Wednesday, December 30

REI - Brand of the Year

Every year, at the end of the year, I highlight what in my opinion is the brand of the year. I give kudos to the one brand that to me either made a breakthrough, advanced their marketing, or made a difference. Or whatever I think made it stand apart that year.

While this year's pick didn't necessarily drive the biggest marketing moment of the year (it came in at #6 on my annual list), I do believe that it significantly brought its brand to another level, got people talking, and made a difference.

My pick this year is the retailer REI, specifically for its #OptOutside campaign around Black Friday.

This is a brand that honestly probably wasn't on many people's radar. It's a brand that is all about the outdoors. So it launched a campaign to close its doors on Black Friday, urging consumers (and its employees) to spend the time outside instead. The brand's website also gave some suggestions for how to spend that time outside. Well done.

The brand stood for something and it wasn't afraid to take a profit hit on the biggest shopping day of the year to make a statement. I've personally seen a lot of #OptOutside shopping bags ever since.

Sure, their management took some flack for creating a "stunt." Nothing wrong with a stunt in my marketing eyes, provided that it's tied to the brand's equity, which in this case is surely the case. And in this case, the brand was able to spark a national dialogue about Black Friday behavior two beats ahead of every other retailer who is also tackling the topic of extended hours, long lines, door buster promotions, and employee relations during the holidays. REI came out of the gate early, with an inspirational message.

It built its brand in the process.

Well done. Great branding. Amazing leap forward. Well-intended promotion!

What's your brand of the year? What's your experience? JIM.

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