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"Small Business Saturday" a boon for Amex and small biz owners

Posted by Jason Keith  November 21, 2012 09:53 AM

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Everyone knows Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year. People wait in line for hours, in the wee hours of the morning, to get the best deals they can. Stores have started running promotions early, even turning Black Friday into a month long event, rather than a 24 hour sale. It's become so ingrained in American culture, people forget that the initial connotation for Black Friday marked the stock market crash on Sept. 24, 1869.  In the 1950's, workers adopted the phrase to mark the day after Thanksgiving and the number of employees who simply wouldn't show up for work.  Despite it's nuances, the day has become a national shopping holiday.

However, the transformation of the Saturday following Black Friday has been nearly as remarkable as Black Friday itself. In just a few short years Small Business Saturday has taken hold on November 24. It's the day that American Express, along with a slew of influential partners including the Small Business Administration, multiple professional sports organizations and some of the countries biggest corporations (including Facebook) want you to "shop small." I wrote about this last year, allowing real small businesses to weigh in with their thoughts.

SBS 2012 logo.jpgThe skeptic (and social marketer) in me points out that on its face, this is nothing more than an enormous (emphasis on enormous) marketing campaign for American Express, bringing in millions of dollars in processing fees for the company as well as incredible brand exposure. It puts them on the map like no other advertising campaign we've seen before. Marketing professionals will be studying the staggering success of this for years to come.  Amex provides all kinds of marketing collateral and online advertising (as of yesterday it was no longer available)  for small businesses to use while spurring them to sign up to accept the . There are online banners and logos, signage and social media templates, all with the Shop Small mantra. The Facebook page alone has over three million fans. The company walks the walk while talking the talk, giving small business owners the power to promote the holiday and themselves with equal vigor.

Putting the skeptic aside though it's impossible not to recognize that there is incredible value in pushing consumers to shop small and with local businesses, even if it's only one day a year. The power in that has been, and will hopefully continue to be, incredible. According to Amex, more than 100 million people took part in the "Shop Small" initiative last year. That's a staggering number of people shopping locally. And localization is the reason that this has been not only powerful, but effective in getting the message out. Local businesses promote the event and encourage people in their area to shop small, local media then picks up on the event and writes about it, covering it with live TV the day of and also encouraging people to get out and shop small.

The reason why this event is getting the coverage it is is because EVERYONE loves small businesses and there's no reason to NOT shop small. It makes local communities come together, support one another and improve the local economy. It's good for everyone, with zero downside. That's the genius and the power of this campaign. Do a Google News search for Small Business Saturday and see how many hyper local results come up, from local publications and websites in cities and towns across the country, all talking about how their area is participating. It's staggering. It's a truly grassroots campaign that's taken hold and grown via traditional and new marketing channels. Social media, signage, online and print news media, advertising, direct mail, email - there isn't a channel that it hasn't appeared or been mentioned either by Amex or the local areas taking part.

Small business have never truly had the spotlight all to themselves for any specific reason. Sure everyone talks about how they are the engine of economic growth and vital to the overall economy, but they've never truly had a day to collectively celebrate and reap the benefits of something like a Black Friday like the huge retailers do. I think what started out as a marketing campaign has actually grown into a very important "holiday" for this country, in that small business owners now have something they can all rally behind, promote and then (hopefully) reap the monetary benefits of.

At some point, if Small Business Saturday becomes every small businesses busiest shopping day of the year, then the mission will have truly been accomplished.


This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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