Social Media Marketing

Black Friday is the busiest shopping day of the year in the U.S., with more than 116 million people hitting the shops in search of a great deal.

But REI, an outdoor clothing and equipment brand, does Black Friday differently to other retailers.

For the fourth year in a row, REI closed its doors on Black Friday 2018, giving every one of its 12,000 employees the day off to enjoy the outdoors.

“There are things more important than buying/selling tents – like going outside and actually using them,” it explained on Twitter.

It might seem counter-intuitive to think that closing all your retail stores on the busiest shopping day of the year will be good for business. But that’s exactly what REI has found.

REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke believes that the relationships between consumers and brands are changing — whilst you used to be able to win people over with deals, you now need “something more”, he told Business Insider.

And it seems that Stritzke’s intuition has led REI down the right path.

“Since launching #OptOutside, we’ve watched more than 200 retailers go out of business,” Stritzke told “We’ve stayed healthy partly because we’ve stuck with our core values — like giving our employees time to do what they love with the people they love during the holidays. It’s enabled us to add millions of new members and, most importantly, connect millions of people with the outdoors.”

According to data from Edelman, sixty-four percent of consumers around the world will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a business based on its stand on societal and political issues.

But taking a stand isn’t as simple as jumping in on a trending topic on Twitter, or sharing a quick piece of content here and there. It must run much deeper than that.

“You have to be walking the walk before you talk the talk,” Mike Dupree, Senior Manager for Media & Entertainment at Twitter, explained to me.

Mike has been working with brands on their content and marketing efforts on Twitter for over six years, and he recently jumped on a call with me to explain the power of purpose-driven marketing — the topic of his talk at this year’s Social Fresh conference.

Demonstration before communication

REI’s Opt Outside campaign has been incredibly successful since it first launched in 2015 because it’s not just a marketing front — even REI’s CEO, takes Black Friday off to enjoy the outdoors.

And Mike believes that this authenticity is key, not only to REI’s success, but to any purpose-driven campaign: “Being authentic is always critical in marketing, but when it comes to brand purpose it becomes even more important.”

“Any purpose-driven campaign shouldn’t be viewed as a short-term thing,” Mike explained. “The purpose has to be deep rooted in the company across all facets of the organisation — from marketing and customer service to communications and policy, and everywhere in between.”

“In short, it’s about demonstration before communication,” Mike concluded.

This is exactly why Opt Outside has worked for REI. For years before it launched the campaign, and communicated its “Opt Outside” ethos, it had demonstrated it through its actions. Enjoying the outdoors is a part of REI’s brand message, and over the years it has consistently supported nonprofit partners, and encouraged both employees and customers to make the most of the outdoors.

Having a purpose without being divisive, or taking sides

“We know that consumers will buy or boycott brands based on a social or political issue,” Mike explained. “So there’s always a risk when you choose to be bold.”

But to stand for something, and embrace a purpose, brands don’t need to…