It’s amazing how quickly Black Friday has grown to dominate our shopping patterns—and our lives!
Being Canadian, I hadn’t even heard of Black Friday in my growing up, nor my main parenting years. It’s connected to the U.S. Thanksgiving, the Friday between the holiday Thursday and the weekend having been turned into the Christmas shopping kick-off.
A great marketing strategy, to be sure–for Americans! (“U.S. Americans,” that is; all residents of the two continents named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci can rightly call themselves “Americans”). And so effective was the strategy, it constrained the Thanksgiving theme to the one day, and turned the rest of the long weekend into shopping madness. Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday followed the lead.
The day and weekend are no longer owned by (U.S.) Americans; they’ve become worldwide phenomena, albeit without the Thanksgiving kick-off!
Like me, you’ve received a plethora of Black Friday sales flyers from Canadian businesses. “Hey, we need to compete,” say Canadian businesses, “to keep Canadians from crossing the border to do all their shopping.”
But it’s way bigger than that. The world’s largest booking and online sales platforms now have massive Black Friday Sales. These platforms aren’t necessarily American, nor even targeting Americans. You’ve gotten those emails, too, I presume.
Tourradar, for example, the dominant booking site for adventure travel, has massive sales, where a 40% discount is the norm. (I should know, I was victim to their strategy in a previous venture). But Tourradar isn’t even a U.S. company; in fact, has offices only in Austria, Canada and Australia, and markets to a worldwide market.
America’s largest annual holiday has become the world’s leading annual shopping ritual.
What does this tell us about ourselves?
- Shopping and deal scoping have become a prevailing influences on our life patterns—and that’s not necessarily healthy, in my opinion. Not that I’m opposed to taking advantage of good deals when they’re available. But it would be much more honourable, it seems to me, if our life patterns were guided more by causes like Thanksgiving, compassion, justice, charity, and neighbourliness, and less by shopping behaviour. For many individuals, I’m sure they are, but for us as a society in general, I think we could use some realignment.
- We are dominated by the influence of our giant neighbour to the south, whether we like it or not. America’s largest export to the rest of the world is not weapons or energy or food or technology or military might. Its largest export is its culture (which includes shopping and calendar patterns). This was true when I taught Economic Geography twenty years ago, and it’s still true today.
- As a society, generally, we are really susceptible (gullible, if you like that word better) to mass marketing and trends. Most of us follow the leadership of the marketers; a few of us deliberately buck those trends; some of us ignore them. On balance, we tend to succumb to them.
- Black Friday provides another occasion for scribes like me to pontificate, join the trend, and remind people that my business also benefits from the occasion.
Grey Cup after-thoughts
As a CFL and Grey Cup devotee, I enjoy not only the game but the many stories surrounding the game. I loved the one about the “shorts guy” from Winnipeg, who got his 15 minutes of fame (actually, a lot more than 15 minutes). The massive media blitz they experienced as a result, had his wife wondering, on camera, how “celebrities” handle all the attention. “Earth to Mrs. Matthew: You were celebrities, if only briefly!”
Some other Grey cup facts and thoughts:
– Congratulations to the Blue Bombers for ending a 29-year Grey Cup drought;
– Congratulations to a Canadian or winning the Most Valuable Player award;
– more than ½ million people descended on Calgary for the weekend (less than 10% of those actually attended the game); it truly is Canada’s largest sports party!;
– more than 9 million people watched the game on TV;
– Keith Urban was a great choice for halftime entertainment;
– where will they house the crowds in Regina next year if a half million visitors converge on that city of only 230,000? (Oh right–half of those half million who descended on Calgary were from Saskatchewan, so they can just stay in their own beds next year.)