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These three Gen Z brands did Black Friday a little differently

by John Wheeler
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    A holiday that once focused solely on deals and discounts is becoming more interesting and meaningful than its original intent — and we largely have Gen Z to thank for that. Here are three retail brands that embraced Gen Z’s unique approach to Black Friday shopping.


    Black Friday remains one of the world’s premier shopping holidays, showing no indications of slowing or peaking anytime soon (if the most-recent sales figures are any indication). That being said, like any holiday that’s been on the calendar long enough, it is beginning to show a few signs of age. And that’s a good thing.

    In the same way that successive generations have transformed what it means to celebrate Christmas, New Year’s or (for that matter) Thanksgiving, the same goes for everyone’s favorite day of marathon shopping. Brands are beginning to adjust to the fact that younger consumers — particularly Gen Zers — aren’t driven by savings alone. Whether online or in-store, here are three purpose-driven brands that appealed to Gen Z over the course of the recent bonanza.

    Patagonia: Giving back with each sale

    While other stores chose a more traditional approach to Black Friday, the outdoor lifestyle and clothing brand took the high road of corporate social responsibility, donating the entirety of its Black Friday sales — a cool $10 million — to grassroots environmental groups seeking to protect air, water and soil quality throughout the world.

    Patagonia’s efforts are a big draw for Generation Z. A recent study by UNiDAYS found that fully 93 percent of Gen Z respondents believe brands need to take a firm stance on environmental issues. By showing exactly where they stand on the environment, Patagonia also stands to win major points with Gen Zers every other day of the consumer year.

    Allbirds: Keeping true to its brand — Black Friday or none

    Allbirds went for a counterintuitive approach to the usual post-Thanksgiving sales deals. While the popular Gen Z sneaker brand did release a new line of products over the course of the long weekend, it made no mention of “incentives” or “promo codes” on its websites or social channels. Why? Because Allbirds wanted to highlight the fact it carries quality sneakers already priced lower than most competitors. By staying true to its voice and values — even if it meant saying “no” to the traditional Black Friday sales approach — Allbirds appealed to youth consumers’ love for brand authenticity, emerging from the weekend as a brand that’s Gen Z-relatable.

    Everlane: Choose what you pay (and for a good cause, too)

    A company that never fails to impress in its marketing innovations, Everlane decided to do its own take on the concept of a sale. The company’s “Shoes What You Pay” online sale initiative (an obvious riff on “Choose what you pay”) gave customers the option of paying three possible price points for their choice of five pairs of top-rated Everlane flats, heels and loafers. Regardless of whether they selected the “low,” “medium” or “high” payment option, $13 of their money went to a cause that’s nobler than saving big on shoes: namely, ridding America’s beaches of 20,000 pounds of plastic.

    This makes for good Gen Z business sense. According to the same recent UNiDAYS survey of Gen Z students, 44 percent reported making a first-time purchase from a brand for the sole reason they appreciated its position on a societal or political issue. Not only did Everlane’s consumers get the option of saving money on quality products, they also had a chance at “saving” shorelines and oceans. Whether financially or socially, that’s top-dollar savings however you look at it.

    To sum it all up

    While the doorbuster deals and jostling crowds armed with coupons and promo codes are still fixtures of Black Friday, we’re also beginning to see other patterns at work. A holiday that once focused solely on deals and discounts is growing up to become something more interesting and meaningful than its original intent — and we have Gen Z largely to thank for that.

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