Melissa K. Crane

5 Nov, 2016

A Campaign I Can Get Behind

Every time around this year, I begin to develop a growing feeling of excitement as each day passes. November marks the first real feeling of fall, it’s the start of some of the best holidays we get all year, and it’s a time of coming together. Unfortunately, this year has been a little different.

Maybe it’s the fact that it’s November 3rd and I still have to wear shorts because the high is 80°F every day. Maybe it’s because I haven’t been taking my multi-vitamins. MAYBE it’s the absolute madness that is #election2016 that’s dragging down my spirits… Whatever it is, a lot of people are feeling the same way. And that could be a big problem for businesses as they struggle to engage with consumers in a more meaningful way this holiday season.

Brick and mortar Black Friday sales are on an unfortunate decline. From just 2014 to 2015, they fell 1.2 Billion dollars, according to ShopperTrak. And it’s only predicted to hurt even more this year.

Enter REI. Recreational Equipment, Inc. An American outdoor recreation retail cooperative corporation that specializes in “outfitting members for a lifetime of adventure”. With higher end products and not-so-special Black Friday specials in the past, this company wasn’t really ever that into the whole Black Friday concept anyways. Last year, however, REI decided they weren’t going to play the same game as everyone else. Making a major decision to take a stance, the company announced a huge marketing campaign before Thankgiving 2015 called ‘Opt Outside’. On Black Friday, REI shut it doors, paid it’s employees to go outside, and encouraged its members to do the same instead of spending their holiday time waiting in lines and busting down doors for sales.

More than 1.4 million people joined in on the campaign, using #OptOutside in the caption. To give some perspective, that’s 10 times more traffic than any other retailer to date.

The campaign breaks away from the pack in that it gives users something to really connect with. Sure, Black Friday sales are great (and sometimes necessary) for retailers, but rarely do they ever establish a bond between brand and consumer. This #OptOutside campaign is different in that it encourages you not to buy from REI, but to go outside and make your own connections, whether it be with nature or with friends and family. It’s genius because: 1- many people ended up getting gear and supplies in advance from REI specifically FOR their “Opt Outside Day” and 2- the whole day and the great memories that come afterwards are now tied to the brand on a personal and emotional level.

This year, REI is making it even easier for users to engage with this campaign. Their website and Instagram account both deserve to be commended for it’s strategy and design. The Opt Outside page on REI’s website is aesthetic, easy to use, and highly interactive. It’s even set up with a step-by-step feature that lets you design your own social media post to tell all of your friends that you are choosing to #OptOutside this Black Friday.

Meanwhile on Instagram, REI is both posting original, stunning content to push the campaign, as well as rewarding and engaging its followers by reposting their own pictures. It’s giving a greater purpose to the hashtag and allowing the brand to tell the story of all of its members in a way that people can connect with and want to be a part of.

And it’s not just REI now who is supporting this event. As of October 24, 2016, more than 275 national and local organizations are joining this movement and inviting millions of people to participate. Today, just three weeks before Black Friday, more than 1 million people have already committed themselves to going outside for the day, and that number is increasing each day.

So in all of the craziness that this month is facing, between #election2016 and Black Friday doorbusters, know that it’s still possible to be successful while supporting a greater purpose.

As for me, I plan to #OptOutside this year.

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