REI is the latest brand to declare war on Black Friday, with the outdoor retailer saying it will be closed the day after Thanksgiving this year, and will pay its 12,000 employees as though it were a regular workday, "so they can do what they love most—be outside."
The campaign, called #OptOutside, was developed by a team of specialists drawn from Venables Bell & Partners, Edelman, Spark and REI. At its core is the decision to close all 143 retail locations, headquarters and two distribution centers on Nov. 27—an implicit attack on rampant consumerism at the expense of nature and the experience of the outdoors.
The retailer will pay its employees that day, and is encouraging the public at large to join the movement by using the #OptOutside hashtag and taking time outside "to reconnect with family and friends this Thanksgiving holiday."
Here are two videos heralding the campaign, one of which stars Jerry Stritzke, the president and CEO of REI, whose office appears to have quite the pleasant view.
The truth behind any campaign like this, of course—and Patagonia did something similar with its "Don't buy this jacket" campaign in 2011—is that REI wants its stance, however altruistic, to end up selling more stuff. But REI spokesman Alex Thompson said that in this case, the business strategy and the anti-consumerist message dovetail.
"The business strategy for REI has getting people outdoors at its core, and this is first and foremost about presenting the benefits of life outdoors and inviting people to experience it at an important time of year," Thompson said.
A new website, optoutside.rei.com, features recommended hiking trails, many built and nurtured by nonprofits supported by the $2.2 billion retailer. On Black Friday itself, REI.com will feature a black takeover screen that encourages visitors to #OptOutside.
"Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of the essential truth that life is richer, more connected and complete when you choose to spend it outside," Stritzke said in a statement. "We're closing our doors, paying our employees to get out there, and inviting America to OptOutside with us because we love great gear, but we are even more passionate about the experiences it unlocks."
In a letter addressed to its 5.5 million members (REI is a member-owned co-op), Stritzke quoted outdoor visionary John Muir, who said in 1901: "Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, overcivilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home."
Stritzke added: "As a member-owned co-op, our definition of success goes beyond money. We believe that a life lived outdoors is a life well lived and we aspire to be stewards of our great outdoors. We think that Black Friday has gotten out of hand and so we are choosing to invest in helping people get outside with loved ones this holiday season, over spending it in the aisles. Please join us and inspire us with your experiences. We hope to engage millions of Americans and galvanize the outdoor community to get outside."
Agency: Venables Bell & Partners
Chairman: Paul Venables
Executive Creative Director: Will McGinness
Creative Director: Lee Einhorn
Copywriter: Adam Wolinsky
Art Director: Avery Oldfield
Design Lead: Jarrett Carr
Designer: Nicola Broderick
Business Lead: Colleen McGee
Account Supervisor: Krista Muir
Account Managers: Ariel Rosen, Gillian McBrayer
Business Affairs: Sametta Gbilia
Director of Analytics: Jeff Burger
Director of User Design: Jeff Teicher
Director of Integrated Production: Craig Allen
Senior Producer: Jake Grand
Project Manager: Shannon Fischer
Director: Benji Weinstein
Line Producer: Jason Manz
Executive Producer: Lori Stonebraker
Production Company: Tool of North America
Managing Director, Live Action / Executive Producer: Oliver Fuselier
Managing Partner, Digital: Dustin Callif
Editorial Company: HutchCo Technologies
Editor: Jim Hutchins
Editor: Patrick O'Leary
Executive Producer: Jane Hutchins
Visual Effects: Brickyard VFX
Lead Artist: Patrick Poulatian
Lead Artist: Mandy Sorenson
Producer: Linda Jackson
Executive Producer: Jeff Blodgett
Mix by Zach Fisher at Lime Studios
Senior Motion Designer: Victor Bivol
Executive Producer Lumberyard: Raquel Bedard / Anna Fields
Music Supervision: David Fisher at Songs for Film & TV
Director of Art Production: Jacqueline Fodor
Senior Print Producer: Michelle Wells
Lead Digital Producer: Adela Chung
Senior Integrated Producer: Marc McLean
Experience Design Company (Microsite): North Kingdom
Production Company (Media): 14Four
Retouching/Prepress: Pacific Digital Image
Production (Promotional Marketing): Freestyle MKTG
PR Firm: Edelman
Media Buying and Planning: Spark
EVP Group Director: Kathryn Dillon
VP Director Strategy: Chris Mittman
Associate Director of Strategy: Jan Alexander Vitturi-Lochra
Strategy Supervisor: Ellie Carroll
Strategy Associate: Michael Barutt, Agata Sciupider