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Other businesses pile on to Black Friday, the event

An employee explains a line of beauty products to customers at the West Acres Mall in Fargo, N.D.

Like it or not, Black Friday is now an inescapable event, extending well beyond the doors of bigbox retail. Because where there are packs of wild deal hunters, there's opportunity -- and for companies you may think would stay home on Black Friday.

Lindsay Merlin is an account manager for Lucky415, a guerilla marketing firm that promotes all kinds of things. Her Black Friday clients include "promotions for some large insurance companies, we've done some new TV shows, even, promoting for restaurants and over-the-counter medicines."

To reach those crowds her "street teams" have to show up early, too.

"They're going to get up at 2 or 3 a.m., so it's cold in most places," Merlin says. "And they're there 8 to 10 hours on their feet, walking around passing out samples." Basically they hang out and do direct marketing to all the shoppers waiting in line.

That's what Black Friday has come to mean to savvy marketers: captive audience. Jonathan Margolis works for the alternative marketing firm Michael Alan. He says it's a perfect day for publicity stunts, for any type of product.

In addition to street teams of direct marketers, his company stays on top of the trends. He says clients try to outdo themselves each year. Some of the tactics? Vehicles "wrapped" in ads for a brand, food trucks giving away freebies, outside projections of ads, and floor stenciling -- temporary ads that look like graffiti on the ground.

Restaurants next to retailers are warming up to more Black Friday promotions, too. Jenny McCabe with Seattle's Best Coffee says it's an obvious match.

"Coffee and shopping, especially waking up early to shop, go hand in hand," she says.

Seattle's Best is running its second Black Friday campaign, with free coffee for all retail workers, and discounts for shoppers at their cafes. She says the chain has an established reputation as a place to rest amid the crowds. And while they're sitting there,  weary shoppers might just think: "Hmm, maybe Uncle Johnny just needs a coffee gift certificate," instead of heading once more into the breach for that sweater sale.

About the author

Eve Troeh is News Director at WWNO-FM in New Orleans, La., helping build the first public radio news department in the station’s 40-year history. She reported for the Marketplace Sustainability Desk from 2010 to 2013.

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