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It’s “Gone Fishing” for REI this Black Friday

Wouldn’t you have loved to be in the room when, during a breathless REI brainstorming session, someone said: “How about this Black Friday we close all our stores and give our employees the day off?” Hang a sign on the door and let’s go fishing!

The brilliant #OptOutside is lighting up the news and social channels. And probably will be for the next 30 days leading up to Black Friday. In one provocative and sincere gesture the brand has endeared itself to consumers, store members and employees: Standing up to senseless consumerism in the same way Apple’s 1984 commercial battled conformity. People will be talking about this for a long time, and REI is the first brand that gets to own it.

This idea delivers on so many levels:

  • Aligning with company values of enjoying the outdoors and owning less stuff, which supports sustainability
  • Giving the holiday back to employees, while “Black Friday Creep” has other retailers asking their employees to work on Thanksgiving and throughout the weekend
  • Its altruistic message inspires the charitable nature in us all, especially the youngest and most skeptical consumers, the Millenials, who seek out companies and brands that give back

It’s not only a campaign. It’s a movement… and a meaningful benefit of being associated with the brand.


As CEO Jerry Stritzke sums it up: “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.” (ADWEEK)

Who came up with the idea?

“The campaign, called #OptOutside, was developed by a team of specialists drawn from Venables Bell & Partners, Edelman, Spark and REI.” (ADWEEK)

How much will it cost them?

This was not a financially self-serving action: “For REI, which ended 2014 with $2.2 billion in sales, Black Friday has consistently been a top 10 sales day.” (USA Today) 

Aren’t people going to shop on their web site anyway?

“REI will have no Black Friday promotions and won’t process any online orders until Saturday. Just a small handful of its approximately 12,000 employees will be on call, while the rest get a paid day off.” (USA Today)

Bravo REI. I can’t wait to see how this all plays out!

Would love to hear from our ad community on how #OptOutside delivers on the hallmarks of successful and enduring advertising. Share your comments!

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