best deals.

The economy has undoubtedly played a role in increased store hours and earlier openings on BF, but we'd like to think that consumer demand for discounts and deals, and now having weeks to plan the perfect BF shopping day, have also contributed significantly to the changes.

You know where we'll be on Friday, November 27!

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