REI is the new Black Friday

 In Business Marketing, Things We Love

What’s REI’s big, exciting Black Friday promotion this year?

Believe it or not, it’s that they’ll be closed!

That’s right, REI has opted to close all 143 of its stores on the biggest shopping day of the year to encourage their customers and staff to do what they love to do most, instead: go outside.

They’re giving their 14,000 employees a paid day off to escape the bargain-hunting droves, while simultaneously using the the move to launch their #OptOutside marketing campaign. Brilliant!

What’s so smart about this campaign? We’ll highlight three aspects here:


First is that REI targeted their existing customers – and only their existing customers – with this campaign. They didn’t try to appeal to all shoppers.

They played to their existing customers’ strongest belief: that the world would be a better place if everybody spent more time outside.

Also, REI members (its customers are called “members,” and the company is a co-op, meaning members receive yearly dividends) are not as price-conscious as shoppers at other retailers. Price can be a factor, but it isn’t the deciding factor.

REI does offer sales at other times of the year (the biggest are called “Yard Sales,” and people line up for hours in advance to take advantage), but by closing on Black Friday (a day some folks feel is devoted solely to mindless, thoughtless consumerism) REI shows its members that the company’s values are aligned with their own.

Second, this isn’t just a simple press release REI sent out. No, this is a full-fledged, multi-channel marketing campaign, with a special #OptOutside website ( that includes a petition to sign in support of the campaign, and a social media feed of #OptOutside photos shared by members and supporters.

They also announced an ongoing dedication to the campaign (aka their upcoming year’s marketing plan!) by providing a schedule of monthly workshops and events related to #OptOutside.

And third, this is a classic example of counter-programming: doing the opposite of what everyone else is doing. REI takes a stand against all the shopping madness, and reaps the benefits via positive headlines.

REI’s campaign taps into the same sensibilities as this parody drug-company commercial released earlier this year by the nonprofit Nature Rx. Take a look, it’s hilarious:

Bravo, Nature Rx, and bravo, REI!

This kind of marketing success is what you reap when you’re crystal-clear about who your market is, and then you give them exactly what they want.

Our challenge to you, now, is: how will YOU talk with YOUR customers this year?

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