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Rebranding Black Friday: An Analysis of #OptOutside

Did you #OptOutside this past Black Friday?

This was the hashtag created by outdoor goods retailer REI who (now famously) announced that they would close all their stores on Black Friday, give all their employees paid leave, and encourage them to do what REI is all about: get out and explore the great outdoors. A quick search on Twitter for posts tagged with #OptOutside reveals that they seem to have successfully captured the public’s imagination – three days on from Black Friday, the hashtag is still alive and well. And by using a hashtag not overtly linked to the company, REI has also succeeded in creating a movement bigger than themselves (and with it content that they can then link back to themselves) while avoiding potential criticism of having simply created a cynical marketing ploy.

REI was not the only retailer to turn its back on the traditional Black Friday. TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Homegoods also closed their stores on Black Friday, and ran a TV campaign which simultaneously let consumers know while reinforcing their brand values as family-centric retailers where “good” happens.

Both REI and TJ Maxx and company tapped into several key trends.

One: the realization that Black Friday has long been a law of diminishing returns – especially as retailers increasingly open on Thanksgiving Day itself as the prestige of Black Friday has lessened. Two: the shift to ecommerce as 46% of holiday shopping is expected to take place online this year. And three: the growing need for brands to build stronger emotional connections with consumers in order to succeed.

It’s this third trend that REI has been particularly successful in harnessing by creating a social media meme that ultimately runs itself and generates brand warmth at the same time. REI is also a brand ideally placed to take advantage of a major new marketing trend, the use of visual content. According to this article from Inc.com, by 2018 an estimated 84% of communications will be visual. Further, posts that include images garner 650% higher engagement than text-only posts – and from a review of #OptOutside social media posts, it would appear the vast majority of them include highly shareable and “likeable” images.

Ultimately, this is also another indication of how much the dynamic has shifted in the brand-consumer relationship and the opportunities that can lie in counter-intuitive thinking. If you’d like to hear how ARTÉMIA can help create a visually-engaging marketing strategy in 2016, as ever, please get in touch.




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