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#OptOutside Campaign 2016: REI Builds on a Movement

REI Go Out with Us

Last year REI did something some retailers thought was crazy, and some marketers thought was brilliant: they decided to close their stores (and online fulfillment) on Black Friday, give employees a paid day off, and encourage everyone to get outside.

The #OptOutside campaign started a movement bigger than the outdoor retailer and proceeded to win not only good will but a boatload of advertising awards.

The stats weren’t bad, either, with jumps in web traffic, an outpouring of social media mentions (with #OptOutside trending), and a reported increase in year over year sales.

So in 2016 we expected to see a revisit of the #OptOutside campaign, and we haven’t been disappointed. This year REI asked, “Will You Go Out With Us?” and more than 300 partners said yes.

In 2015 we saw the National Park Service jump in on #OptOutside by providing free access to the parks. This year the NPS is doing the same, and the Trust for Public Land and Sierra Club are both lending their support.

But it’s not just last year’s supporters who are joining the trend. Subaru pledged to give dogs and their owners in New York a break from the city and will use a fleet of vehicles to get them out into nature. Google is working with REI to support nonprofits focused on preserving the outdoors. Outdoor brands are helping out with promotional efforts, and UpWorthy and other outlets are producing content.

#OptOutside has become a movement, not just a campaign. We thought that last year, as this campaign tied into purpose-driven marketing and was bucking a trend of consumerism at a time when we see retailers opening up on Thanksgiving day.

Why else did it work? It’s about people. The campaign content was driven by memes and generators that made it easy for people to brand, share and tag their experiences. It tied into a rugged individuality that fits REI’s audience and the desire to be liberated and outdoors. And in the process, it’s sparked a movement that’s bigger than the retailer.

What about this year? In 2016 the “Will You Go Out with Me” theme is encouraging family and friends to get outdoors, and helps spread the movement. The promotional video shows individuals, families and friends enjoying nature in myriad ways:

You can even download the poster yourself: http://blog.rei.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/WillYouGoOutWithMe.pdf

Interested in Opting Outside but not sure where to start? REI added an activity finder to the campaigns website: https://www.rei.com/opt-outside There you can find nearby hikes and parks, and connect with others.

With over 2 million people already choosing to #OptOutside, this year is sure to be a success. What will you be doing Black Friday? I’ll be outdoors with friends, taking in fresh air and maybe even wearing off a little of the Thanksgiving pumpkin pie.

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