By Stuart Elliott, Published in The New York Times on November 18, 2012
Each year, the day afterThanksgiving, known asBlack Friday, looms larger on the retail calendar as a starting point for the Christmas shopping season. This year, marketers outside the realm of retailing hope to get into the act.
Many of those marketers are offering deals and discounts that are patterned after the limited-time, price-chopping “doorbuster” sales at stores. Others are sponsoring events meant to catch the attention of shoppers and be discussed on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
In some instances, the marketers are unwilling to wait until Friday to climb aboard the Black Friday bandwagon, scheduling promotions that begin as soon as Monday.
The campaigns are examples of a marketing tactic known as “borrowed interest,” in which advertisers seek to associate themselves with major, topical events that are followed by the proverbial “everyone.” This has been a busy year for such campaigns, what with the spate of ads trying to take advantage of widespread interest in headline-grabbers likeHurricane Sandy,the presidential electionandthe mission of Curiosity, the Mars rover.
So to help bring out a new version of Di-gel, the brand of over-the-counter stomach remedy, the Ilex Consumer Products Group will host what it is calling a Black Friday Comfort Zone for shoppers, on Fifth Avenue between 17th and 18th Streets in Manhattan. From 6 a.m. to midnight, there will be restrooms, a heated tent, phone-charging stations, comfortable seats and samples of the new Di-gel.
“While holiday shopping is supposed to be fun, it creates a lot of stress, and there’s no more stress than on Black Friday,” said Bernie Kropfelder, executive vice president and general manager for over-the-counter products at Ilex in Baltimore. “We thought this would be a nice respite.”
The promotion also helps underline the theme of the advertising campaign for Di-gel, he added, which is “When you overdo, undo.”
The fact that “a lot of shoppers” on Black Friday are women is another good reason for the promotion, Mr. Kropfelder said, because unlike “all of our competitors, who use a fairly masculine approach” in their advertising, Di-gel is being aimed at women.
The Di-gel campaign, which includes commercials and digital ads, is being handled by the GKV agency in Baltimore.
Another marketer emulating what retailers do for Black Friday is also pitching a new product. The Balance Bar Company, part of Brynwood Partners VI, is introducing the Balance Bar Dark linewith a 50 percent discountfor consumers who make purchases on Drugstore.com through Dec. 1.
“The timing with Black Friday made it an obvious choice for us,” said Erin Lifeso, Director of Marketing at the Balance Bar Company in Valhalla, N.Y., along with the echo effect between “Black” and “Dark.”
Besides, she added, laughing, “you can throw a Balance Bar Dark into your bag” while shopping because “you need that energy to stay in line and get the Black Friday deals.”
The company plans to cross-promote the half-price sale on its ownweb site, Ms. Lifeso said, as well as on its Facebook fan page and in its Twitter feed. “And we’re looking at Facebook ad buys,” she added.
Executives at Pizza Hut, part of Yum Brands, have been thinking about how to capitalize on Black Friday since around last Thanksgiving, when, said Kurt Kane, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut in Plano, Tex., “we had good success with the introduction of our Big Dinner Box” product.
“We started planning then about how we could get into the conversation” during the 2012 holiday season, he added, and discussions turned to “a long-standing trend, which hit the radar screen for us about three years ago.”
Sales data showed that the day before Thanksgiving is “one of our busiest days of the year,” ranking withSuper BowlSunday and Halloween, Mr. Kane said, as people getting ready for holiday meals, travel and shopping are “looking for alternative solutions for dinner on Wednesday night.”
As a result, Pizza Hut is introducing a version of Black Friday — named Red Roof Wednesday, after the signature look of its restaurants — with deals on itsWeb siteandFacebook fan page. There will be a giveaway on Facebook of 250 gift cards, worth $10 apiece, and brand fans will receive 15 percent off online orders.
One discount is truly in the Black Friday mode: beginning at 4 a.m. on Wednesday, the first 1,000 brand fans who visitpizzahut.comwill receive 50 percent off a new product, the Overstuffed Pizza.
The promotions are “the logical next step for us in how to engage with consumers on these really busy pizza days,” Mr. Kane said. “You’ll definitely see us back next year, doing something fun and engaging.”
Hmmm. Perhaps 2013 will bring a deal that unites the red and the black, featuring the Stendhal Pizza.