Your Opinion of Black Friday 2010

Retailers worked really hard this year herding consumers into their stores earlier than ever.  It was impossible to avoid their full court press to woo us out of our Thanksgiving induced comas at 5, 4 or even 3am to line up at their doors with wallet in hand. 

Promises of 60, 70 and even 80% were not uncommon this year.  But what did seem different was the hour of which these doorbuster sales started. 

If you have ever been part of these pre-dawn summons to the retailing meccas, you know that these sleep induced, deal seekers can easliy become obnoxious, agressive and downright rude as they try to be one of the lucky ones to snag up one of the limited quantity hot items.  Personally, I have been shoved, elbowed and verbally abused during these “special events” enough to know that sleeping in on Black Friday is the best thing for everyone. 

Black Friday doorbuster specials are now part of the holiday tradition.  As such, retailers do their best to prepare for the crowds.  All salespeople are told to be at work and ready to help customers.  Other employees are asssigned crowd control to ensure the safety and orderly movement of customers through the maze of products and displays.

By 10am, retailers knew if their Black Friday prep was worth it.  They had counted the customers that came through the door and tallied how fast the display of early bird specials disappeared.  But did they really do?

It is these stressful and jam-packed times that puts brands to the test.  Normally helpful salespeople are reduced to cattle herders and the usually smiling faces are replaced by tired and grumpy order takers.

So, how did your favorite brands do this Black Friday? 

Please share your experience here – good and bad.

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What kind of commercial would YOUR customer make for YOUR brand?

There are always three sides to every story.  There is your side.  Their side.  And the truth which is usually somewhere in the middle .  If you have ever had to officifiate an argument between your kids, you understand. 

When it comes to brands, it is the same thing.  We believe our  brands stand for something heroic, important, innovative, ground-breaking, (insert your own exaggerated and myopic adjective here). 

However, if you ask someone who does not have a vested interest in your brand what they think about your brand, you might get a totally different story.  Their viewpoint is usually based on either personal experience with your brand or their perception of your brand.  This second-hand perception of your brand is usually a result of other’s perception of your brand – through press releases, advertising or word-of-mouth chatter or image in relation to other competitors. 

The truth, as in the argument about which kid really broke the lamp, usually contains a little bit of both sides. 

While you can control the brand message through advertising, service delivery and image building, your brand is actually defined by what consumers think of your brand.  Even by people who have never been a customer of yours. 

So, what is a great way to bridge the gap between what you think and what they think?   Try seeing your brand through their eyes. 

The Trader Joes grocery chain doesn’t advertise.  It is not how they build their brand.   They don’t need to.   But one Trader Joe’s customer decided to create a TV spot which you can see here.   

trader joes hilarious commercial

As a customer of Trader Joes, I can tell you that the spot is right on and successfully captures my perception of the grocery brand. 

If you are responsible for your brand, how do you think your brand would look if one of your customers was responsible for creating it?  What about a non-customer’s view of your brand? 

One tactic would be to promote a flash video contest so you could find out.  This approach might be more truthful than a stuffy and expensive consumer focus group.   Plus, since people like to publish their own content and comment on others, your promotion would have a viral / social element to it.  Just see how the Trader Joe’s video has over 750,000 views. 

The most important question about your brand is to ask “are your customers so emotionally connected to your brand that they would take the time to create a commercial for it”?

Trader Joes thinks so. 

Crate and Barrel Likes Accountants Better Than Customers

Make no mistake, I have always been a fan of Crate & Barrel.  I love walking around the store looking at everything thinking “why didn’t I think of that” and “man, I wish I had a place for that in my house”.  Whether it is a nifty kitchen gadget or they way they can change a room with color. 

But this weekend, instead of being envious of their wares, I was disappointed by their change on one of their policies. 

I recently received a gift from Crate & Barrel that I didn’t want.  Not that it was a bad gift, just that I already had too many chip and dip bowl sets.  So, I returned the gift.  Usually, Crate & Barrel is happy to refund my money on a gift card because they know I will be back to spend it (and more).  But today, they told me that I would need to wait 7-10 business days to receive my credit. 

What?  Why? 

What is their motivation for not giving me a gift card on the spot like before?  In addition to the breakage on an unused gift card, are they now hoping that the gift card will get lost in the mail and that I will forget that they owe me a credit? 

This change of policy underscores how companies are now listening to their accountants too much and ignoring their marketing and branding people.  When you make policies that benefit the companies bottom line and impact how customers feel about you in a negative way, you take a step down a very slippery slope. 

Why would a retailer not want to engage me right away?  Why don’t they want me to have a branded gift card in my wallet today – burning a hole in my pocket? 

While I still like Crate & Barrel for their unique products and for how they motivate me to redecorate and replace my kitchen decor, I will make sure that I am certain of my purchase before committing to buying it there.  When I want to give a gift, I’ll be sure to choose another retailer so that if my taste in gifts are different than my friends, they won’t have to wait 7-10 days to use the gift I gave them.