Like any pricing and revenue optimization specialist, I consider discounting to be an art form.
When done right, discounts stimulate demand from new customers without undercutting sales from people who were going to buy anyway. The best companies are able to offer discounts without denigrating their brand.
So as a tactical pricing aficionado, I was horrified by the recent Black Friday and Cyber Monday discounting frenzy. And, I was ashamed to learn that we’ve exported this discounting delirium to the U.K.
Obviously, the Brits don’t celebrate Thanksgiving. But retailers across the pond have adopted our Black Friday tradition — to similarly chaotic results. Police reinforcements were called when consumers jumped barricades. The BBC reported incidents of kicking, biting, pinching and punching over large-screen TVs.
It was a free-for-all. Just like the brawling that took place on my television and in my email queue as companies jockeyed for a piece of our attention and a chunk of our wallets.
Black Friday “sneak-peeks” started swarming into my email queue on Monday. Cyber Monday emails swarmed in on Black Friday. Black Friday extension emails kept coming on Cyber Monday. It was a riot.
Nearly every company I do business with had a pitch, many of which were sadly out of tune. In these days of customer relationship management systems, I was surprised that AT&T would offer me a free tablet with the purchase of a new smartphone. They must have amnesia. I just activated a new smartphone a few weeks ago. And B&H Photo didn’t score points by offering $75 off a product that they shipped me two weeks ago; the discount was limited to new orders only.
I did get the best of one company, though. My smoked Thanksgiving turkey came out a tad overdone. So I decided to buy a new, high-end meat thermometer. I had it picked out and in my cart. So, when the offer came in at 25 percent off, I snatched it up. After all, I was going to buy it anyway.
In addition to bad targeting, marketers got too cute. I can well appreciate the appeal of a month of Sundays. But what do we do with Chevrolet’s month of Black Fridays? And who at Verizon thought it was clever to redub America’s time-honored Thanksgiving holiday “Thanksgetting?” Really?
But it wasn’t all bad. Outdoor company REI gets kudos for sitting out Black Friday altogether. Not only did they avoid the miscues of many other companies, they deepened brand equity with loyal customers and employees.
Pandora, the streaming music provider, also won. Their offer of a free week without ads lured me back as a subscriber.
Clothing company Patagonia took the highest ground. Despite the deal frenzy, their Black Friday message was, “Don’t buy anything; repair what you have.” I sent a pair of shorts with a broken rivet and a torn shirt in for repair. I can’t wait to have those well-worn favorites back in my closet.
So what’s the bottom line? Black Friday and Cyber Monday aren’t what they used to be. Holiday sales these days are spread more evenly from Halloween right up until Dec. 23.
So clearly, the smart marketer’s best move was to rise above the fray and score extra brand equity.
In the end, I had two favorite emails: Micato Safaris sent a holiday message showing a pride of zebra-gorged lions fast asleep after a big meal — a state of being we can all relate to. And Laidlaw Creative, a Miami-based graphic design firm, best summed up all the gobbledygook. Their holiday card showed two turkeys with a caption that read, “Gobble? Gobble.”
Adam Snitzer is a revenue strategy expert and president of Peak Revenue Performance, a consulting firm that specializes in designing and executing innovative pricing strategies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via the company’s website at PeakRevenuePerformance.com.