Even though we haven’t even made it to Halloween yet, it’s undeniable that the holiday season is quickly approaching. And as someone who has previously worked in retail, I know there’s another more controversial holiday quickly approaching: Black Friday.
Black Friday is a bittersweet day. For shoppers, it’s an early morning extravaganza to snatch up the year’s best deals. For sales associates, it’s long hours of pure chaos. Every retailer plans months in advanced for this big day… except for one.
Last year, REI created the #OptOutisde campaign and decided to close its 149 stores and online sales on Black Friday. Instead, REI paid its employees to document themselves spending time outdoors. REI recently announced that they plan on making #OptOutside an annual tradition and they will again close their doors this year.
It’s a bold move for REI to miss out on the largest shopping day of the year. But being bold can pay off.
Last year, REI was struggling to come up with ideas to promote their business throughout the holiday season, aside from weekly coupons and deals. REI and their creative team realized that they were so wrapped up in sales that they were forgetting to promote a lifestyle. They knew they needed to stick out from their competitors, but in a different way. So instead of flooding the web with advertisements, they decided to go back to their brand’s roots and encourage everyone to use their products to get outdoors on Black Friday. Instead of standing in line at the nearest mall, we should be spending time with our families and enjoying nature. REI wanted to reinstate the value that their products are not just items for sale, they’re tools to help you create the lifestyle you’ve always wanted.
#OptOutside turned into a powerful partnership with other brands like Google, Subaru, Yeti, and Burton. Even state and national parks promoted the campaign. Consumers were able to go on REI’s website and search the nearest state or national park they could visit. There were also activities and ideas listed for users to aid them in their new Black Friday adventure.
By doing something unconventional, REI was able to start a movement towards something they believed in. They wanted to convey the message that we should be focused on spending time outside with others instead of waiting in line to buy the latest tech item.
Over the next few years, the goal for REI’s #OptOutside campaign is now for other companies to take part and join the outdoor revolution.