Black Friday: be alive to public mood in a weaponised social media environment

Nothing about the 2020 retail environment is familiar, yet brands must get Black Friday communications tonally right this year.

Get the basics right for your Black Friday campaigns or risk the consequences, warns Paul McEntee

Christmas TV spots have shown positivity, yet have come under intense scrutiny from a weaponised social media audience.

So how to merchandise indulgence and excess at a time when jobs are being demolished?

Zeitgeist brands of late have shrewdly spotted that new isn’t always better, and that the public they serve are now galvanised by a realisation of their responsibility to help stem landfill by curbing their relentless purchasing behaviour.

For examples, see John Lewis and Ikea’s recent move into refurbished fashion and furniture, respectively and Giffgaff’s pioneering drive for refurbished phones.

These brands have wisely observed the movement of the herd and begun to distance themselves from the gluttony of over-consumption – the ‘I want new, now’ mentality that has seen instant smiles delivered to our door.

But what now in a very different retail environment?

Brands will need to thoroughly examine their internal playbook and navigate sure-footedly through the pass. They could do worse than start by getting the basics right.

Align your communications

Every facet of a company’s internal or external communications is now a potential opportunity – or, more likely, trip-up. If the imperative is to generate coverage for Black Friday, then make sure the corporate or public affairs team aren’t lobbying DEFRA to reduce landfill that same day. It’s amazing how often communications departments don’t talk.

Observe the national mood

This should be a guiding principle in life, not just communications. Now, more than ever, it is vital. Be sensitive to what your audience is going through (Kim Kardashian 40th birthday celebrations, we’re looking at you). If the news is awash with job cuts and another catastrophic rise in deaths, then maybe your 52-inch flatscreen deal is not the best tonic for the nation.

Don’t hide behind false niceties

It might be tempting to communicate that we are ‘all in this together’ and that the chief executive of a company is ‘reaching out’, ‘in these unprecedented times’, by offering this amazing opportunity. For those advising CEOs on their communication key messages over Black Friday, please don't make a link between saving your audience money and looking after their welfare. Unless you are a charity or not-for-profit, just don’t.

Be true to your purpose

Black Friday is not the time to experiment, nor to jump on the bandwagon. It is time to re-enforce your business proposition. Don’t care for sustainability? Then crack on and know that you might not have many Black Fridays left. Or if you hold ‘planet’ as dear as profit, then great: this is your opportunity to shine in your communications, rallying against consumerism and offering true choice for your audience.

Keep it simple

Most important of all is the art of simplicity. Refine your message until it is distilled down to its essential component parts. Let’s be honest, we’re all weary right now and just need some simplicity in our lives. Please.

Paul McEntee is founder and chief executive of Mc&T Communications

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