REI Closing for Black Friday is a Genius Digital Marketing Strategy

Posted by Gregg Alexander on Oct 27, 2015 12:47:51 PM


The holidays are right around the corner and stores have spent months game planning for Black Friday. The usual strategy is to offer a handful of doorbuster deals, generating lines of consumers clamoring to start shopping. This year, there is one outdoor retail store that won't have lines of ravenous consumers, REI. The retailer’s 143 stores will lock their doors and shut off the lights on the biggest shopping day of the year. And instead of reporting to work, the co-op will pay it’s 12,000 employees to do what they love most— enjoy the outdoors.

Why would one of the outdoor industry’s leading retailers do this? President and CEO, Jerry Stritzke explains, “Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside. We’re closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks.”

Black Friday Digital Marketing Campaign

The residual benefit of this announcement has been a buzz that most retail giants would love four weeks prior to Thanksgiving. REI won’t make a dime on Black Friday, but the marketing campaign around this choice will more than offset the loss. Yesterday REI put out a press release that fed social media channels full of news, articles and blogs, getting people everywhere talking about REI.

Built around the idea of encouraging people to get outside and enjoy the outdoors, the campaign consists of a landing page, a hashtag, and a photo gallery for customers to share their experiences recreating.

Done. I’m in!

My wife is already making a list of what she wants to buy on Black Friday but I can think of a million other things I'd rather do than stand in line with a bunch of people willing to fight over the last Tickle Me Elmo. I don’t need a reason to avoid any and all shopping. Instead, I plan to pack up the kids and get out in the mountains of Montana. I might even post some photos on my various social media pages and use the hashtag #OptOutside. I’ll gladly participate in promoting experiences instead of purchases.

How Is That Marketing?

When you think of Black Friday many of us remember when the TV was filled with ads and our moms and grandmas waited to get the Thanksgiving Day newspaper full of inserts. While that still happens for many retail giants, today’s marketing landscape has drastically changed. Creating viral content that keeps a brand or business’s name prominent across social platforms is more cost effective and much easier to track their return on investment.

So how does does REI's campaign translate to sales? For most stores, the strategy building up to Black Friday is to prepare to sell. In contrast, REI’s strategy is selling to prepare. By changing the mindset of the holiday, the hope is that people will prepare for their outdoor adventure by purchasing gear, equipment and supplies from REI. They are leveraging the need to recreate over a four week period against the need to get “deals” on one specific day.

The other way is to create top of mind awareness. Go to any major news outlet and search REI. Chances are you will find articles about their choice to close. Look at social media and blogs and you will find content, posts and photos from people talking about REI—their name is everywhere. 

While the company is generating more publicity than any of their competitors, the message encouraging everyone to #OptOutside is sincere.

So before you deprive yourself of sleep in order to bang down the doors of our favorite retail store, consider heading to the great outdoors and create experiences everyone will remember. Instead of watching adults bicker about a toy that will eventually end up in a landfill, I hope my daughter’s favorite holiday memories revolve around doing something fun outdoors with their dad.

Stritzke went on to say, “As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors.”

REI, I applaud you.

Digital Marketing Analysis

Topics: Branding

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