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The Spree of the Season: Black Friday 2013

 Santo Domingo

For this marketer, the chance to experience Black Friday in the flesh is always welcome. It's different, it's fun and it's a great way of witnessing how brands fight it out in the retail battlefield. I mean, what could be a more perfect preamble for the Christmas season?  So just like last year, equipped with my camera and my two cousins, we hit the streets of Miami for a reprise of an unforgettable - and crowded - shopping spree. 

According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent approximately $59 billion during Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2012, with an estimated 247 million people who visited stores and websites. As people flocked brick-and-mortar stores, the online platforms exploded. This year was no different.

In 2013, while in-store sales dropped by 2.7%, online sales increased by 15% and 21% on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, respectively. This led many retailers to target mobile and tablets shoppers more than ever before. According to Ron Josey, "This is the first holiday season when mobile is having its mark on overall retail sales. The online frenzy has couriers with higher shipping volumes., with an expected 420 million packages, a 10% increase from last year." The age of online shopping is at an all-time high.

So how did brands compensate? Simple, they started with discounts a lot sooner. By sooner, I mean days -  even weeks - in advance. This substitution effect made us ask ourselves: "Why should I spend the day being shoved, when I can enjoy my discounts beforehand without the masses? Or better yet - in the comfort of my own home?" Is this all still worth the hassle? As Rafi Mohammed from the Harvard Business Reviews points out, retailers are stuck with the "discounting prisoner's dilemma." 

CNN conducted a survey in which they asked people if considered Black Friday to be  worth it, and the result was a resounding "No" by  54%, and comments such as "Online shopping is the way to go" by  37%. True, web deals were hard to beat, but isn't Black Friday supposed to be about the shopping experience? Could online platforms give us that same taste of the holiday season? Is this effort from our part as marketers, to be ahead of the game, to beat the time, eventually killing the purpose of it all in the first place?

On another note, according to the folks of Kenshoo, ad performance was in an all time high. Retailers generated up to 15 times more revenue from Facebook ads on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and saw a growth on its Return on Ad Spend by 93%. But what is really interesting is how Black Friday and Cyber Monday generated triple the average number of conversions with clients.

Will this be an interesting phenomenon to study through the course of the following years? You bet. As far as I can tell, Black Friday is a festivity unlike any other, whose dynamics are transforming before our very eyes. It will be intriguing to see what the next twelve months will bring.

 Check out my pictures from this year's Black Friday:

"Getting ready for the mayhem." Walmart, 4:00pm

Getting ready for the mayhem. - Walmart, 4:00pm


50% off

50% off - Michael Kors, 9:00pm


All together now



Get in line

Getting in line at 11:00pm



$9.96 - Walmart



The Red Sea - Apple


The best buy?

Best Buy

Meanwhile, in Santo Domingo, my sister snapped this picture of one cute little shopper:

Early adopter

Ms. Panasonic


"How Thanksgiving lost its Mojo", Rafi Mohammed. Harvard Business Review.

"Cyber Monday Sales at Record as Amazon, eBay win Shoppers", Danielle Kucera. Bloomberg Technology.

"Poll: Do you think Black Friday is worth it?", CNN Money. 

"Infographic: How well did Facebook ads perform during Black Friday, Cyber Monday?", Justin Lafferty. Inside Facebook.

More Than Branding ranked #3 in BuyerZone’s “Best Business Branding Blogs of 2013”


I am absolutely thrilled to announce that More Than Branding has been rated as one of the best business branding blogs of 2013 in The Best of BuyerZone series, by BuyerZone, an online small business resource center.

"Maria delivers information on branding in a variety ways, via blog posts, videos, infographics and graphs," says Sylvia Rosen, Online Analyst and Writer for BuyerZone. "The number of content types she presents to her readers keeps them both informed and engrossed."

About the ranking

The ranking highlights blogs that provide tips and advice on an array of branding topics, including name selection, promotion tips, reputation management, networking and more.

Each blog was ranked on the following:

  • Content freshness
  • Blog age
  • Social media presence
  • Engagement with readers

To read more about the blog and the rest of the winners, check out the article: The Best Business Branding Blogs of 2013.

Thank you very much! I am truly humbled!

(SOURCE: BuyerZone)

Black Friday: The Pictures


As we immersed ourselves in the magic of Black Friday for more than twenty-four hours, social media never left our side. Here's a look at some of my personal Instagram pictures to what was a shop-a-thon I'll never forget. 

Post Apocalyptic. - Parking lot.

Camp out. - Best Buy, Thursday, 11:00 am.

The three of us. - Dolphin Mall, Friday, 5:00 am.

"No tripod? No problem." - Walmart, Friday, 6:00 pm.

Closing in the 20th hour mark. - Best Buy, Friday, 8:00 pm.

The Thrill of the Bargain: Black Friday


As a marketing and advertising freak, it's always interesting to see the lengths brands go through during the holiday season, and recently, even more so during Black Friday. I'd been watching so much being done - campaigns, sales, etc - but never had I experienced it in the flesh.  So this year, I packed my bags and flew to the USA for up-close encounter on what is the most extravagant shopping spree of the season. Of course, I wasn't alone. I was joined by two experienced and enthusiastic Black Friday shoppers, Paola and Carlos.

Our plan of attack was simple: hit the stores at 9pm (on Thursday) and pull an all-nighter. (with some power naps in between.)  Two of Miami's largest shopping centers and then the major retailers... WalMart, Best Buy, Macy's, the list went on. In the end, it was a 20-hour exhilarating shop-a-thon. 

Here's how it all went down: 

Check out my Black Friday photo album.

Getting down to business:

Retailers opened a early as 9pm on Thursday, Thanksgiving night, hence jumpstarting the holiday shopping season hours before. The result was 30% of Americans chosing to buy during Thanksgiving instead of Black Friday, according to polls. "Black Friday is still a huge day for retailers but is losing significance as chains start promotions earlier in the week both in stores and online. ShopperTrak, which measures foot traffic at stores across the country, estimated that sales fell 1.8 percent on Black Friday itself yet rose 2.7 percent for the overall weekend, which included Thanksgiving day." (Source:

It was a busy, busy day. The top destinations during Black Friday were: department stores, discount chains and last, but not least, electronics store. A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over the Black Friday weekend with the average buyer spending US$423, considerably higher than last year with 226 million shoppers spending an average of US$398. Through both channels - online and in stores- customers felt motivated by brands' super deals and the fact that retail chains got started even sooner.

I do, however, feel it's important to notice how several marketers are becoming concerned about the extension of Black Friday, and its long-term effects. Take strategist Daniel Burrus, for instance: "By extending Black Friday and also having Black Saturday, Black Sunday, Black Monday, Black Tuesday, etc., all of a sudden that special day becomes less special, and consumers do remember. That means next year, and the year after that, Black Friday becomes less of a driver to get people into the stores... it has the potential to dilute this special shopping day’s power next year, which will, in turn, hurt retailers." (Source: Business2Community)