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More Holiday Marketing Tricks: Making Shopping a Bonding Experience

By Motley Fool Staff - Dec 19, 2017 at 2:29PM

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What in any other season would be an ordinary trip to the mall at this time of year can become a tribal reaffirmation.

In this episode of Motley Fool Answers, Alison Southwick and Robert Brokamp are back with more warnings about the mind games that advertisers and retailers play on us -- and they play with extra intensity during this most profitable time of the year.

Not that they're suggesting you become a Miser -- Heat or otherwise -- but they do want you to know precisely how you're being manipulated to open your wallet. One that you might not think about is the way that holiday shopping with your family and friends, especially on big days like Black Friday, becomes a group event almost like hunting a mammoth was for our ancestors.

A full transcript follows the video.

This video was recorded on Dec. 12, 2017.

Alison Southwick: First, we're going to talk about a new trend on Black Friday and that is the tribal bonding aspect. You're making a face at me. A confused face.

In previous years, most stories around Black Friday talked about the frenzy, right? People are waiting in line, and they're all going to get in there, and then they're going to punch each other in the face for a Playstation, and Merry Christmas, everybody!

I noticed a lot of stories, this year, about the death of Black Friday and how we're all going to move to online shopping and how Black Friday won't be as much of a big deal in the future. There were a few articles, however, this year that talked about tribal bonding and how Black Friday is not just about getting good deals. It's about psychologically getting together with your friends and family and how it creates this bonding moment.

If you think about it, it's almost like you're all going into battle together. You eat your Thanksgiving feast and you proceed to put on your battle armor of warm winter coats. You've got your folding camping chairs. You storm the castle [also known as a Best Buy or a whatever]. You then fight with other consumers for items. Then you go home again, sit by the fire, drink from a mighty horn or maybe just a mug, and you share your war stories. You talk about the deals you've got and you're all there together.

It's almost like you're going into battle with your family and it's reinforcing bad behavior, at times, because you're more likely to punch someone in the face for a Fingerling. Apparently, that's the thing this year that is all the rage. If your sister is by your side and irately screaming at you to do it. You're all getting together and going out there in force. One headline in USA Today actually declared Black Friday as "the day of mother-daughter bonding." Aw, isn't that sweet?

Robert Brokamp: That's so nice.

Southwick: Experts think that because of this tribal bonding -- sisters who every year, while the men are watching football, all get together and go to the mall -- that Black Friday probably won't go away anytime soon as long as people make it part of their holiday tradition.

Brokamp: I have to say. This is the first year in many years we did not go home to Florida for Thanksgiving, and that is part of the tradition. My mom and my sisters would go out. We didn't do it this year because it was just us at home. I kind of missed it.

Southwick: Did you?

Brokamp: I have to admit I kind of missed it. Because, you do. You sit around and look at all the deals. I have to say that from a retail perspective, when you see someone else spending money, it makes you feel comfortable spending money. My sisters like to spend money. It's probably better for my pocketbook I didn't go with them, but I can understand from a retail perspective why that's a great thing.

Southwick: Yes. Clan Brokamp went out there and they [fought] the other clans for Christmas deals. You miss that! I'm not surprised.

Brokamp: Last year we also had our dog with us, who is like 15 pounds, and I smuggled the dog into a Target. Everyone loved it except for the Target employees.

Southwick: Oh, you'd think someone there would secretly love it.

Brokamp: Probably secretly.

Rick Engdahl: Was it a dire wolf? Ate you on the battlefield?

Southwick: Di doo, doo, doo, di, doo. My sister-in-law loves to go Black Friday shopping and sometimes we'll go do Thanksgiving at their house. But she doesn't like to buy anything when she goes shopping. We're basically just fighting for a parking space for like an hour just to walk around a mall. If I'm in a mall I'm going to buy something, because I'm going to be bored if I don't. I never really got that tribal bonding [thing] because I think we just were there for different reasons.

Brokamp: And if you're with someone who's super frugal...

Southwick: You're not going to spend.

Brokamp: ... you feel a little ashamed to be spending money.

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