Ah Thanksgiving. It is one of my favorite holidays because of my mom’s cooking. But also because this marks the beginning of the holiday season. I love when everything turns red and green and the Christmas carols start to play all around. In general, people seem to be in a better mood and you get to use phrases like “holiday spirit” and “seasons greetings.”  It really is the start of what is perceived as the happiest time of year.

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As I watched the news Friday evening, they were reporting on the retail business numbers from the day. It seems that the numbers are up from last year. People are spending more which is good for retail and for our economy.  What is so interesting to me though is that once again this year, thousands upon thousands of people all across this nation lined up at the doors of stores at absurd hours to be the first ones in to buy “stuff.” Once doors open, there is often a mad rush in the door by all of the consumers and it can cause quite the hazard. In 2008, a women working at Wal-Mart was trampled to death by a throng of people shoving their way into the store.  This year, a man was trampled and sent to the hospital at a Target in Buffalo, NY. Luckily he just suffered some minor back injuries, was treated and released.

How have the retail marketing geniuses created an environment where people are willing to disregard, push, jump over, and trample anyone standing in their way of those precious Black Friday deals? It is an amazing feat that the marketing campaigns have accomplished and have really evolved in the past few years especially. Parts of the strategies are common marketing techniques. But others are mind games that they play.

—I wrote this post over a two day period. The above part is what I wrote last night. When I opened my computer today to start work, I found this CNN article that talks about exactly what I was going to talk about.  So in the interest of efficiency, I will paraphrase the article in the paragraph below, but feel free to go to CNN and check out the full article.—

“Cyber Monday” was coined a few years back by Shop.org and was rumored to be the biggest online shopping day of the year. Of course this rumor was started by Shop.org. The problem is that this is mostly a marketing gimmick. CNN reports, “Cyber Monday has never been the biggest day of the year for online retail sales, said Andrew Lipsman, director of industry analysis at comScore, a company that monitors internet traffic.” There are actually many other days throughout the year that out shop the Monday after Thanksgiving for online sales. So why Shop.org make statements about Cyber Monday and how much online purchasing would happen on those days? For the same reason the four walled retail market opens their doors at ridiculous hours.

The power of Mental Retail Warfare is such an engrained part of our lives these days, we don’t even see the intricacies anymore – we take it for what it is. A DVD selling for $29.99, a jacket that is 25% off, buy two books and get the third half off; it is enough to make anyones head spin when you stop and think about it. But that’s exactly what retailers don’t want you to do. These marketing ploys I’ve mentioned are old and are used everywhere items are sold to the public. However with the creation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, a new weapon has entered the retailer’s arsenal: Mob Mentality.

When you hear that Wal-Mart is opening at midnight, Target is throwing its doors open at 3am, and Toys R Us is unlocking it’s store at 4am, you can’t help but think of all of the other people that are going to be there waiting at the door to snatch the toys YOU need for Christmas. So you now have to go and stand in line at all hours of the night to make sure you get what you need for your family, friends, and kids. You also might be talking to a friend who will be attending an early morning opening of a store and now you have to participate as well because you obviously are the only one not partaking in this “tradition.” So the mob grows and grows and causes people to lose their minds.  They don’t think about the fact that Christmas is still 30 days away and there are shipments and truck delivers to most large retail stores every other day.

A similar situation is occurring with Cyber Monday. You hear that term being thrown around and you now wonder, “Am I the only one not shopping today?” So you hop on the computer and check out the “sales.” The retailers have created these days to create the mob mentality that causes consumers to act together and in the end, purchase more.

So how can a small business use this lesson to help increase sales and revenue? It’s not like a small business could declare a day to shop at their store. But what you can do is market your product or your service as something that “the mob” is doing. Pick weird times or dates to initiate sales/specials for your business. If you have a community, use it to your advantage; create a term that relates to you selling something and market the term to your community, not your products. For example, “Inflatable February – second week in February” I could follow this up by throwing in a statistic about how many inflatables get booked in the month of February to give the community a scare and push those on the fringe into the mob. I’m not marketing any specific item or type of event on Inflatable February, I am simply reminding the consumers that February is when you should do your shopping for inflatables for the upcoming spring and summer months. Now because events with inflatables tend to be larger and are not bought on a whim, I opted to make it a week long, instead of one day. But you get the picture. I could then more easily market the week instead of marketing to individual organizations to help my cause.

What do you think? Is there mob mentality in your industry? What kind of day/week/month would you create to help your business gain recognition or sales?