This is a guest blog from one of our strategists, Corbin Rusch, as a rebuttal to my own blog earlier this month, which you can read here.
Meanwhile, here’s Corbin:
Next week, the annual survival of the fittest shopping holiday, Black Friday, will begin and REI has opted to sit it out. While this move will undoubtedly cost it a few dollars in lost sales, it is absolutely one of the best brand-centric moves I have seen in a long while.
REI sells outdoor gear. Its brand is all about getting outside. Everything that it does and says is about getting outside because “a life outdoors is a life well lived.” REI’s philanthropic efforts are targeted towards conservation, upkeep and establishment of trails and wildlife habitat restoration. REI has authored the hashtag #OptOutside to not only promote the retailer opting out of Black Friday but to reinforce the core of its brand. Not only is REI closing its stores and delaying online purchases, but it is also paying its employees for the day to live the REI brand and #OptOutside themselves.
What REI Black Friday does for the brand.
What is so great about this move is that it directly positions the brand against anyone in the category that is encouraging people to forgo a portion of their Thanksgiving holiday to go inside, wait in lines and fight for merchandise. Going shopping is the polar opposite of the REI brand. REI is making its brand more important than Black Friday revenue. This will increase awareness for its brand and what it means.
Brand at its core is a system of understanding. It enables a company to precisely tell consumers who they are, who the brand is for and who it is not for. However, many of today’s brands fail to stay true to what they say their brand is, especially when money is on the line. Let’s be honest, REI will not change Black Friday by closing its stores for the day. The reality is that, for the vast majority of the shopping public, they would rather stay inside anyway. They are not REI’s customers and I don’t think this move will have much impact on REI’s sales. But that is exactly why this move is so refreshing. REI is staying true to its brand and I applaud them for that.