In November 2015 Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI, announced in a short film that on Black Friday the outdoor equipment retailer would close its doors. REI employees would get a paid day off so that they could go outside and enjoy the fresh air.
REI’s Mission is to inspire, educate and outfit for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Says Stritzke: ‘our belief that a life outdoors is a life well lived anchors everything.’ REI invited everyone to ‘join them outside’ – with a website and social media activation to get people enjoying and sharing hiking trails and other outdoor activities around the U.S.
The fact that we’ve become more used to brands rebelling against Black Friday is a mark of how successful REI’s pioneering campaign has been. In 2015, REI added 1 million new members (its largest growth ever), with an estimated 2.7 million customers pledging to spend the day outside. The top award at Cannes was icing on the cake.
In 2016 more than 475 nonprofit, government and corporate partners got involved, and REI launched an outdoor activity finder to help people get involved, declare support and invite others to join the movement. 2017 saw the addition of an “experiential search engine” which collects user-generated content tagged #OptOutside on Instagram and combines it with real-time information about locations and experiences across the country.
So it’s true: brands can start social movements.
Read more: REI.com/optoutside