Should Black Friday #PRFail Mean The End of Retail Promotional Gimmicks?


I’d love to be a fly on the wall at the Asda PR team meeting debrief today.

How they must’ve congratulated each other when they successfully negotiated a Good Morning Britain live feed from one of their stores on the biggest retail day of the year. They no doubt visualised hundreds happy smiling customers sharing their delight with the nation’s viewers whilst securing incredible bargains and praising Asda for their astonishing generosity

The Reality?

We now know things turned out to be quite different. Here are the #PRFail highlights witnessed on ITV’s Good Morning Britain. And a sprinkling of opportunities for smart communicators.

In case you missed the TV this morning here’s a video


And here are my personal highlights …

  • The enduring image of customers frantically trampling over each other as cheerleaders gleefully and bizarrely danced and sang in the background!

  • Before the live link, the news headlines revealed pictures of police vans dealing with disturbances at Tesco stores and arrests for looting.

  • Richard Gaisford revealing how poor the selection of discounted offers was and asking the Asda spokesperson if customers were being mislead.

  • The viewer on the studio sofa revealing all websites were down and telling us how she felt we were all being taken for a ride by retailers.

  • Phrases like: An absolute disaster. Bargains gone in minutes. All the people still queuing didn’t realise there were no TVs left. And no-one wanted toasters.

  • Gaisford interviewed a woman in the queue who said she was only at Asda because she’d wanted to shop on-line at Tesco – but couldn’t get on the website. No winners there really!

 So, where does that leave us then?

Chasing the Bottom Line

As the tills grasp the cash, and finance and operation directors slap each other on the back in congratulations later today when the figures come in; what is the true cost of the long term damage to consumers’ opinions of our retailers? 

The opportunity for shrewd communications directors is to wake up to the stark reality of the damage these promotional gimmicks are potentially causing the sector. 

Customers Aren’t Stupid

As customers, we know the DFS sale will never actually end. We know that the no obligation free quote will probably end up costing us money. And we know the monthly broadband deal laden with free enticements will be loaded later on to offset the loss leader.

The result is that retailer influence with its customers is being eroded. In the future we’ll tune the gimmicks and selling messages out. Increasingly, we’ll buy when we’re good and ready and we’ll buy from retailers we know, like and trust.

Do you think the scenes we’ve witnessed today help with that?

Controlling the Message?

This was a massive contrast between what Asda thought they’d managed (controlled) and what the viewers saw. They won’t be the last to be caught out this way. Controlling and delivering messages is in the past. It’s old school and a bygone remnant of mass market advertising that accompanied the industrialised economy.

But times are very different now.

The opportunity is to acknowledge that the power of PR to control messages is diminishing. However, PR is perfectly placed seek out brilliant authentic transparent conversations with customers – then add value and interest to them.

Yes, it’s a long term strategy. No quick-fix bank balance-boosting hits here. But that’s how ‘know, like and trust’ will weave it’s magic in retailer’s favour,

The Truth is Everything

So which version of the Christmas truth will customers remember when next year’s inevitable Black Friday sales? Will it be the Val Doonican jumper version? Or the greed-fuelled customer-trampling bizarre cheer-leading version?

Anyway, got to dash.

I have a crackling open fire to sit in front of whilst eating mince pies and watching YouTube videos about a penguin – on my new laptop I just bought in the Black Friday sales. 😉

Richard Glynn will help you stand out, build influence and become easier to buy from.
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