Points North
on Oct 30, 2015 in Inspiration

A Big YES to the REI #OptOutside Campaign

I think it’s time we reexamine traditions in this country. Sometimes it seems as if we collectively act with a groupthink-like mentality, quick to hop on the bandwagon, quick to raise all kinds of hell, slow to question and slow to think about why things are the way they are. We’re specifically focusing¬†on Black Friday here, a strange tradition in the US (and also recently creeping across borders into Europe), where soon after taking moments to acknowledge all that we are grateful for in our lives, we then wake up before daylight, stand in long lines before stores open, and then hoard ourselves towards the latest and greatest in electronics and other merchandise, to take advantage of seemingly great deals.

[Tweet “What if the best deal this Black Friday was getting to spend quality time with those who matter most? #optoutside”]

I believe I have only personally participated in Black Friday once, as a college student, when I really needed a GPS for my car. And it’s an experience that doesn’t rank high on my list at all of things I would ever do again. The crowds, the noise, everyone reaching, the need to grab swiftly the things you want. It was too much. I remember I only got that GPS because I was with my sister, who is blessed with height, and was able to reach over the crowd to grab it. And then instantly I wanted to leave. There was no magic there. The store was jammed packed with customers but beyond the surface there was nothing.

[Tweet “Why do you shop on Black Friday? Does it truly support the spirit of the season? #optoutside”]

Let’s first give a history lesson about Black Friday. This isn’t a real holiday, it’s in fact another day with steam blown around it by retailers everywhere to get you to spend money that you probably don’t have. There’s a mix of the origin around Black Friday. The two popular theories include an innocent day marking when store ledgers go from red to black (with the official commencement of holiday shopping) and then there’ssomething that originated in Philadelphia back in 1966.¬†An advertisement that year in the American Philatelist from a stamp shop in Philadelphia starts out: “‘Black Friday’ is the name which the Philadelphia Police Department has given to the Friday following Thanksgiving Day. It is not a term of endearment to them. ‘Black Friday’ officially opens the Christmas shopping season in center city, and it usually brings massive traffic jams and over-crowded sidewalks as the downtown stores are mobbed from opening to closing.”

Over time, as retailers nationally began to realize they could draw big crowds by discounting prices, Black Friday became the day to shop, even better than those last minute Christmas sales. For some, this is a glorious day to wake up, spend money, and get ecstatic about deals. For those working in retail, it’s a dreaded day of long lines, demanding customers, and endless crowds. And for a fewer amount of people, it’s just another day.

[Tweet “You can stand in a long line on Black Friday, or stand out in nature. Try something new. #optoutside”]

REI announced recently that it was closing their doors on Black Friday, for all it’s stores, and paying their employees to go outside instead. When we saw this online, we immediately fell in love and wanted to share the story. Yes, this makes perfect sense to us. I love it when a company can take a stand against the norm, the status quo, and find a new way.

After all, why must retailers participate in such a day? And will REI in fact generate more buzz for going against the grain? Yes, because this is an inclusive campaign that everyone can be a part of. Will it change the mind of anyone who is a long term Black Friday participant? No, probably not. They just won’t go to REI on Black Friday. Will it generate awareness that there is more than one way to spend this Friday? Absolutely.

[Tweet “There will be no pushing and shoving on the trail. Only beauty for all your senses. #optoutside”]

And that’s why the campaign is powerful. It challenges, but it also relates to their target audience and their target customers, who are already leading an active lifestyle and going outdoors. Spend less time in lines, more time in nature. And even if you decide not to #optoutside on Black Friday, may this at least create an opportunity for you to think about why you do what you do, and perhaps reevaluate what the holidays truly mean to you.

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