Black Friday: Nothing Is So Meaningless That Marketing Can’t Make It Worse

Written by Evan Schuman
November 4th, 2010

Question: How can you take a virtually meaningless holiday and somehow drain the last remnant of meaning from it? Answer: Without shame, apparently, if Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears and Toys”R”Us marketing have anything to say about it. Of course, we’re discussing the industry’s favorite non-holiday holiday—Black Friday. The origin of the term dates back almost 45 years, when the day after Thanksgiving was the time most retailers went into the black financially. But in recent years, that hasn’t typically been the case. And E-Commerce activity has shifted that date around anyway (and please don’t get me started on the silliness of Cyber Monday).

All of this said, one definition gives the holiday a raison d’etre, albeit a monumentally trivial one: Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving, and the sales are to pour more people into the stores. This year, Wal-Mart, Amazon, Sears, Toys”R”Us, True Value and various others started to promote their “Black Friday” sales in October. October? You’re offering Black Friday sales before Halloween? Let’s get a jump on this trend: Why not offer Fourth of July pricing at Thanksgiving? Or Election Day specials on New Year’s Eve? These fabricated holidays have little enough meaning without marketing distorting them anymore.


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