I first came across REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) in 2015 in San Francisco while getting geared up for Burning Man. Although I’d joined and experienced the joys of Mountain Equipment Co-op (MEC) in Canada, walking in to REI was still astounding, in a ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ sort of moment.
The next year, I came across REI’s #OptOutside, aka ‘We’re closing on Black Friday’ campaign. It’s a piece of marketing and creative that continues to impress me with its elegant mix of strong single-minded message, (deceptively) simple insight, and nuances that straddle the issues of over-consumption and crass capitalism, employee health, and fostering an appreciation of nature.
Of course I’m sure that under the surface there is more cunning strategic thinking than the press releases reveal, and a stack of budget and talent involved from the agency Venables Bell & Partners and all the other creative professionals involved (check out this article for a great list of credits) But from all I’ve read it still feels like a campaign idea with genuine heart.
When I was in Washington DC last year (a little freelance gig supervising a shoot for McCann Health), I went to the local REI store, and as well as going ga-ga at the gear again, chatted to some staff about the campaign. From that conversation it certainly seems that not only is the campaign still alive and well, but the ethos of this idea runs deeper within the company than just a marketing ploy, which, after the shambles of the Iceland Palm-Oil ad, is really refreshing.
Now all I need to do is get out into the wilds more!