The marketing platform known as Christmas is, given its obvious importance to the powers-that-be, often a season of increased honesty among the professionals who plan, implement, and track our market-totalitarian culture’s driving gears. Hence, in today’s edition of Advertising Age, reporter Natalie Zmuda asks:
Consumers claim they’re keeping a close eye on holiday budgets, so how to explain this year’s record-breaking post-Thanksgiving retail sales?
The answer, of course:
The secret is landing on the right marketing message, but it’s no simple feat. For retailers, planning for the Christmas ads just now airing kicked off months ago. Many begin assessing the season as soon as the last holiday season ends, with the heavy lifting in market research and consumer testing happening in late spring or early summer.
Social engineering, in other words.
All to the intended (for the overclass) end:
Research from Shopper Sciences, part of IPG’s Mediabrands, found that 80% of shoppers surveyed spent more than they planned to Black Friday weekend. Shoppers have been “living in a siege state of mind,” said Shopper Sciences CEO John Ross, so consumers are susceptible when they stumble on that perfect item that wasn’t on the list.
Tis the season — of induced stumbling and susceptibility!
One TCT tradition is taking note of the deepening psycho-social illness manifested on this, so-called Black Friday.
The phenomenon is, of course, part of the corporate capitalist effort known as Christmas. As marketing strategy executive Clyde McKendrick noted in his apology for this year’s metastasis of Black Friday into Black Thanksgiving in Tuesday’s edition of Advertising Age:
Many of the traditions we hold dear as institutions in our holiday season have been basic marketing ploys to drive sales. Some of our traditions with the highest cultural capital, such as Macy’s Thanksgiving parade, are no more than events designed to draw shoppers out of their homes. Likewise, it’s well known that we have Coca-Cola to thank for Santa’s current incarnation (though the folks at White Rock Beverages say they were first) and Montgomery Ward to honor for Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.
McKendrick’s reassuring words fairly drip with the actual sentiments and values behind the Xmas campaign:
By building Black Eve into the cultural calendar as a new Thanksgiving tradition, we are gaining another focal point in our holiday period that will act as a standalone event from Black Friday. Retailers capitalizing on this culture shift will benefit not only from an extension in selling, but in fact create a double spike in buying behavior.
Meanwhile, participation in the Black Thankgiving-Friday crime spree is an increasingly obvious IQ test. As reported by The New York Times for November 24, it unsurprisingly turns out that the thing is a giant bait-and-switch operation:
[D]espite all the ads that suggest otherwise, the lowest prices tend to come at other times of the year.
Retailers do discount smaller appliances on the Friday after Thanksgiving. “You’ll see small kitchen electronics under $20, sometimes under $10 — blenders, toasters,” he said. “But it’s low-end, cheap Chinese knockoffs that are heavily discounted — often there’s a mail-in rebate hassle that goes with it — but it’s a very, very low price.”
That is true of most of the biggest deals on that Friday, he said. Because retailers want to impress shoppers with very low prices, the quality of the discounted items can be low.
For higher-end electronics, Mr. de Grandpre’s trends show, shoppers should wait until the week after Thanksgiving.
“Black Friday is about cheap stuff at cheap prices, and I mean cheap in every connotation of the word,” Mr. de Grandpre said. Manufacturers like Dell or HP will allow their cheap laptops to be discounted via retailers on that Friday, but they will reserve markdowns through their own sites for later.
“The bottom line is, Black Friday is for the retailers to go from the red into the black,” [another expert] said. “It’s not really for people to get great deals on the most popular products.”
One minor TCT thesis is that advertisements for cellular telephones almost always depict arguments against owning cellular telephones. The “humor” in the ads is supposed to flip the argument, and, given the continuing sales of cell phones, it must succeed in doing so in many marketing-softened minds.
In any event, TCT hereby officially extends this thesis to Christmas ads, which contain increasingly bald but supposedly “funny” portrayals of rank psychosis:
Maybe I’m the crazy one, but this stuff makes me want to boycott the entire Xmas operation.
This item is not Earth-shattering news to anybody, but this system does have its pressures, and they do not relent. From Stuart Elliott:
For Marketers, Christmas Started Last Month
By STUART ELLIOTT
Published: October 31, 2010
NOW that Halloween is done, Madison Avenue is embarking on the mad dash to Dec. 25.
The sluggish economy is raising the stakes for the Christmas shopping season. Some retailers and marketers, worried that uncertainty among shoppers might increase as the weeks go by, hope to pull demand forward by moving up the start of their pitches.
Of course, the pressure to stretch the year’s great orgy of needless buying, misdirected giving, and extra-exploitative marketing runs in both directions:
Never mind those concerned about ads that make it seem that the holiday arrives too soon. Coca-Cola worries about it ending too early.
“Our challenge is to keep Christmas going,” said Shay Drohan, senior vice president for sparkling brands at Coca-Cola, so “it goes the whole way through the first week in January” and takes in New Year’s Eve, school holidays and Twelfth Night.