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Expert Q & A

How REI, Allbirds and Bearaby Do Black Friday

September 6, 2022
September 22, 2021
Mae Rice

Black Friday doesn’t have to be about slashing prices — and this year, supply chain slowdowns mean it kind of can’t be. Luckily, there’s an alternative playbook you can try.

Table of Contents

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Black Friday as we know it is dying. What’s next? 

Brand marketer Jared Rosenberg has an idea: an “anti-Black Friday” stance.

So far, this has worked best for businesses that:

  • Are household names
  • Have a loyal audience — think great reviews, lots of social proof and high LTV
  • Value sustainability year-round

But steep Black Friday discounts don’t make a ton of sense for anyone this year — so even for smaller, newer brands, a new approach is worth considering. 

How do you actually do it? Here are three potential approaches, courtesy of Rosenberg.

Raise your prices 

On Black Friday in 2020, athleisure retailer Allbirds raised all its prices by $1 per item.

It donated all the extra dollars (plus a matching donation from the Allbirds coffers) to Fridays for the Future, Greta Thurnberg’s climate organization. 

“There has to be a purpose,” Rosenberg said — and this fit Allbirds’ long-standing eco-friendly mission. Raising prices more substantially, or with a pure profit motive, might not resonate as much, he said.

Shut down your stores

Since 2018, outdoor retailer REI has closed its stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, giving all its employees paid time off. 

The goal? “Reclaiming a day that was distorting a time to give thanks for what we have,”  CEO Jerry Stritzke explained, “and re-grounding in what we value most in life.”

Namely: spending time outside. 

It’s nice for employees, and a more effective marketing for “diehard REI outdoorsy types” than “discounting some prices and moving products,” Rosenberg argued.

Add friction to checkout

Sustainable weighted blanket brand Bearaby has never offered a discount.

Last year, they took another step away from the Black Friday norm: they added friction to checkout.

Instead of letting clients buy their black blanket, the Mindful Edition Napper, straight from an ad landing page, they made checkout a three-step process. That included...

  • A page that asked shoppers to reflect on their mood
  • A page that encouraged shoppers to “sleep on it” and wait 24 hours before buying

They found that when shoppers slept on it and purchased in a calm and happy mood, “their return rate was almost non-existent,” chief growth officer Joaquin Arce told MarketerHire. 

Our takeaway? 

Black Friday marketing doesn’t have to be all about hyping discounts — and zigging when everyone else zags can help you stand out.

Especially if everyone else is zigging in a risky, potentially unprofitable way because “it’s tradition.”

Mae Rice
about the author

Mae Rice is editor in chief at MarketerHire. A long-time content marketer, she loves learning about the weird and wonderful feedback loops that connect marketing and culture.

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