#optoutside UPDATED

REI's brand values in action

courtesy of rei 

courtesy of rei 

UPDATE: The movement is growing. WWD reports that North America's largest mall, Minnesota's Mall of America, closed on Thanksgiving - "affording its 15,000 employees the chance to celebrate with the people they care about most." The original #OptOutside took on a number of "organic" friends this year. According to AdAge: "Among its partners are state and national parks, schools and corporate partners such as Subaru, Google, Meetup, Upworthy and a host of outdoor brands such as Burton, Keen, Yeti and Prana. Subaru, for example, will be dispatching a fleet of cars to take shelter pets out of their cages for romps in the wilderness."

Check this follow-on article for insight on how #OptOutside is a model for future marketing — detailing REI's truly empathetic understanding of its customers and how the branduses that understanding to create experiences that customers value.


You may have heard that outdoor equipment retailer REI is closing their doors on “Black Friday” and inviting you to join them outside in a campaign called, appropriately enough, #OptOutside. This shocking, anti-commerce movement has received a fair share of media attention, and some skeptics have brushed it off as irrelevant, or at most a cheap stunt by the retail behemoth. No doubt the campaign is a marketing play, and intended to provoke, but to suggest that it’s no big deal to opt out of sales – or to opt out of shopping – on what is essentially a national shopping holiday misses the point. Let’s consider what #OptOutside means for the retailer and, more to the point of this blog, what it means for your business.

We all know the Friday after Thanksgiving is the biggest shopping day of the year. Consumers line up around the block the night before to score big deals at favorite stores. Reports on deals, panning camera shots of surging crowds, and statistics on revenues receive top billing on media outlets all over the country. A business’s entire fiscal year can be redeemed, or crushed, on Black Friday. Messaging that runs counter to the status quo is risky for any business, but in the ultra-competitive retail market to shut one’s doors and pay employees NOT to work seems like a self-defeating, profit-eating move. But! Why is #OptOutside brilliant and a no-brainer for REI?

Simple: Because Black Friday is not aligned with the REI brand. REI was founded on the idea of providing high-quality gear to people who enjoy the outdoors. The very reason they came into being, and remain in business, is because they appeal to and meet (dare we say exceed) the needs of people who love the outdoors. The campaign, then, is a genuine evocation of a core brand value – and that’s why the campaign has resonated with consumers and the media alike.

Whether you’re a behemoth like REI or a small business owner / independent, the everyday challenges of running a business can easily tangle up your thinking. It becomes easy, and let’s be honest, sometimes even necessary, to focus on driving revenues in order to stay afloat. If we don’t pick our heads up, though, and both look back to what originally ignited our passions and look forward to where we want to go, we can get lost in messages and projects that are not on brand, not good for the business in the long run.

While you are gazing over the ocean waves, playing frisbee in a park, hiking up a mountain, or walking the dog this holiday season, we challenge you to reinvigorate your entrepreneurial passion, remember why you started your business in the first place, and keep that clarity top of mind. And don’t forget to share that gratitude and positive energy with the people you choose to keep close.