Black Friday missed opportunity for UK experiential, industry highlights

With 65% of Britain's multi-channel retailers planning Black Friday promotions today (28 November) and throughout this weekend, agency representatives have told Event that the UK experiential marketing sector is missing a trick.

Should brands be targeting UK shoppers with Black Friday experiential campaigns? (Wikipedia)
Should brands be targeting UK shoppers with Black Friday experiential campaigns? (Wikipedia)

The Black Friday concept – a discount day introduced by online retailer Amazon into the UK market in 2010 – has become increasingly popular in the US for bargain shoppers looking for deals the day after Thanksgiving.

According to a survey commissioned by Barclays, more retailers are looking to offer Black Friday deals in the UK this year, including John Lewis, Dixons, Marks & Spencer and Argos. However, Chris Parnham, managing director of Absolute Corporate Events, said the outlook is unpromising for the UK events market to activate experiential campaigns on and around Black Friday.

"As always, the US are leading the way with commercial innovation," he said. "Sadly we are following in a cautious and measured British fashion. The events industry has not taken the initiative at all, and left it to the supermarkets to cash in on it.

"Our landscape is clear and empty, allowing for one or a few innovative players to steal a true lead this time next year. With a year to plan the campaign, I hope an innovative player takes advantage of this. But I think in the UK’s version of Black Friday may be more like bleak Friday."

Stuart Bradbury, managing partner at Avantgarde UK, said Black Friday isn’t an opportunity for building brand awareness yet but purely a sales driven/cost promotion opportunity for brands. "As Black Friday grows and becomes a fixed highlight on the UK commercial calendar, brands will learn how to maximise this opportunity through online promotions, incentives and rewards."

Industry expert Chris Clarke said UK experiential campaigns around Black Friday could work in the future as more corporate clients are showing an interest in both European and US markets. "Even if one didn’t travel to the US, it would definitely be a time to capitalise on how similar certain aspects of life have become between our two countries. Movies, shops, hotels, airlines and restaurant chains are often American – so it would not take much of a leap of faith for them to be at the vanguard of the events industry in celebrating this commercial phenomenon. After all, it has worked with Halloween well enough.

"Personally, I think that anything that gives us a ‘hook’ to hang an event campaign ideas hat from has to be a good thing. Brands and agencies might embrace the idea of Thanksgiving and Black Friday as a basis from which we might activate their next events-based campaign. The big question however is who is going to be brave enough to try the idea out first?"

Kelly Grindle, associate director at Cake, revealed brands should be leveraging Black Friday as a marketing opportunity, just like many do around other 'over the pond' traditions such as Halloween. 

"One of our clients at Cake is Shop Direct, home to online department stores Very.co.uk and Littlewoods.com," he explained. "They have put a concerted effort into marketing this year, and initial reports from this morning show they are selling an average of eight products per second online, which is nearly triple the response they had to Black Friday last year. 

"Even though this is a 'one-day event', the brands that are the most successful are those that plan far in advance, and actually activate in the weeks leading up to Black Friday. In the UK there seems to be a massive spike in activity the day before Black Friday but little activation in the weeks leading up to the event. Brands need to make noise early in order to establish their share of voice, just like the major retailers do at Christmas."

Hugh Robertson, chief executive of RPM, explained this is an opportunity for the UK experiential market to learn from our friends across the pond. "Lessons to be learned from the US are that less is more," he said. "Consumers don't want to have to spend time with complicated ideas.

"Apple has launched its Red campaign for the next four days that donates an undisclosed sum from each product sale to aid charities. Whilst Santander has taken it a step further by creating an integrated campaign that encourages families to spend time together instead of shopping, which allows the brand to align themselves with family and seasonal values, creating a lasting impression for the rest of the holiday season. Very clever indeed."

Should more brands be activating their experiential campaigns around Black Friday in the UK? Comment below to let us know what you think.

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