A few weeks ago in my Intro to AdPR class, my professor offered an extra credit assignment to the class. She told us to dress up for our class before Halloween as a public relations or advertising concept. Initially I did not really understand what she wanted. How was I supposed to dress up as media dependency theory or as a cognitive ad strategy? Dr. Larsen left the project up to much interpretation which led to people showing up to class on October 29th dressed in some pretty random ways. My personal favorites were a guy who covered himself in plastic wrap and said he was the advertising ethics term "transparency" and another guy who showed up as "PR nightmare" Bo Pelini. I did not participate in the costume contest, however I did give a lot of consideration to what I would have worn. I was scrolling through BuzzFeed early last week when I noticed an article about a store that is choosing to close all of its locations on Black Friday. After our discussion in class today, I now know that the article caught my eye because the company is breaking the decorum of retail stores.
REI is a sporting good and outerwear retailer that stands to make a ton of money on Black Friday through winter coat and ski equipment sales. However, last week REI announced their #optoutside campaign in which they are closing all of their locations on Black Friday and paying their employees to go outside. With their hashtag campaign, they are also encouraging consumers to ignore the insane consumerism of Black Friday and share the memories they make exploring the outdoors. REI has only 143 locations in the United States, but they clearly have a faithful following of customers since they have been around since 1938. I personally had never heard of REI until I saw the BuzzFeed article, but that goes to show the power of diatribe as a marketing tool. By rejecting the decorum of pushing discounts on Black Friday and rebelling against the awful greed associated with the day, REI has blown up on social media and likely has gained several new customers. The hashtag #optoutside was trending nationwide on Twitter last week and sparked a debate about the values of Black Friday. REI has made the best marketing move in their history, simply by breaking decorum. Their breach of decorum also happens to make a comment on the strange tradition of expressing extreme greed on the day after Thanksgiving. The morality of Black Friday has been in question a lot in recent years, but REI is gaining so much attention online because they were brave enough to be the first company to take action against Black Friday. The entire style of REI's marketing campaign is brilliant. The website design, company aesthetic, and rebellious affect of the campaign all speak to the younger generation that wants to go explore the world and share all of their experiences online. I would not be surprised if other companies follow REI's example of boycotting Black Friday in the coming years. Breaking the decorum of retail has proved to be REI's smartest PR move ever.
Wow! As of this morning, 752,129 people have chosen to #OptOutside with us on Black Friday: https://t.co/bbFNWod84D pic.twitter.com/A5b0vNUIXR— REI (@REI) October 30, 2015