Black Thu…Friday


Black “Friday” comes earlier and earlier every year. A few years ago stores started opening at midnight, last year many opened at 10pm on Thanksgiving and now this year some stores are going to be open all day on Thanksgiving! This is an alarming trend that we as marketers need to stop perpetuating.

Thanksgiving is a day for families to come together and give thanks for one another. Because it is not a religious holiday, Thanksgiving is often the only holiday that some families get to spend together. I think that if retailers continue to take away the sanctity of Thanksgiving, consumers (not to mention employees) will soon become resentful and in the worst case scenario become disloyal and begin to shop at retailers who support the same Thanksgiving ideals they do instead of shopping at whichever retailer has the best deals.

One company that will not be opening their doors on Thursday is Costco. Their reason being: “Our employees work especially hard during the holiday season, and we simply believe they deserve the opportunity to spend Thanksgiving with their families. Nothing more complicated than that”.  The move has endeared customers to Costco with people like Dave Letterman saying that Costco will be his next job. These retailers are taking a similar approach:


Burlington Coat Factory





T.J. Maxx

Home Depot




The reason that the brick-and-mortar stores are opening earlier and earlier every year is to keep up with the online retailers. Best Buy began putting technology gifts on sale Nov. 20 and Walmart started offering free shipping on the season’s hot gifts as of Nov. 1. I propose that we either need to respect the Thanksgiving Holiday and go back to making Black Friday be a big deal ON Black Friday or we need to get rid of Black Friday and its sense of occasion altogether. I think we are going the way of the latter: according to a recent study by Accenture, 19 percent of Americans report that they’ve already spent between $100 and $500 on holiday shopping—having started as early as September—and 18 percent of consumers now believe the best holiday deals happen before Thanksgiving. I fall into this category – I purchased my Dad’s present back in October. Based upon Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales this year, it will be very interesting to see what retailers decide to do next year – If they switch over to a whole Thanksgiving week of deals or hit Black Friday harder than this year.

Are you #TeamBlackFriday or #TeamShopOnTurkeyDay?

Taco Bell goes Black

emily_gutknecht_marketing Facebook TBell

Last week as part of the launch of its new app, Taco Bell blacked out its social- media channels, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and even its website. The only thing these sites had posted was the link to download the app. With the release of this app Taco Bell is the first fast-food chain to offer mobile payment and ordering in the restaurants and in drive-thrus. Users can also select specific ingredients for their food in a way they previously weren’t able to, according to a statement. As of now these social media pages are all still blacked out. The blackout clearly worked because Taco Bell announced that just 24 hours after launch 75 percent of all stores already had processed a mobile order.

This stunt was well done by Taco Bell. As a huge company with a multi-faceted social media presence and millions of followers, something like this was sure to be noticed. The day after the blackout Taco Bell began using sponsored tweets to push people towards their blacked out sites (which is a little deceptive since their point was to not be on social media and instead be on the app, but I rest my case). I think if it were a smaller company nobody would have cared because they wouldn’t have even noticed. I especially like what they did with their Instagram – the announcement took up nine picture slots and they took a little over a day to put it all together, slowly adding one picture at a time so people could piece together the message.


Now that Taco Bell has people’s attention, it’s important to pay attention to what they will do next. People are watching their pages with bated breath waiting to see what will happen so if Taco Bell continues with the blackout it will be a wasted opportunity for them. I do not think it’s a very effective long term strategy to keep everything black because social media is an ever evolving platform and that is constantly growing and Taco Bell needs to keep up with that. They’re pushing it a little bit by leaving the accounts blacked out for six days now because those followers who have not downloaded the app will soon get bored with Taco Bell’s lack of activity on social media.

Now taking bets on when Taco Bell will come back to social media.

Dos and Don’ts of Political Ads

It’s that time of year again: political take over. If your Facebook, Twitter, radio, and TV are not swamped with political ads then I want to move to wherever you live because here in the heart of Iowa it’s becoming unbearable. Personally, I hate the negative ads and think that they are highly ineffective. Here in Iowa, the strategy of the two candidates running for senate, Bruce Braley and Joni Ernst, has been running ads showing video clips of each other saying damning things [out of context, I might add]. I think these ads are so ineffective because all they do is put down the other candidate, and in most cases are not even fully truthful – In Minnesota a few years ago one candidate for governor ran an ad saying that other candidate was a goat. That being said, not all positive ads are effective either. The purpose of ads should be to showcase the candidate’s platform in an effort to convince constituents to vote for them, not to wage war on the opposition and say nothing about you. From a marketing/PR perspective, candidates should use ads to build their character and credibility with the voters as well as position themselves in a good light.

The following ad is one that I think is awful and I don’t understand why the candidate’s campaign team thought it was a good idea to run it.

The first thing I notice about this ad is that there are no black kids on the football team – only white presumably middle class, Scandinavian Minnesotans. Minnesotan’s like to think of themselves as being diverse, worldly, and welcoming and do not take kindly to the fact that the football team has no diversity. The make-up of this football team shows that McFadden’s campaign team does not know who their audience is and how they should be appealing to them. The ad also shows McFadden saying “Let’s get out there and hit somebody!” and then shows him getting hit by one of boys near his waist. First of all, this statement promotes the violence of football which is a very hot button issue right now with all the worry over concussions. He should be telling his team to get out there and score some touchdowns or move the ball, not hit people. Finally, when he gets hit in the gut it portrays himself as being weak and unable to control those kids. As someone who is running against an incumbent he needs the voters to see him as anything but weak. I think this ad has the correct idea in that McFadden wants constituents to see him as a family man who can get things done but it is executed horribly and does not appeal to the audience of middle class Minnesotan’s that it is trying to reach.

The following ad is one of the best that I have seen this year.

This ad is definitely my favorite of the year and I love because it’s not preachy about Mowrer’s platform nor is it attacking the opposition. I love the line “When you’re in a war zone there’s no such thing as republicans and democrats, just Americans”. American politics are so polarized today and this line gets right to the point and says that the candidate is willing to reach across the aisle because we are all Americans and we all need to work together in the Senate. By showing video footage on farms, Mowrer is appealing to the small percentage of voters that will decide the election – Iowa farmers. This ad is a great PR building piece because farmers generally vote republican and with this ad Mowrer is trying to use a slice of life appeal to reach them and gain their support.

What’s your favorite/most hated political ad this year?

Farewell Captain

This weekend, the baseball world said goodbye to a player that will one day surely be elevated to legend status like his predecessors, Lou Gehrig and The Babe. Derek Jeter announced his plans for retirement at the beginning of this season and advertisers have been capitalizing on it ever since. Jeter’s biggest sponsors, Nike and Gatorade have ran brilliant marketing  campaigns all summer that center around Jeter’s retirement and also manage to masterfully promote their brand as well.

After their “Re2pect” ad debuted in July which now has over 8 million views and an overwhelming number of positive reactions, Nike trademarked the phrase  for use in connection with headwear, hats, caps, shirts and t-shirts. The trademarking paid off. In less than 24 hours after Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium last week the hashtag “#Re2pect” was trending on Facebook and Twitter. The jitter to purchase Jeter items on Nike’s website led to “RE2PECT” hats being sold out within minutes after Jeter won the game for the New York Yankees in walk-off fashion. This RE2PECT campaign is important for not only Jeter but is probably even more important for Nike who also sponsors Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.  Peterson remains with Nike, but the business relationship has been suspended while allegations of child abuse are further investigated.  Nike completely terminated its relationship with Rice. Instead of Rice, people are now talking about Jeter and RE2PECT.

The best tributes to The Captain this season have captured the style, grace and connection to the city for which Jeter is known. Last week Gatorade hit the nail on the head when they released a sentimental black and white ad paying tribute to Jeter.  Since the campaign’s launch last Thursday, the ad has gone viral and been viewed more than five million times.  While this ad is not meant to drive sales in the way the Nike RE2PECT campaign is, it gave baseball fans everywhere goose bumps and was a fitting end for one of the best players of all time.

As a Twins fan I grew up hating Derek Jeter and the Yankees. It wasn’t until much more recently that I realized he is not only one of the best players of all time but one of the classiest as well. Unlike many of the steroid users on the Yankees roster, Jeter has never gotten mixed up in that mess and that is something I greatly respect. He’s been a consistent, dominating player for the last 20 years. Farewell Captain, you will be missed.