Three years ago, Csaki landed on a clever solution. Instead of promoting cheap products for Black Friday, Citizen Wolf would help customers extend the life of their clothes by dyeing them black. Wearing clothes just nine months longer reduces their carbon footprint by 30 per cent, and redyed clothing creates 95 per cent less carbon than virgin manufacturing.
Leaning into the Black Friday frenzy, Csaki decided to call the initiative Black Fridye, a play on words that he hoped would help the anti-consumption message cut through the noise.
The first year, he simply emailed the brand’s customer database about the Black Fridye offer. The next year, Melbourne fashion label Nique came on board and doubled the impact. This year, there are 26 brands involved and counting and a separate Black Fridye website where customers can learn how the process works and pay for items to be redyed ($19 for a t-shirt, $29 for jeans).
Csaki told Inside Retail he’d like Black Fridye to become a platform for change that any business in any industry can be a part of – like Clean Up Australia Day or Movember. Of the 26 brands supporting Black Fridye this year, many are sustainable fashion pioneers like Citizen Wolf, such as A.BCH and Good Day Girl, but there are also beer brands, coffee roasters and even the musician Annie Hamilton
“We set out to create a multi-industry coalition of brands because the problem of mindless consumption extends far beyond your wardrobe,” Csaki said. “I’m proud to say we’ve done that. It just speaks to the power and simplicity of the idea.”
A creativity arms race
In the US, consumers are expected to spend US$22.7 billion online between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, according to Adobe Analytics, while in Australia, total spending over the four-day period is tipped to exceed $5 billion.
It can be hard for brands with an anti-Black Friday message like Citizen Wolf to compete. But ever since US outdoor retailer REI made headlines for its decision to close stores on Black Friday in 2015 and give employees the day off, forgoing millions of dollars in sales, businesses have realised the ability of bold, counterintuitive marketing campaigns to cut through the noise.
Last year, Canadian cosmetics brand Deciem, which owns The Ordinary, closed its stores and e-commerce sites on the day ‘formerly known as Black Friday’ to protest the culture of impulse buying and hyper-consumption. Instead, it offered a 23 per cent discount for the entire month of November to enable customers to make more considered purchases. It’s doing the same again this year.
Meanwhile, New Zealand-founded woollen shoe brand Allbirds is actually raising the price of its products by $1 on Black Friday. It will match the price increase with $1 of its own for every item sold and donate all additional proceeds to Fridays For Future, the grassroots movement started by climate activist Greta Thunberg.
“The anti-Black Friday movement is in an arms race in terms of creativity,” Csaki said. “Anyone can go on sale. You put a red sign out the front and sit down and wait for customers to come in and buy. Not everybody has the balls to do what Allbirds is doing.”
Actions, not words
Patagonia knows something about the power of creative campaigns. Its ‘Don’t buy this jacket ad’, which ran on Black Friday in 2011 and detailed the environmental cost of its R2 fleece jacket, is a famous example of counterintuitive marketing.
But while getting people’s attention is important, actions speak louder than words, according to Patagonia’s country director in Australia and New Zealand Dane O’Shanassy.
“[W]e believe the real cut-through is in brand transparency, rather than creativity alone,” he told Inside Retail.
As in the past, Patagonia won’t be going on sale this Black Friday; instead, it will be going on a media blitz, placing ads in national newspapers and on the streets of Sydney and Melbourne. It also plans to share information online and in stores about the impact each of its products has on the environment and ask customers to reconsider whether they really need to buy something new.
“Now that it’s 2020, we’re trying to spotlight the urgency of the climate crisis through footage of our planet’s destruction and some relatable, strong language. It might make people stop and think,” O’Shanassy said.