Chapter 24 REI’s #OptOutside Campaign Bucks Tradition
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With Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, you could be forgiven for believing that Christmas has become all about commerce.
In 2015, REI bucked this trend by introducing the #OptOutside campaign.
The idea was simple: while other retailers obsessed over making sales, REI closed its doors on Black Friday, giving the entire staff a paid day off. The ethos for the outdoor retailer was to not only encourage their own employees to get outside, but to inspire others to join in the movement.
Two initial videos were produced. The first features images of forests and mountains overlaid with chatter about Black Friday, which becomes increasingly loud before going radio silent as the campaign’s hashtag is displayed. In the second video, the company CEO explains the project from a work desk on a mountain.
Alongside the videos, active participation was encouraged with the hashtag through which participants were invited to share media from their outdoor adventures. Camping kits were put together and sent to leaders in the hiking and outdoor community, while partnership with a geo-mapping service produced a site that inexperienced hikers could use to find appropriate outdoor locations.
As an outdoor store, REI took the view that their typical customers would not want to spend hours inside fighting crowds to shop. They were also acutely aware of their own employees’ preferences not to work on Black Friday.
As such, REI created a project that its own consumers would value, strengthening their customer base with a counterintuitive mesage. As for timing, all elements of the project were prepared for an October launch in The New York Times, alongside the television ads and hashtag site. This was intentionally designed for maximum exposure, occurring less than two months prior to Black Friday.
The campaign is an example of a retailer who knows their customers, inviting them to partake in their favorite outdoor activities instead of encouraging them to shop. Its participatory nature further engages consumers directly with the campaign. Within weeks, it was grabbing big headlines. Since launching, over 150 retailers and parks have since joined forces with #OptOutside.
Moreover, the campaign won the prestigious Grand Prix prize at the 2016 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, and is set to become yet another annual tradition over the Thanksgiving weekend.
Holiday Marketing Takeaway
Buck the trend entirely – if everybody else is heading in one direction, go the other way.