Archive | November, 2015

How REI’s Black Friday #OPTOUTSIDE Is Really About Something Else

27 Nov

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     On Black Friday shoppers across America will run for the malls while REI employees run for the hills.

     In a much bally-hoo’d announcement this fall, REI placed core values ahead of core retail expectations.  By closing its stores on Black Friday, REI didn’t just thumb its nose at Thanksgiving Day retail creep, it effectively stuck its hiking pole in a place where consumer demands don’t shine.  Sideways.

     REI’s decision was a call to action—go outside.

      The decision to lock the doors on November 27th is more than a YoutTube video on “REI’s Day Off.”   It’s actually a clever and strategically sophisticated effort to engage and build followers and solidify its brand as the preeminent outfitter for outdoor discovery. 

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Figure 1

     Since the announcement, REI has launched a multi-channel effort to encourage people to also take Black Friday off with the #optoutside hash tag campaign. (Figure 1)  On Twitter, it bought market-targeted tweets with countdown clocks to Black Friday and sent out replies to its followers with a link to the hiking trails near them.  During Thanksgiving week, it bought full-page newspaper ads and on Facebook it encouraged followers to post their outdoor plans—it received more than a million engagements.

     At the heart of the strategy for REI is brand building. In a retail environment where consumers can buy anything through Amazon and where outfitters such as Cabelas are aggressively opening new stores, REI has to fight to maintain market share.  Even discounters such as Walmart and Target are threats with their sporting departments and growing online offerings. 

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Figure 2

     By staking its claim against Black Friday, REI is hoping to reposition itself in the mind of the consumer.  It’s strategically telling outdoor enthusiasts that REI is the only brand that cares not just about the outdoors, but also about its employees and customers and therefore occupies a coveted spot in the upper left hand corner of my branding typology in figure 2.  That’s a strong brand position to stake because it gives both authenticity and credibility to REI’s #optoutside call to action.  It’s about empowerment in much the same way that Nike urges its followers to “Just Do It.”

     Granted, REI is a different kind of business model.  It’s a co-op owned by members such as myself and not Wall Street investors.  It’s a community.  But like all retailers it does face the same economic pressures of growth and stability.  Still, REI is betting that whatever sales it loses on Black Friday it will gain in brand identification and loyalty.  That builds an exponentially more sustainable consumer relationship than by opening its doors a bit earlier on Black Friday—or opening them at all.

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Britain’s John Lewis Gives Us The Best Christmas Ad So Far

16 Nov

John Lewis Spotlight Pix     One of the best advertisements of the holiday season is out.  What makes it remarkable is that it doesn’t just sell a brand, it sells a cause.  That cause is the gift of giving oneself in a different way.  And it comes from a brand that Americans have likely never heard of.

     Britain’s John Lewis department store has built a reputation in recent years for memorable, emotional, and strategic holiday advertisements that lead the viewer on a journey to giving.  This year that journey leads viewers on more than a path of finding the perfect gift within a John Lewis store.

     The brilliance and formula of Lewis’ ad agency adam&eveDDB is that it consistency makes us see Christmas through the innocent eyes of children.   This year that child is a girl named Lily whose inquisitive eyes peer into the heavens in search of the stars but becomes moon struck instead.  Her man on the moon discovery becomes not just a metaphor for giving, but for discovering the elderly living in their own vacuums of space and loneliness.

     The ad is strategically created to use the power of emotion to not just change beliefs and attitudes, but to contribute to Age UK, an agency that works and advocates for the elderly. (Figure 1)

Figure 1 - Donation page to Age UK

Figure 1 – Donation page to Age UK

     Cleverly,  John Lewis takes it a step further.   It created a mobile phone app that allows people game against other users and look up more information on the moon.  By encouraging those users to engage with the app, it creates a new community to interact with the brand.

     It takes a strong and brave brand to shift focus from itself and invest valuable marketing dollars to promote social awareness.   We’ve seen some admirable examples in recent years.  One of my favorites is Chevy’s recent Super Bowl commercial promoting the Purple Roads campaign for cancer survivors.

     Intel also spent a considerable amount of brand equity to convince apathetic viewers that girls can and should change the world.

     Likewise, there’s Coca-Cola.   Coke’s brand has always been about sharing happiness.  After all, it taught the world to sing.  It also recently taught us to share random acts of kindness.

     They’re all brave examples of promoting social awareness.  And for John Lewis, it’s especially fitting to choose the holidays as a time to spread the love and search for the men on the moons hidden right in front of us all.

 

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