#OptIn to the remarkable communications lessons from REI’s #OptOutside

I’m sure you’ve seen the REI commercials urging people to #OptOutside on Black Friday. If not, you can view one of them here.

In a digital world full of retailers already pitching (and holding) Black Friday sales, REI’s campaign to unsubscribe from the consumerist madness is remarkable. Compelling. And backed by action. 

It’s a beautiful piece of messaging. The REI commercial utilizes six great communications lessons:


1)    Use a real person in a position of authority: This piece uses REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, as the face and voice of the company. Having a real person in an obvious position of power lends authenticity and reality to the message. Imagine if they had used an actor or a spokesperson instead. Not nearly as powerful.
2)    Have a clear statement of values: REI clearly communicates that “We love the outdoors, we care about our employees, and we put our values before profit.” Simple and powerful.
3)    Harness popular sentiment: People are increasingly offended at the insensitive hours retailers are demanding of their employees on Black Friday (and even Thanksgiving), and this move dramatically positions REI as opposing the “corporate greed” mentality.
4)    Understand your audience: REI appeals to outdoorspeople, who are digitally savvy (and are therefore more likely to order online rather than shop in person, especially on Black Friday) and who pride themselves on individualism and living their values.
5)    Differentiate your brand: Giving up on the revenue from one of the largest shopping days of the year is a powerful indicator of sincerity. As a co-op, it’s in the enviable position of being able to make this bold move while reaping internal and external benefits. 
6)    Have a clear call to action for your community: If you share these values, they urge you to “Join Us!” and use the #OptOutside hashtag. On their website, you can enter your zip code to find outdoor activities to do instead of shopping. And of course, if you’re out hiking … well, you’re not shopping at any of their competitors.

It’s a marvelous example of how a brand can live its values internally and externally, motivating a like-minded community, and (I hope) end up benefiting financially from their ingenuity.

What was your reaction to the commercials?