Why #optoutside is The Best Marketing of 2015

We should all just take a second and applaud the marketing team over at REI. A team bringing authentic branding to a big company.

Unless you have lived under a rock under the last few years there has been a big change in what consumers want from a company. They want authenticity, to be able to care about the brands they purchase from. More than ever people are shopping farmers markets, thrift stores, and local co-ops leaving big business behind. If your a client of ours you know, I use the term “authentic” about every other word in a conversation about content and marketing, driving home that people don’t just want to be sold stuff. They want to be able to connect with a company.

Enter in the brilliance of REI’s re-branding (and yeah it is a re-branding campaign). Before we even talk about the brilliance behind their “#optoutside”/Black Friday campaign there are other changes they have been making to lead up to this. Have you noticed the new logo and the word Co-op in big letters right under REI? They are a large company making the move to feel more authentic, small, and more connected to consumers.

In the letter announcement from the CEO, Jerry Stritzke, he referred to the 143 store chain as Co-op there as well. While the company has always technically operated as a Co-op, the term has been left out of dialogue the last few years.

This message is a big change from the 2006 retired CEO Dennis Madsen who was quoted in the Seattle Times saying the following :
“A co-op is just one dimension to who we are. We’re a very large, complex organization. And to try to boil this down to co-op versus non-co-op is a little bit too myopic.”
and “We are a retailer first and foremost and then a co-op,” Madsen says. “Co-ops that forget that are the ones that tend to get into trouble and ultimately drift off into oblivion. The competitive market place the retail market place will not allow any retailer to focus on their organization first and their business second.”
With consumers attitudes changing, REI is taking that back and focusing on the fact that they are still a co-op and using that to drive their new campaigns.

This leads us to #optoutside.

As you probably have heard, the #optoutside campaign was an announcement from the CEO of REI stating they are not only going to be closed for Thanksgiving, they are closing for Black Friday (the largest shopping day of the year) encouraging customers to “opt outside” instead of spending the day shopping. The biggest part of the announcement is that they will be paying all 12,000 of their employees to have the day off!

In an interview with CBS the CEO talked about the campaign mentioning that he and his grandson would spend the day hiking.
In the same interview the CEO mentioned variations of the word “authentic” 4 times. The combination of mentioning his grandson and the word authentic in the same interview is is not a coincidence. They are giving consumers exactly what they want. They are a big brand that is finally listening to their audience and making moves to be more authentic. Though the idea to be closed on Black Friday may draw criticism from fellow retail CEO’s (and maybe even past CEO’s if we go by the above quotes), it is going over great with consumers.

#optoutside was trending on Twitter today with an overwhelming amount of support! They are obviously moving away from being “retail first”.

I don’t say any of this to be a cynical marketer or to to take away from any of the changes/announcements REI is making. I think it is brilliant and genuine. I have always loved REI and I am really excited to see the changes they are making. I do think they are promoting who they want to be as a brand and their values as a company. I want every single brand to take a lesson from what they are doing and follow suit! Bring out the values of your company, focus on those to grow your business and in today’s market, you’re going to be successful.

I would love to hear what you think about REI’s move to close on Black Friday and if you think this will be a successful marketing campaign!