In 2015, the outdoor recreation brand REI boldly chose to close its doors to encourage employees and customers to #OptOutside. The company paid employees to take a hike on the most stressful shopping day of the year based on the most important consumer insight for their target audience: these people would rather be outside than standing in line for hours.
REI has turned this "moment" into a "movement" by continuing the #OptOutside tradition each year. The brand continues to engage with user-generated content on social media and highlight consumers who did #OptOutside on Black Friday. They have created several promotional videos and even partnered with other large companies like Google to create a platform to help consumers who are looking to participate in the campaign find hiking trails near them.
Other brands who will be, or have taken the leap and focus on the consumer by "going dark" for Black Friday and Cyber Monday include:
- Deciem: This year, a popular skincare company will be closing doors to all locations and blacking out their website. The site's message will be, "We no longer feel comfortable being involved in a single day so heavily focused around hyper-consumerism" beginning Friday, November 29. This decision is said to be rooted in encouraging consumers to "shop slow" and consider the value of the products the brand offers, as well as past Black Friday experiences where consumers have crashed the brand's website numerous times.
- ModCloth: In 2017, ModCloth shut down and donated over $5 million to the organization Dress for Success. Dress for Success helps to provide professional attire to women who cannot afford it. This move directly followed Walmart's purchase of the brand and was a move to fight back against consumer claims they had "sold out." However, the brand still held a Cyber Monday sale.
- TJX Companies: The giant department store chain that includes Marshall's and HomeGoods shut down its locations in 2014 to promote that "family time comes first." The brand has not continued this campaign past its inaugural year but is typically closed on Thanksgiving rather than starting Black Friday a day early, like many other retailers.
- Patagonia: While the retailer did not close on Black Friday, in 2016, the outdoor and sportswear brand donated 100% of its profits from the high-volume shopping day to grassroots environmental groups that fight to preserve natural resources. The company grossed over $10 million that year that was given away to causes that align with the brand's core values. Patagonia also donates 1% of all total sales to nonprofit environmental groups each year as part of its 1% for the planet initiative.
While REI appeared to pioneer this radical idea of closing your doors or shutting down your site on a day where paychecks are blown and credit cards reach their limits, they are truly capitalizing on an industry trend that is being demanded from the consumer market. Consumers are seeking messages that speak to them, their needs and their interests. Consumer-centric marketing is not new to the industry. Still, it can be an uncomfortable area for marketers to dive into since it may not always immediately drive sales but will drive brand awareness and consumer loyalty over time.
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