Can Black Friday be Green? 4 Sustainable Examples for the Shopping Event of the Year

Gabriele Noaro,
Marketing Manager @Mapp

Black Friday and Cyber Monday (BFCM for short) are quickly approaching, marking the start of the pre-Christmas shopping frenzy. Since those days tend to give retailers their highest sales, they are aiming their cannons at the competition to offer the best discounts, longest shopping hours, and premium product offerings.

But are cannons sustainable? Not really. Some retailers are taking notice of recent trends. With global warming and environmental protests led by the likes of Greta Thunberg, the number of shoppers that prefer eco-friendly solutions is growing. Research also shows that Millennials have a strong preference for eco-friendly consumerism and with their increasing buying power, their shopping preferences can’t be ignored anymore.

What if Black Friday Was About Sustainability?

When you think of Black Friday, one can picture lots of noise – screaming even – from the brands trying to catch shoppers’ attention to the shoppers themselves trying to get their hands on the best merchandise.

Many eco-friendly brands and small businesses have found new ways to sustainably cut through the noise when advertising holiday promotions. We have pulled together 4 unconventional marketing tactics and examples that might make you sing sustainability instead of scream.

But retailers, beware. The world is full of savvy shoppers. Brand transparency and authenticity are required. Some brands have tried supporting eco-friendly consumerism but have been publicly shamed and called out for “greenwashing” (conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound).

Avoiding the BFCM scream is cool. Maybe these marketing tactics will make eco-responsible consumers dance to your sustainability sonata while shopping instead.

 

1 – #BuyNothingDay

“Black Friday is about shopping. You can do nothing about it!”

This is the motto of Buy Nothing Day, and instead of protecting their sales, brands like Ecoalf have decided to join the protest.

While everybody is screaming a hymn of waste and pollution, Ecoalf and other brands have decided to remain silent. This is not only a way of taking a position against over-consumption, but it is also a valid response when racing against more prominent competitors.

What Does It Mean?

Small brands don’t have the advertising budget of big retailers and can’t scream louder than them. Furthermore, they sometimes don’t have enough scale to afford crazy discounts. So, they stay silent as the only way to attract attention, save money, and show consistency with one’s brand and target shoppers’ values.

Ecoalf is an alternative Spanish fashion brand dedicated to creating sustainable quality textile products and accessories from recycled materials such as PET bottles, discarded fishing nets, used tires, post-consumer coffee, and post-industrial cotton. The company is one of the many contributions to the green Fashion Revolution and operates an omnichannel model, direct retail, and e-commerce.

What Is Ecoalf’s Approach to Black Friday?

The company will be stopping all Friday campaigns, product promotions, and advertising and raising awareness on the planet’s health through poetry with the help of the fantastic British poet, Tom Foolery.

Moreover, by offering repair, donating, swapping, and recycling as a solution, the company is indirectly promoting its mission.

Together with Ecoalf, many other brands joined the Buy Nothing Day movement. For example, in the name of sustainability, REI shuts its online store each year during Black Friday weekend, still paying its employees in full. Also, Deciem, a science-based beauty company, will offer discounts throughout the whole month of November to shut all its stores during Black Friday.

2 – Give Back

Plant Trees

Make the world a greener place.

On Friday, November 27, 2020, despite the pandemic bringing many retailers to their knees, the brand Wild committed to planting two trees per sale of their new black case deodorant to launch their new sustainable product. This initiative was not only in line with the company values, but it was also perceived as authentic since Wild had an ongoing partnership and donated consistently to the environmentally-friendly charity On A Mission. A great way of launching a new eco-friendly product, right?

Raise Prices

Say what??

Last year, Allbirds, a global sustainable footwear and apparel manufacturer, raised the price of their products by £1 during the BFCM weekend. Outrageous, right? However, that extra money was donated to Fridays For Future, an international climate action movement, and it was matched by a £1 donation from Allbirds for each additional pound paid by their customers. This is another example of outstanding authentic green value alignment that thrilled UK consumers.

Donate Your Profits

Patagonia donated 100% of their profits from “Green Friday” to green charities to encourage shoppers to spend time outdoors with their loved ones instead of stressing about a few crazy shopping deals.

Before jumping out of your chair, consider the benefits of this kind of sustainability.

First, you don’t have to donate all of your profit if you can’t afford to because you aren’t a non-profit organization. Alternatively, you can donate just a part of it – the message is still strong. Second, Patagonia donated $10 Million dollars, but the free press and advertising they got out of it exceeded their cost. We are still writing about it, aren’t we? Third, another indirect benefit (even if it’s not very sexy for the bottom line), is that you are saving the planet, looking good while doing it, and getting some tax relief at the same time.

This is not a suggestion to copy precisely what Patagonia did, but how can you make it your own? How can you align giving back with your brand values?

 

3 – Reduce Carbon Dioxide Emissions

If you want to position yourself as an eco-friendly brand, being smog-free is a good way of being transparent.

During each BFCM weekend, CO2 emissions spike as vehicles set off to deliver goods. What if you could give consumers the possibility to make carbon-neutral orders while shopping? This is also an excellent opportunity to create a conversation with your audience, engaging and involving them in the co-creation of value, then increasing brand loyalty and retention.

For example, EcoCart is a plugin that calculates and displays the carbon footprint of each order, but its beauty does not stop there. The plugin also enables the user to offset the carbon dioxide emissions generated by each order by planting trees or donating to a green cause.

Wildway, a grain-free breakfast retailer, has integrated EcoCart on its Shopify store, and since then, its online sales have grown way wild. If you are a local business, you can also mention local delivery and low transportation-related emissions in your message, not to mention using recyclable or compostable materials in your packaging.

How Does This Help Sales?

Some of these tactics, such as Allbirds’ raising pricing and using the EcoCart plugin, are beneficial initiatives for businesses operating on a smaller scale and that want to keep profit margins high. Their target market is less price-sensitive than the average Black Friday shopper and does not mind paying extra to save the planet, especially when an easy option is provided to them. For such value propositions, discounts would not make sense, and swimming against the flow seems to be the best option to make your prospects conscious about the environment and aware of your brand. They will remember you the next time they go shopping.

4 – Recommerce

Recommerce (or reverse commerce) is the selling of previously owned, new or used products. It’s a rising trend in the Fashion Revolution, and its market is set to surpass the fast-fashion market in the next few years.

Your first thought is probably that recycling your product will harm your sales. However, shopper segments that buy your new products are usually different from those prone to buy old or used ones, and recommerce can present a few great opportunities to acquire new customers and boost your margins.

Ikea is a great example when thinking of recommerce. Think about all the times you changed the furniture in your house, and all Ikea furnishings ended up on the street. Because how could you sell something that was already so cheap? The Swedish colossus is dedicated to solving this problem and will buy back furniture from its customers, giving vouchers without an expiration date in exchange. The product will have to be completely assembled, and what cannot be resold will be given away to charity or recycled. Even if the campaign is planned to take place between 24th November and 3rd December, the promotion will extend beyond that time as part of the ambition of becoming “a fully circular and climate-positive business”.

Do you want some more ideas?

Here are a couple of related recommerce tactics for your consideration:

Repair Services

Launch a Black Friday repair service where your supporters can pay a small fee to get one of your products to look brand new. If the customer purchased the service, they were not ready to buy your newest product anyway (at this current time)  and you made some profit out of it. By adopting this tactic, you will also increase the lifespan of your products, thus boosting your brand exposure and giving a solid customer experience.

Suppose you don’t want your customers to pay any fee. In that case, you can do like Raeburn, a responsible fashion studio, who launched a “Buy Nothing, Repair Something” campaign. They closed its stores and e-commerce shop and invited prospects and customers to have clothing from any brand repaired free of charge in their sewing lab. What a noble way to steal customers from competitors and show superior customer care and support!

Turn Your Products Into Recycled Art

By leveraging social media and contacting local artists, you can commission the creation of pieces of art made with your recycled products. Your brand could benefit from this PR stunt and get free word of mouth (WOM) advertising.

Used products that are beyond repair can also be collected to recycle their raw materials or transformed into new products. What about encouraging your followers to become fashion designers and get creative with your old merch?

The ideas of what to do with your worn-out products are endless, and brands often gain rewards from their creativity.

Summary

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may have only been historically associated with shopping, hyper-consumerism, and discounts, but times are changing and many more shoppers are conscious about safeguarding the environment. Both brick-and-mortar retailers and D2C e-commerce shops have to adapt and see it as a great opportunity, especially when they are small businesses and cannot compete with the crazy discounts of the retail giants.

We have covered some unconventional sustainable marketing tactics used by the most innovative sustainable brands in promoting a sustainable Black Friday, or Green Friday, not only to involve their target market but also for cutting through the noise and converting more consumers to this noble cause. Hopefully, some stood out to you as a possibility for a future marketing campaign.

A final point – greenwashing is not as effective as it used to be, so adopt a sustainable marketing strategy that aligns with your authentic company values. This will help you increase your sales sustainably together with the loyalty of many happy, responsible consumers.









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