The holiday season is a joyous event that brings families together, and to signal the start of this festive time we have Black Friday. First coined in Philadelphia around 1961, Black Friday is celebrated as the kickoff to the U.S. holiday season and it is now starting to form part of our Canadian shopping rituals as retailers try to compete with our friends south of the border.
Before fully embracing this day in Canada, we need to understand its original meaning was used by the police to describe the shopping mayhem created by heavy pedestrian and vehicle traffic that occurs on the day after Thanksgiving. The meaning further evolved to describe the first day retailers shift from being in the red, with heavy profit loses sustained during the year leading up to the holidays, to being in the black. For a symbolic day, which introduces the height of the shopping season, the name for me is anything but positive.
The whole idea of branding such a joyous festivity as black is to me an oxymoron that gives me an ominous sense of despair whenever I hear the term used. I wonder if the reason Black Friday sends the wrong message is because of how we perceive the colour black. The use of black has strong emotional meaning as it represents the absence of light and has a long history of representing humans’ fear of the dark – not a great setting to get you thrilled about shopping.
The colour black is also seen as serious and sophisticated, which do not support the right moods of giving and discovery, two key emotional states associated with both the holiday season and shopping. I think Canadian Tire got it right with its recent holiday promotional theme that touts a “Red Friday” in celebration of both the retailer’s and also Canada’s brand colours. Red is the colour of passion, love, energy, and vitality – qualities that are much more in keeping with the holiday season. As Canadians, let’s rebrand the event to represent our values and aspirations as Red Friday!