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Should your brand focus on Black Friday or Giving Tuesday?

If your e-mail is anything like mine, chances are this week you were inundated with Black Friday promotions, as retailers aim to get a head start on the holiday shopping season.

Some retailers may have even started promoting their activities for Giving Tuesday – a Canadian campaign created in response to the shopping frenzies of Black Friday and Cyber Monday – to get the jump on the charitable outpourings that typically happen this time of year.

Sure, it's all one season from the public's perspective, but the duality of giving/taking presents opposing marketing priorities. Established companies decide how they give back to that public, by charitable actions or discounted offerings, and that rich brand history has offered countless case studies on the advantages of either.

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As a newer brand, you know your voice, but do you know if you're better off aligning with Black Friday or Giving Tuesday?

As Amazon's Jeff Bezos says, "Branding is what people say about you when you're not in the room." That thought is part and parcel of the impetus for giving back. Although both approaches lead to profit loss, would you rather your brand be considered generous or thrifty?

Though selfless in concept, backing a charity or cause is a successful pairing of marketing efforts and the individual need to give to others. Backing a non-profit organization, on a discoverable day like Giving Tuesday, might be the nudge a potential customer needs to choose you over competitors. Not to be confused with slacktivism, the brands that provide case studies in community-minded branding take a human approach all year long, not just on a convenient day. This approach works as a way of reflecting the most selfless version of the target audience in a light that makes them swear allegiance with purchase power.

A great example of a brand that consistently aligns to the spirit of community in its marketing efforts is Warby Parker. While the company has been recognized for its trendy, wallet-friendly frames, its success demonstrates a new and very simple kind of corporate social responsibility. For every pair of glasses purchased, a pair is distributed to someone in need. A simple model, blurring the line between social and business as any long-term strategy must.

While promotional in nature, soliciting social conversation and earned media, the one-for-one program aligns the brand nicely to Canadian generosity. A strategic plan for a new-to-market retailer, acting as a mirror to reflect how Canadians would like to see themselves.

On the not-so-flip-side of that same coin, lay considerable brands that choose to give back to their target community through discounting. As far as bottom lines, giving back and discounting ultimately net out the same. That said, in the hearts and minds of the public, which of the teams a brand plays on makes a huge difference in perception.

There are few better examples of discount-guided marketing than big-box retailers south of the border. As an extreme example, we've seen their fans react to discounts most notably on Black Friday, where shoppers rush to outdo each other as the thriftiest. And there in turn is the downside to discounts, as compared to positioned-generosity: They destroy price integrity at a rapid pace, while provoking in some cases a literal stampede of bargain shoppers.

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When considering the idea of mirroring what the public wants to think of themselves, ask yourself if discounting elicits a reaction that effectively reflects the worst parts of ourselves.

As a brand strategist, I've seen teams in both camps succeed by owning every part of their decisions. Despite best intentions, if motivations aren't organic and consistent to a brand's year-long strategy, the hawk-eyed public will not buy in.

If your company mirrors a philanthropic spirit, it must feel authentic, and be a driver to every marketing objective. If on the other side your brand mirrors the thriftier side in all of us, it must be a value-based and long-term strategy to survive. The key across the board is consistency, and at the heart of both sides is the core driver of human behavior.

Whether you're a Black Friday, or a Giving Tuesday, in the coming week the biggest chance to shout it loud is upon you. Question is, do you know what you're going to say?

Mia Pearson is co-founder of North Strategic, a social and public relations agency, and Notch Video, a video-content community and online marketplace.

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About the Author
Social and Earned Media Columnist

A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and timing led Mia Pearson to co-found North Strategic, a communications agency built on the belief that social needs to be integrated into everything you do. A serial entrepreneur, Ms. More

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