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  • Writer's pictureJim Gagen

Old School – Black Friday, Cyber Monday & Giving Tuesday

Consumer or Marketer Driven?

As we wrap up Thanksgiving weekend and hear the news reports on Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, I’m wondering whether these events are consumer driven, the creations of marketers or a combination of both?

Black Friday

Historically the opening of the Christmas shopping season, this day after Thanksgiving retail sales event dates back to the early 1950’s, although the term Black Friday wasn’t used until years later. The popular explanation for the name Black Friday is that it is the day retailers turn a profit for the year, thus going from red to black. As Black Friday started organically and is routinely the busiest shopping day of the year, it clearly started as being consumer driven. In recent years, marketers have gotten a jump on the day, opening stores on Thanksgiving afternoon. However, there appear to be mixed feelings about that, with some consumers shopping on Thanksgiving while others refuse to participate, objecting to the interference with this family holiday. Because of this conflict it seems that Black Friday still is a consumer driven event.

Cyber Monday

With the advent of the Internet and online shopping, Cyber Monday was developed in 2005 by a marketing team at, a division of the National Retail Federation. The idea was to provide online retailers with a catchy hook to match the bricks-and-mortar shopping frenzy of Black Friday. At the time, Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) wasn't the busiest online shopping day of the year. However, since 2014 Cyber Monday has become the biggest online shopping day in the country and it gets bigger every year. Since Cyber Monday was the creation of a marketing team, but took almost 10 years to become the top online shopping day of the year, I would consider this event a combination of being driven by the marketer and the consumer.

Giving Tuesday

Giving Tuesday was started in 2012 by the 92nd Street Y and the United Nations Foundation as a response to commercialization and consumerism of Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The intention was to set aside a day that was all about celebrating the generosity of giving. In other words, turning people’s attention from two days of consuming to a day of giving back. More than 2,500 non-profits participated in the first year which brought in roughly $10 million in online fundraising. Leveraging social media and using payment processors, the number of participating non-profits and consumer donations have grown exponentially since its inception. While the benefactors of Giving Tuesday are non-profit organizations, this event seems to be driven by the creators or marketers.

Bottom Line

With these Thanksgiving marketing phenomena, we have one example of each; a consumer driven event, a marketer driven event and a combination of both. Conclusions: there’s not just one way to achieve success; and the open marketplace works as long as there is sufficient supply and demand.

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