Why anti Black Friday campaigns don’t work

two mannequins with black Sale graphic crew-neck t-shirts

If you’re in the sustainability sector, you probably shudder when another Black Friday offer pops up in your inbox.

You know the dark side of mass consumption…

And you want people to “Wake up! Stop shopping!”

But unfortunately, Black Friday has become a social norm.

Buying presents to gift at Christmas is a social tradition – and for those with the disposable income to do it (typically the consumers with the highest carbon footprints), it’s deeply connected to social status.

And every single Black Friday offer, banner or TV ad your audience consumes, helps to reinforce the social norm. The unwritten rules of behaviour that tell us how to behave and how to feel.

We’ve evolved to follow the crowd. It keeps us safe. So we simply won’t depart from the social norm. It’s science.

Behaviourally speaking, these things are all really hard to change.

Total US advertising spend was $23 billion in 2018. $6bn of that – 25% – was spent in the 4 day shopping period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday.

That’s simply too much noise to compete with.

So while an anti Black Friday campaign or boycott might get a lot of support WITHIN your sustainability echo-chamber (where the social norms are slightly different) – it’s very unlikely to cut-through to a mainstream audience and stop them shopping.

Which is why we designed #ShopEthicalInstead as a positive alternative!

People are conditioned to shop at this time of year.

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They want to buy gifts for their loved ones, and they’ve got the disposable income to do it.

So why don’t we fill their newsfeeds with beautiful, handcrafted, luxury items…that just so happen to be made with more sustainable materials, by businesses that pay a living wage, and treat people fairly.

Instead of mass produced cr*p made cheaply, shoppers can choose something more personal, to really show their friends and family how much they care.

They can discover that the product they’ve purchased has a beautiful social impact story to tell. They’ll share it with their friends, and help create a new social norm of shopping ethically! (Virtue signalling – another fascinating aspect of human behaviour).

The money they would have spent anyway, will help pay people a living wage and, if they’ve shopped locally, stay in the local community – which will support everyone through the cost of living crisis.

So yes, we do all need to Buy Better Consume Less (I literally wrote the book on it!), but at a time of year when the people with the highest carbon footprints and disposable incomes are shopping anyway, why not encourage them to #ShopEthicallyInstead?

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