Inside the Black Friday Marketing Machine

Every year it seems we've paid more and more attention to Black Friday, the big retail sales day that occurs the day after Thanksgiving. By now, the image of mobs of determined consumers flooding retail stores has become as much a holiday tradition as turkey and tinsel.

In reality, neither Black Friday nor Cyber Monday, the more recently created kick-off to online holiday shopping, is the biggest shopping day. But the period beginning around Thanksgiving does mark the start of an increase in retail sales that peaks around the Sunday before Christmas.

That means marketers are going to vie for your attention long after the Black Friday frenzy. In fact, in the advertising industry, media professionals have long called the eight weeks starting the week before Thanksgiving and ending the week of Christmas the "hard eight" because of the volume of advertising that occurs during this period.

Are You a Black Friday Shopper? Share Your Story With ABC News

This year, the Web has helped to put even more emphasis on buying by "publishing" the circulars and sales information earlier than the traditional newspaper inserts, with sites such as and posting up-to-the-minute news about retailers and the products that will be on sale Black Friday.

Some retailers have feigned surprise and anger over the earlier-than-ever consumerism of the Christmas season. But by directing online-shopping-savvy customers to the stores (both online and brick-and-mortar), the sites will help boost some much needed sales for the retailers with the best deals.

With this in mind, the success of Black Friday and Cyber Monday got me thinking about other floundering sectors of the economy we might help with a little marketing focus.

In the mid-'90s, I was very involved in the confection industry: Mars, the massive candy marketer, was my client. Manufacturers and retailers joined forces to organize and grow their seasonal businesses, focusing on Valentine's Day, Easter, Halloween and Christmas. Strategies were developed to create compelling products and packages to help consumers celebrate the holidays.

Advertising and merchandising dollars were spent directing consumers to watch out for, buy, consume and gift the seasonal offerings. The result was a significant growth of the seasonal business as a percentage of annual sales for the top confection companies. Today, the strategies continue in every retail channel. In confection, there is a seasonal display for one of the four major seasonal selling seasons 37 weeks out of the year.

I wonder if we can use the principles involved in Black Friday and merchandising seasonal merchandise to help spur our economy in this difficult retail climate. Both are short-term efforts at using advertising to grab our attention and hold us for the time it takes to give us information, which we then choose to accept or reject. Ideally, marketers could convert that short-term behavioral change into more long-term behavior.

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