REI to Close on Black Friday: Why Anarchist Marketing Works

The Upfront Analytics TeamBranding, StrategyLeave a Comment

Black Friday is the day following Thanksgiving Day in the United States, often regarded as the beginning of the Christmas shopping season.  Isolated text in letterpress wood type printing blocks.

REI to Close on Black Friday: Why Anarchist Marketing Works

The National Retail Federation estimated that 86.9 million shoppers braced the crowds for Black Friday shopping in 2014. So why would a top retailer make the choice to remain closed and miss all of those potential sales? REI says it’s simple: The outdoor goods retailer wants shoppers to opt for the outdoors instead of spending the holidays at a shopping mall with their #OptOutside campaign.

It’s an anarchist move to fight against the consumerism that has come to eclipse the once-peaceful Thanksgiving holiday. And while it might seem like a risky stand for a retailer that consistently enjoys one of its top 10 sales days on Black Friday, taking a stand has resulted in a marketing coup like none other in REI’s history.

Aligning the Mission

This rebellious campaign works because it seems genuine. As an outdoor goods retailer, REI’s message to #OptOutside is highly shareable and an on-brand. It proves REI is willing to put its money where its mouth is by not only selling outdoor gear, but encouraging the public to get outside and enjoy nature. This positive, branded message inspires REI shoppers in a way that a sale couldn’t.

Fighting the Power

In a society where citizens often feel unheard and cut off by big business, REI’s stand feels like an act of rebellion for individuals craving a cause. A brief glace at Twitter reveals an onslaught of kudos from retail anarchists that support REI’s rebellion. “Way to go, REI,” says one. “If you’re going to wake up at 4 a.m. on Black Friday, it should be to catch the sunrise.” “I will forever support REI as long as they keep their #OptOutside policy!” exclaims another. Offering up a branded platform, REI has successfully funneled some of the power for frustrated individuals that wish to fight against consumerism this holiday season.

Boosting Reputation

Closing Black Friday (and offering employees a paid day off) makes REI a retail marketing golden child. Consumerism can leave a bad taste in shoppers’ mouths, especially as other retailers opt to open earlier and earlier on Thanksgiving Day. REI becomes an ethical, positive option for those looking to spend this holiday season.

It might not work for every retailer, but REI has successfully cracked the code for a positive shift in marketing this year. The effects of #OptOutside are yet to be seen, but if buzz is any indication, this anarchist approach to holiday marketing campaigns could start a movement.


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