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Awards case study: How Salmon’s Black Friday campaign generated £18.8 million in new business leads and elevated its thought leadership profile | B2B Marketing

Find out how Harvard’s Black Friday campaign for ecommerce company Salmon achieved thought leadership cut-through and generated £13.8 million in new business leads

Ecommerce company Salmon wanted to own Black Friday; no easy task. Harvard’s response was Black Fiveday, a campaign designed to reach prospects and current customers alike, demonstrate expertise and cut through the white noise to make Salmon the go-to voice on the topic.

The results demonstrated clear success. Salmon was able to directly correlate the campaign to £13.8 million of new business leads and at least one major customer win.

Perhaps even more importantly, customers, prospects and media all recognise Salmon’s expertise, positioning it as a thought leader in the space.


Salmon is a global digital commerce consultancy that defines and delivers market-changing ecommerce solutions and customer journeys for the world’s leading brands.

Founded in 1989, it has over 700 experts in multichannel commerce, shaping client platforms that drive €7.4 billion in revenue annually.


Salmon tracks a huge amount of data related to its customer websites. This includes everything from uptime and outages, through to revenue generation. Yet it wasn’t using this data to help demonstrate the depth and breadth of its expertise.

Harvard wanted to change that, using Salmon’s data to better understand why Black Friday had become such a significant retail event in the UK and position the company at the heart of it. Working closely with Salmon’s data team, Harvard collaborated to tease out the insights that would give it a distinct point of view.

One thing that quickly became apparent was that Black Friday was on the verge of becoming more than just a one-day event. Instead, according to the data, 2016 would be the first ever ‘Black Fiveday’, during which online shoppers would hammer their wallets all week long.

Salmon’s data analysts also believed that 2016 would be the year in which mobile purchases would overtake desktop for the first time in British history. This insight presented online retailers with a two-fold challenge. Not only would they need to ensure that their digital storefronts could survive a sustained traffic onslaught throughout the week (standard practice to date had been to plan solely for Black Friday itself), retailers would also have to ensure their mobile apps and services were equally robust – a distinct challenge from their desktop offerings. Armed with this knowledge, Harvard set out to create a two-stage campaign that would put Salmon front and centre of media and customer minds.


Despite originating in the US, Black Friday has grown to become a genuine UK phenomenon. On Black Friday 2015, for instance, online traffic was 60% higher than in 2014, with retail sales surging past £800 million.

One of the side effects of this is that it’s become a PR’s playground, as every brand battles to own it. A tough ask for any global brand, let alone a brand which, by its own admission, had zero voice in the discussion to date.

Recognising it had missed a clear opportunity – to expand its share of voice, create sales opportunities and impress its existing customers – Salmon approached Harvard with a clear brief: “Put us at the top of the news agenda around Black Friday.”

It wanted to become the go-to brand for media on Black Friday, which it hoped would shine a light on its retail insight and provide it with a wealth of content to drive engagement and sales.

Harvard set about creating a concept that would ensure Salmon was miles ahead of its competitors, all without breaking the bank.

The target audience

Salmon’s Black Fiveday campaign was designed to put it at the forefront of both its current clients and prospects. This included chief digital officers, CIOs and heads of digital commerce within medium to large organisations.

Media, channels or techniques used

Black Friday had become a ‘canned opportunity’ for brands. To combat that and to make Salmon’s campaign – and unique insight – stand out, Harvard started five months earlier than everyone else.

  • Content creation (June 2016): 

    The ‘Black Fiveday Playbook’ was created: a book filled with expert advice on how retailers could capitalise on the shopping boom while ensuring their online stores and apps met the ensuing customer demand.

  • Pre-seeding commentary (Aug – Nov):

     At the same time, Havard began a programme of sustained media outreach, issuing an alert predicting the weeklong shopping bonanza and mobile tipping point, building trust in Salmon as the media’s go-to contact for Black Friday data, as well as launching a targeted social media campaign, using snippets of the playbook to raise awareness of Salmon’s expertise.

  • Aligning with sales and marketing (Aug – Nov):

     To support sales aims, Harvard collaborated with Salmon’s internal team to develop email marketing and advertising campaigns to support the launch, as well as an online campaign hub for the playbook and other materials.

  • Media launch (November 2016):

     The launch itself was all about the execution on a promise to the media. Harvard issued a series of infobytes and statistics at throughout the day, providing regular insight into the day’s retail trends, providing a digest of each day’s activity near the close of the day, with Salmon spokespeople providing comment. This gained coverage in The Daily Mirror, Forbes and Retail Week.

The campaign kicked off in June 2016. This fuelled all further activity, which continued through to – and post – Black Friday.


£19,000. Some resources, such as the campaign landing page, were developed in-house; all other activity was completed by the Harvard team.


Salmon focused on measuring success based on an increase in its media profile. However, Harvard also wanted to prove that PR could have a demonstrable impact on its business.

The campaign generated:

  • £13.8 million in new business leads – qualified as campaign-related by Salmon – making this its most successful marketing campaign.
  • ROI of at least 73:1.
  • Winning of at least one major customer.
  • 145 pieces of media coverage, 12 national pieces and a broadcast interview with CNBC.
  • 1,500+ visits to the landing page; predominantly ecommerce decision-makers and technology leaders within wholesale and retail organisations – two of Salmon’s key audiences.
  • 268 new LinkedIn followers made up of media and Salmon’s audience of digital and technology decision-makers.

“For our business, being seen in the public eye and media to lead debate and discussion around Black Friday – or Black Fiveday as we coined this year – has helped us dramatically change how we engage with existing customers and prospects across retail. The campaign took us to a whole new level, driven by both marketing and PR.” – Neil Stewart, CEO, Salmon

B2B Marketing Awards 2017 – winners

This submission won the award for 

‘Best use of thought leadership’

 at the B2B Marketing Awards 2017: ‘Salmon black fiveday’ for Salmon by Harvard.

See the full list of winners

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