Exclusive: Black Friday plans from some of the world's biggest brands

black<em>friday</em>plans_blog

Last year's Black Friday took everyone by surprise. Not only did retail records get smashed faster than a discounted coffee maker being beach-balled around a store by MANIAC SHOPPERS, those retailers who didn't get their plans in place repented the error of their ways by planning a long and fruitful retirement begging for change in the nearest gutter.

No one's going to make that mistake again this year. But, this time, it's not about what you offer customers (uh... discounts, obviously - that's kinda the point), it's about how you're going to make your Black Friday / Cyber Monday event stand out among a million identical campaigns from your rivals. (Hint: that's hulking great banner saying '50% OFF' probably ain't gonna cut it when the shop down the road is already getting some make up that scream '75% OFF', and the big box store across town is seriously contemplating 'ALL THE MONIES OFF!'.)

"When everyone advertises the same message the same way, we're all going to get seriously jaded seriously quickly."

It's kind of a no-brainer that, when everyone advertises the same message the same way, we're all going to get seriously jaded seriously quickly. So the smart money's on


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"Native advertising is evil", unless...

native_advertising

An extremely thought-provoking article appeared in The Guardian this week, written by the advertising analyst, Bob Garfield. Via a rather delicious Faustian metaphor, he accuses the publishing industry of selling its soul in its acceptance - possibly even its celebration - of native advertising: sponsored content which serves a brand agenda masquerading as editorially created copy. Or, as Fleet Street's finest used to call it, advertorial.

We'll not explore the ethics of native advertising here. Bob Garfield makes a tremendously compelling case, so compelling in fact that Dr Paul Marsden of Digital Intelligence Today sums up his argument as "native advertising is evil". Certainly, there's a sizeable wolf-in-sheeps-clothing hue to the whole practice, a tacit industry understanding that most advertising is so grubby every possible measure should be taken to ensure that the public doesn't recognise an ad as an ad.

Which seems thoroughly barking to me.

If you're worried that the public will find your adverts underhand or conniving, surely the answer isn't to disguise them as something fluffier. The answer is to make them less underhand and less conniving. To do that, you need to address two fundamental problems with just about all advertising, branding and marketing today:


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Seven tips for retailers wanting to survive a tough spring

11 tips for surviving a tough Q1

It's not just the athletes in Sochi who are suffering a chilly time of it; worldwide retail's undergoing a serious cold snap following icy sales and frosty forecasts. So, what are you going to do to survive what's set to be a pretty brutal Q1?

Well, as the St. Bernard dogs of retail, we've pulled together seven easy-to-implement tips and strategies to keep the wolves from your door and the icicles off your nose. All of these activities can be implemented within weeks, not months, and if you follow our advice we'll guarantee you a positive outcome.

There. That's better already, isn't it?

1. Experiment, experiment, experiment

Same-old-same-old just doesn't cut it anymore. Just look at the retailers who had a bad Christmas this year - they all relied on tedious old tactics like generic across-the-board discounting thinking that what worked in the past would work in the present. The ones who thrived (John Lewis, Next, Ted Baker, Ryman) were the ones who didn't even discount at all but, instead, tried new, engaging tactics to capture the public's imagination. The trick is not to spend months and months over-thinking your experimetns but just to start doing and learning_. _As Dell's


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Social in 2014 is just like the web in 1996

If social media existed in the '90s

Take a look at your favourite brand's Facebook page. It's pretty mature, isn't it? It's well managed, it's active, those guys really know what they're doing. And it's not just Facebook - look at the way businesses use Twitter, Google Plus, Pinterest and a million other tools. Social has definitely come of age.

And then step back and put all this into context. It might seem like we've reached an end-point, like we've gone as far as we possibly can but, in truth, we've only just begun to scratch the surface of social's potential. How do we know that? Because it's happened before - with the birth of e-commerce.

Back in the early to mid '90s, the only corporates who saw a business use for the web were the marketing guys. Excited by this dynamic new platform, they were the ones who established websites for their brands. But the new tech didn't automatically deliver a new way of thinking and, consequently, these websites were little more than online versions of the print brochures and corporate resources they were already producing, coupled with some touchy-feely fun for the customers.

ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things. The UK supermark ASDA's website in 1996 offered everything from jobs and recipes to java games to entertain their customers. The one thing it didn't offer, though, was the ability to buy things.

Meanwhile, pioneers like Pegasus (who set up the world's first online travel agency, and now power giants like Ebookers, Orbitz, Lastminute and Hotwire), eBay and Amazon had identified an infinitely greater potential for the web - the ability to sell direct to customers, any time day or night, anywhere in the world, disintermediating traditional retail, shaving overheads to a bare minimum, reinventing shopping forever. These pioneers invented a whole new channel - e-commerce - and the reward for their innovation was 20+ years of dominance. Brands and traditional retailers are still paying the price for their tardiness back in the '90s, and you only have to look at what's recently happened to the likes of HMV and Jessops to see how costly that price has been.

The same thing will emphatically happen with social. We're still in the mid '90s when it comes to how brands interact with their customers via social. It's a toe in the water - something for marketers to play with. Just like the brochure sites of old, corporate social outposts collate information for their customers, they engage them with fun distractions (competitions, polls, Pinterest boards, pictures of fluffy kittens to share), they stick a flag in the sand for their brands.

But the future will only arrive when social expands beyond the social media we're playing with now, or even the social media marketing people assume is cutting edge. The inevitable, essential future is Social Commerce - shopping where we socialise, buying things with our friends, accessing offers and exclusives via viral networks, influencing the price and nature of products with our collective, social voice.

The question, though, is whether brands and retailers will make the same fatal mistake they made 20 years ago and allow someone else to corner the market before they can get so much as a foot in the door. There's still time to act, but the next six months are going to be fascinating to watch.


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Going, going, gone. What's going to happen to retail when the sales are over?

Sale Ends Today

Oh, Banksy. Always bang on the money with your witty observations (although - ironic art fact! - this oil on canvas swipe at consumerism didn't actually sell when Sotheby's tried to auction it in 2008). We are totally obsessed with sales, which is why it comes as no surprise that everyone from Buckingham Palace to the 99p Store chain is knocking off money quicker than the late Ronnie Biggs (incidentally, how do 99p Stores have sales?!).

Unsurprisingly, that's led to a slightly busier high street than usual (though not everywhere, it seems), but let's not kid ourselves here: people aren't shopping because the recession's over and they're merrily splashing the cash. They're stockpiling in preparation for the moment the sales end, making sure they have everything they need before that 80% off is actually off.

At which point, everything's likely to get rather bleak.

Traditionally, the post-sales period between leading up to Easter has been retail's time to experiment: click-and-collect, loyalty cards, even the world's first ever online store (1992's Book Stacks Unlimited) all came into being during Februaries past (as did the mobile internet and Facebook, incidentally). So now's definitely the time to plan something fresh and innovative.

The


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