When I think of Black Friday, I immediately think that there is no way anyone could possibly come up with a fresh new deal, promotion, or offering. Attempts at innovating Black Friday have resulted in a complete take over of Thanksgiving day itself, and in some deals starting weeks in advance! How could anyone out-ad the other stores who are all debating for a minute of your hectic shopping day?

REI did it. REI found the one thing (insight) that made you go, “Oh, of course – that makes perfect sense.” Closing their stores on Black Friday is almost a no-brainer when you consider the REI brand, but it was also so taboo and unheard-of. As a retailer, you couldn’t not participate in Black Friday – you’d lose so much money! Right? Not necessarily. REI is all about being adventurous, going outside, exploring, physical activity – all things that contradict a whole day dedicated to shopping in a mall – and this campaign allowed them to boldly stick to their brand values.


To reach this insight and campaign idea, I would imagine that the planning team took a deep hard look at the REI brand and its consumer. What does REI mean to its consumers? What do their consumers love to do? Is Black Friday an event that their consumers normally partake in? And, I’m guessing that what they found is something like this:

Fact: It is almost impossible to stand out on Black Friday as a retailer.

Fact: Shoppers are fatigued by the bombardment of ads/promos that occur on Black Friday.

Fact: REI shoppers love the outdoors.

Insight: Celebrate your love for the outdoors on a day filled with consumerism.

#OptOutside resonated with me because of the unique interactive experiences it offered consumers. Consumers could “pledge” themselves with REI by sharing a photo and the hashtag #OptOutside. The result was a beautiful website featuring images of people doing the things they love and basically becoming ambassadors for the REI brand. Another fun aspect of the microsite was the feature for finding places to #OptOutside. Simply enter your zipcode, and the website pulls up trails near you! A cool feature, and it eliminated an excuse to not #OptOutside.

As with all campaigns, I think there are many people out there that this brand communication is not for – I mean, it’s Black Friday! Even if people thought it was a cool idea, there are certain people for whom Black Friday shopping is so ingrained in their traditional Thanksgiving celebrations that there is nothing that could have converted them. However, I think this brand communication was successful even if consumers did not decide to pledge themselves to #OptOutside. The campaign went on for weeks prior to Black Friday, giving ample time for buzz and interest to grow. From a brand awareness standpoint, I think this campaign was a success in a variety of audiences.



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