Dissecting #OptOutside’s Success on Black Friday and 2016 updates

In 2015, REI, the US-based outdoor retailer with a fanatic, cult-like following, urged us to skip Black Friday altogether. In an era where stores are opening early on Thanksgiving to welcome shoppers, REI did the opposite. The company closed their stores on Black Friday and told employees to go out on outdoor adventures.

And, REI’s audience went outside in sheer numbers. In looking at social media trends on the Thanksgiving weekend, #OptOutside – REI’s chosen hashtag – was amongst the top branded hashtag.

The video below was shot and produced in Bend, Oregon, which is Oregon’s outdoor mecca. See how these Oregonians enjoyed the outdoors on the crisp, snowy Fall Friday.

As reported on the Sysomos blog, we saw a tremendous lift of the #OptOutside hashtag on Twitter and Facebook alike. In fact, #OptOutside was one of the most used hashtags over Thanksgiving weekend, meaning the campaign was very effective.

Reasons for Success

Why was #OptOutside such a huge hit for REI? I see a few causes.

  1. First, REI’s core audience and customer base responded favorably to the call to action to go on outdoor adventures. It’s a messaging platform that’s very on-brand and grounded in REI’s core audience persona
  2. REI’s employee base was *paid* to take the day off and encourage to post their adventures on social media. This boosted employee-focused social amplification of the cause made #OptOutside more visible to more people in an organic, authentic way
  3. By choosing a hashtag that wasn’t specific to the holidays or Black Friday, the hashtag campaign lived on well beyond the campaign timeline, as outdoor-lovers went on to use #OptOutside all year

Boosting #OptOutside in 2016

As Black Friday is fasting approaching, REI is recycling the #OptOutside campaign this year. And for the upcoming campaign, REI has dozens of partners signed on to help boost the effort.

This year, the major corporate partner is Subaru of America. Subaru is merging #OptOutside with an existing campaign around pets and will provide a fleet of vehicles and drivers in NYC that will take shelter dogs out of their cages and into nature for the day.

Honestly, I’m surprised more outdoor industry association brands signing on with REI to organically add to the campaign. It’s such an exciting call to action to get outdoors with friends and family and would be a total win-win for all participating brands.

In addition, nonprofit and government partners from virtually every state including The Sierra Club, Trails 50 and more will participate in #OptOutside activities in an effort to give outdoor-loving Americans places to go on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

How will you make use Black Friday this year?

(Featured image courtesy of the REI Blog)

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