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Opt Out of the Madness

Published on November 22, 2016, at 1:07 p.m.
by Amelia Neumeister.

Tired, coffee-driven shoppers stand in lines for hours outside Walmart or Best Buy to be the first ones in the door. Once the doors open, they shove their way to a cart so they can carry around their treasure-like findings of half-off TVs and headphones. Some people are willing to fight if their treasure is at the risk of being taken by another shopper.

This scene is a familiar one, especially around the holidays. Shoppers go crazy looking for the best deals on items they don’t always need. The shopping madness is strongest during Thanksgiving, when the mythical “Black Friday” deals become prominent in the news, media and the stores themselves.

Photo By Andrew Kelly/Getty Images/AFP
Photo By Andrew Kelly/Getty Images/AFP

I used to give in to the insanity and shop with everyone else at 5 a.m. the day after Thanksgiving, but that all changed once I had to be up at 4 a.m. to _work_ on Black Friday. Nothing feels more dehumanizing than being yelled at by some angry mother that she wasn’t getting the right deal on an item after being away for 4 hours … and it’s only 9 a.m.

Having to work on Black Friday in the retail industry became something of a norm over the past few years. Stores started opening their doors earlier and earlier, with some never actually closing from the day before. This year, a growing number of stores — including big brands such as DSW, Petsmart, Publix and, most notably, REI — will be closed on Thanksgiving Day _and_ Black Friday.

This shift in retail trends comes after REI closed on the holiday last year and is closing again this year. REI announced the plans to close earlier than most stores announced being open. The news came out in October, almost a full month before Thanksgiving.

Photo By Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia
Photo By Coolcaesar at the English language Wikipedia

REI has taken this opportunity to increase its brand awareness by creating a hashtag “#OptOutside” to promote enjoying the outdoors, instead of being forced to work inside. REI’s bold decision to swim against the current of retailing trends makes it stand out from the crowd — in a good way. REI is taking its brand out of the stores and into the minds of many shoppers by closing the store and promoting the outdoors instead.

Like most retailers, REI has embraced social and online media to reach its audience. But unlike other retailers, REI has used social media to integrate its brand’s image into the minds of millions.

This groundbreaking campaign worked so well that it won the Titanium Grand Prix award at the Cannes Lion International Advertising Festival in June. The Titanium award “is meant to honor ‘game-changers,’ according to the festival. Honorees are meant to break new ground, cross boundaries and move the industry forward.”

Photo by Virigina State Parks. Black Friday #OptOutside Photo Challenge winner 2015
Photo by Virginia State Parks. Black Friday #OptOutside Photo Challenge winner 2015

#OptOutside is being used not only as a reminder that the store will be closed, but as a campaign to get outside and share those experiences online. The company even devoted an entire webpage to encourage people to #OptOutside. With a count showing that more than 1 million people have chosen to support the campaign – an opportunity to share your experience outside and a search for outdoor activities in your area – the #OptOutside webpage is a stunning example of a campaign’s homepage.

This holiday season, while other stores are selling ads to promote their deals, REI will be using the #OptOutside to remind shoppers to go outside instead of standing in lines.

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