Ideas That Go Global (Starring Black Friday)

01 Jan 1970 1:00 am by Leela Bozonelis

Coordinating a global PR strategy can sometimes seem like a Sisyphean struggle. When cornerstone ideas of your company's (or client's) brand don't cross international borders, there's a temptation to either limit your reach or cook up completely different strategies for each territory. However, there is recent precedent for commercial ideas circling the globe, bringing rich new PR opportunities with them - for evidence, simply look at Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Black Friday started as a simple concept, namely that it is the day after Thanksgiving and the first shopping day of the winter holiday season. Brands would naturally want such a buying frenzy to go global in an age of cross-border commerce, but there's a hitch - Thanksgiving is an American holiday. What to do? Companies have remained tenacious and, as the examples below show, the shopping holiday has found its feet in markets that don't celebrate Thanksgiving.

Case Study 1: Japan

The words "Black Friday" have become divorced from Thanksgiving, and are now being used to sell goods around the world. Kotaku culture reporter Brian Ashcraft recently highlighted the expansion of a three-day Black Friday sales period running through the post-Thanksgiving weekend in Japan. While the unofficial holiday doesn't yet prompt the kind of hysteria it promises in America, the Black Friday name is omnipresent.

Ashcraft noted that the attempt to drive shopping in Japan is in its early stages, which makes Japan an interesting case to watch from a PR perspective. Some retailers, obviously reacting to buyer confusion about what the sales represent, have taken an informative approach to their promotional campaigns.

The question now facing Japanese retailers is whether they can establish Black Friday in the country's lineup of important retail dates. Ashcraft explained that the New Year is currently the king of sales in the country, with its own unique traditions. Retailers have ample incentive to continue pushing Black Friday via informational campaigns, hype and whatever other means they can come up with - it would make a great addition to their fall financial statements.

Case Study 2: The U.K

Fortune's overview of Black Friday in the United Kingdom revealed a country that has internalized the retail holiday so deeply that it is already evolving dramatically. Retailers are shifting from in-person sales to enabling online and mobile shopping. The source explained that 2014 represented a breaking point. Bad weather and fights between shoppers painted Black Friday as an unpleasant experience. But it didn't disappear, it went online.

Now, Fortune reported that companies are preparing for a wave of purchases made from smartphones. The concept of time-sensitive discounts remains, but the manner of sales has increased. There is a PR lesson in this change, too: Companies shouldn't be afraid to let the nature of an event change, provided they still stand to benefit from it.

In a few short years, Black Friday has gone from an imported retail scrum to a chance for companies to boost their online sales revenues before the winter holidays. This is an especially impressive pivot considering the original impetus for Black Friday - Thanksgiving - is absent from the U.K. calendar.

Keep Your Eyes Open

As a PR professional, your job is to always stay aware of potential opportunities, no matter where those chances appear. Whether you're leading the charge into a new territory or taking advantage of changing conditions, media intelligence with a global reach is an essential element of your expansion. If the global Black Friday spread proves one thing, it's that you should never assume that a promotional tactic won't work in a specific territory. Where there's a will, there's a way.