On October 26, 2015, the Internet lost its collective mind. And no, not because of that hot new Adele song or the fact that processed meat is basically killing us.* The world erupted in this emoji–?–because REI announced that it will be closed on Black Friday—which is undoubtedly the worst of the fake holidays.
Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s madness!” In a world where big box stores are opening earlier and earlier—and even on Thanksgiving itself—this move is a breath of fresh air. And there’s something for us in the industry to admire and observe. Here’s what this type of response tells me.
- Advertising is dead. In 2015, you can skip, block and even pay hard-earned money to avoid ads. And many people do. That means, as creatives and strategists, we need to get even more inventive about how we reach our audience. It means we need to create more content that resonates with consumers’ values, and less advertising that sells, sells, sells. Brands that find meaningful, memorable ways to integrate into the lives of their audience are the ones that are able to turn prospects into fanatics. (See: @nikewomen or Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee)
This is what REI has done so well. They found a purpose (get outside), took a stance (down with Black Friday), and crafted a beautiful experience around it that can be easily shared with friends (OptOutside.REI.com).
From there, the message spread like wildfire. Best of all, they’re not spending money on wasted impressions. The people sharing this news are likely current or prospective REI customers. I’ll wait for the official case study, but I’d bet good money that when it’s all said and done, their earned media outweighs paid. (I’d actually only bet like $5 because I’m cheap, but that’s saying a lot for me.)
- Long live advertising. Before we start packing up our desks, let’s not forget, this is still advertising. Just take a look at the tactics. Microsite. Meticulously crafted letter from the CEO. Social integration. Official hashtag. Wait, is that an anthem video? Yes, yes it is. Folks, we have a full-blown campaign on our hands.
Why is this important? Because doomsday ad agencies like to shout from their beer garden rooftops that all advertising is dead. We’re not that dramatic. Even when a brand is able to create something as powerful as #OptOutside, we need to remember that it’s still marketing. Maybe they didn’t take over Times Square or buy a TV spot during the big game, but they’re still using creative to get their message out. All I’m saying is, no need to throw the video concept out with the QR codes. (But please, throw out the QR codes.)
- “Listen to the kids, bro.” It’s easy to poke fun at Kanye’s acceptance speech/directionless rant/presidential bid, but he did make one good point at the MTV VMAs this year: give the people what they want. Every year, more and more of my Facebook friends shame retailers for being open on holidays. Holidays are for families! Spend time doing what you love! It’s all out there in the world; REI was just smart enough to notice. There’s something to be said for brands that act on the feedback of their consumers. Moral of the story: listen.
To conclude, we should applaud and aim to accomplish what REI has done by taking a different approach to Black Friday promotion. But, we don’t need to forget everything we know about advertising and creativity in the process.
What are your plans for Black Friday? #OptOutside
*Hyperbole, of course. Source: http://time.com/4086858/who-meat-cancer/