Is Black Friday Giving Marketing a Bad Name?

Yesterday was Black Friday. Traditionally, Black Friday is a day in the United States marked by steep discounts that kick start the holiday shopping season. In recent years, Black Friday was joined Cyber Monday, its online equivalent. And now, the two have merged and blended with the weeks leading up to and after Thanksgiving that now mark what seems like endless deals and offers from every company you can think of. Some retailers are even opening their doors on Thanksgiving night.

What is all this doing to consumers?

First, I think we’ve already hit the point of diminishing returns. That means that each new discount, each new offer, each new TV ad, email, or in store promotion is not adding the type of return that they used to.

In part, that’s because consumers are either fed up, or extremely overwhelmed. Perhaps and combination of both. It’s hard enough to keep up with the brands you’re interested in and offers they have going on all year round. When you add to that the “urgency” that comes with this time of year, and the mounting offers from brands you’re not interested in, it becomes too much.

We’re creating a generation of consumers that will learn to tune out all deals. It’s like a vaccine which exposes people to a virus so that they build up a tolerance. But that tolerance does not lead to success for marketers, it does not lead to a generation of consumers who welcome more offers. It leads to consumers who are so numb to the amount of offers they’ve seen that they don’t react anymore.

Further, it’s giving marketing a bad name. Consumers associate brands that go out of their way to notify you about discount after discount with spammers, desperate for the sale, and annoying.

As a marketer, even I can say that I’m annoyed with the culture of marketing at this time of year. It makes the rest of the year that much more difficult.

So what’s the solution?

I don’t think there is one. Because if your competitors are doing it, you’re going to do it. And if it has measureable results, the argument can be made to do more of it.

But I do know that there will come a point when we are so overly consumed with advertising for Black Friday that a movement will begin to push back. Consumers will begin to ignore your calls. And I can only hope that the best marketers and companies that provide real value to their consumers will prevail.