Advertising Works – Look At Black Friday

It’s that time of the year again. You’re standing in an excessively long line of people outside of your local Target late on Thanksgiving night. The extra servings of mashed potatoes you finished a few hours earlier are sitting heavy. You desperately want to be back home lying on your couch, yet…you’re out here in the cold. What on earth is going on? Ah yes- it’s Black Friday. 

What is it about Black Friday that draws people out of their Thanksgiving food comas and into over-crowded stores across the country? What brings out our most rugged survival-like instincts as we wrestle fellow citizens for flat screen TVs? 

It can safely be summed up in a single word: Advertising

Black Friday advertising is successful because it highlights two important themes that push people to action- scarcity and urgency. 


The faster you need to make a decision, the less discretion you often practice when making it. Emphasizing that “once-in-a-lifetime sales” are going to end soon pushes people to make purchases they may not have otherwise. The adrenaline surge that comes with “scoring a deal” is real, and it’s only heightened when we feel like we barely made it before it was gone. But, in reality, sales of equal proportion have been going on for days in advance of Black Friday online. The illusion of urgency pushes people to act. 

Loyalty programs offer early access to sales. Sale deadlines are always highlighted, underscored, and marked with an exclamation point! You don’t want to miss this! Our blood pressure rises with a single sentence. We can all agree that the pressure is on when we hear “limited time only” attached to something enticing.


Will it ever be back again? Is this my only chance to get it? Okay, I’ll take 12. Phrases like “get them before they’re gone” in Black Friday ads are the reason people start lining up outside stores the night before. You can’t trust the person behind you to not buy out the whole supply, so you’ve gotta act fast. As I was writing this, I got a text from a clothing brand saying “You DESERVE this sweater, but hurry before it sells out!” I felt a brief moment of panic before I realized I never wanted the sweater in the first place. The fact that there is a limited supply (or so they say) is often a greater incentive than the value of the item itself – I don’t know what I need this giant flat screen for now, but what if I need it later and can’t get it then?

So this weekend as you rush to snag that killer deal, pause for a second and think about all the things you saw/read/listened to that motivated you to be there. Advertising often deserves the credit!

Have marketing questions? Need marketing services?

Do you need help
talking to your
perfect clients?