4 communication lessons from Black Friday

The thrill of the hunt and the power of tradition spur people to buy immediately after Thanksgiving, yet these principles can be effective any time of year.

I’m not a Black Friday shopper. I hate shopping in general, so it horrifies me to think about doing it during the post-Thanksgiving chaos.

Regardless, there are many lessons we can learn from Black Friday to enhance our communications plans. The shopping holiday highlights some key aspects of buyer psychology that every communications pro should know.

1. Acknowledge the power of tradition.

Tradition is a powerful way to motivate people to take action. We do things—often without thinking—because they’re traditions.

This is especially true around the holidays.

Black Friday, for better or worse, has become a tradition in many families. This is important for two reasons when it comes to purchase decisions.

First, tradition helps a product or service leap past competitors because of prior awareness and familiarity. In some ways, tradition is the ultimate word-of-mouth marketing tactic.

It’s implied that a customer will continue to buy a given product or service simply because “it’s tradition,” even if the product is inferior or not as well targeted for the buyer as a competitor’s item.

When drafting a communications plan, it’s important to consider how your product might be part of a consumer’s traditions, or how you could position it to become part of one. Whether you’re promoting a new or established brand, creating an opportunity for buyers to make a product part of their tradition is smart for long-term loyalty and growth.

Second, as we know from Black Friday, shopping itself can be the tradition. Buyers go into Black Friday motivated and willing to buy simply because shopping the day after Thanksgiving is a tradition.

Buying is more fun if it’s an experience. A well-developed communications plan considers ways to accomplish this.

2. Understand the thrill of the hunt.

Shopping is like modern day hunting and gathering. Black Friday shopping provides the thrill of the hunt.

As marketers, we know the importance of scarcity and urgency in purchase decisions. Black Friday heavily evokes these tactics, and it feeds our hunting/gathering tendency to want to beat others to the prize.

A key to scarcity and urgency that many marketers forget is authenticity. (Inauthenticity has diluted some retailers’ Black Friday efforts).

If you’re going to rely on scarcity and urgency in your communications plan, you must follow the guidelines you set. That means if you say you have 200 spots available for a class, you can’t accept more than 200 attendees, even if more than 200 people want to sign up.

If you say your sale will end at a certain time, you must end it when you say you will-even if you could get make more money by extending it.

Your communications plan shouldn’t overuse these tactics, or you’ll lose customers’ trust and loyalty in exchange for one-time conversions. Any tactic in your communications plan should contribute to your long-term goals.

3. Overcome sale anxiety.

One obstacle you’ll face when you include discounts and sales in a communications plan is the risk that a consumer will devalue the product because it’s on sale.

For many of us, price dictates value. Luxury goods are considered luxurious partially because they cost more. When you put a product on sale, people tend to think there might be something wrong with it—a reason that it doesn’t warrant the full price.

Black Friday sales overcome this because the sale is part of the event and tradition. Product and service values remain high, and consumers feel that they’re getting a deal, which prompts the brain’s reward system.

If discounts and sales are in your communications plan, include a strategy to offset perceived devaluation. You can do this through messaging, timing, loyalty rewards or customer exclusivity.

4. Build a community around related topics.

One of the most interesting Black Friday tactics you should include in your communications plan is community building.

There are whole Facebook groups, blogs, Twitter threads, Instagram hashtags, Pinterest boards and influencers hosting communities of Black Friday shoppers. These platforms help people to connect, so they can discuss and ultimately become more excited about Black Friday.

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When you incorporate community building into your communications plan, ask yourself:

  • What discussion topics can we introduce?
  • What platforms can we use to help people engage with us and each other around those topics?
  • How can we use the four media types to expand our community?

What other lessons can you take away from Black Friday?

A version of this article originally appeared on Spin Sucks.

Topics: PR

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