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Published December 2nd 2015

React: REI’s Social-Driven Remedy to Thanksgiving Shopping Madness

Shopping and the holidays, a pairing that’s been around since…well, since long before this author got her first credit card.

But, with so much competition and noise, how can a brand now do something new, and inspire a positive change?

REI, an outdoor equipment and lifestyle retailer (not to mention quite an unconventional brand), issued a call to the outdoors. They did so using a powerful hashtag asking the public to #OptOutside on Black Friday.

Let’s go outside

According to USA Today’s November 17 article, the co-op retailer strategically planned to keep all 143 of its stores closed on Black Friday, giving employees paid time off, and launching a social media campaign that encouraged people to opt outside instead of shop — and to do so by sharing their nature-filled excursions on social media.

And take to social media they certainly did.


Over the last two months we’ve seen 164,000 mentions using the hashtag #OptOutside.

This reflects conversations using the #OptOutside hashtag since October 19, but attention for the outdoor-promoting movement gained traction on Twitter around October 26.


When Thanksgiving week finally came and subsequently went, we saw a surprising spike in the #OptOutside Twitter movement.

There were actually more mentions the day before Thanksgiving than on Black Friday itself – the day intended for people to opt outside.

When looking at the raw numbers there were actually over 1.5 times as many mentions in the time leading up to Black Friday.

To the mountain, or to the sea

What did those vivacious #OptOutside-rs actually opt to do on Black Friday and throughout the entire Thanksgiving holiday weekend?

We categorized the data from people mentioning some of the top outdoor activities REI enthusiasts (and outdoorsy men and women) partake in to analyze what reigned as the top choice.

No surprise given the wintry weather across the country in November, but hiking ruled them all.


Biking, camping, and skiing all made respectable appearances in the conversation, yet nothing seems to daunt the relish with which hikers take to social to post their scenic mountaintop photography.

It embraces the most fundamental of physical activities, because we all know hiking is really just walking (set against beautiful scenery and brimming with fresh air).


Washington state for the win

California, Texas and New York are inherently leaders in any state-by-state breakdown looking at social data.

Why? Simply put, a higher population skews for high social data volumes.

And California was in fact the state with the most mentions of #OptOutside in the conversation over the last week. But…

States breakdown REI 2 months_BW

When looking at the campaign wholly, over the last two months we see that Washington actually trumped all other states in participation in the social campaign.

Plus, they boasted over 3.5 times more Tweets than Cali.

States breakdown last week REI_BW

The outdoors is the ultimate equalizer

The gender breakdown was more of a unifier than a dividing factor in the Twitter convo regarding #OptOutside.

Over the last two months we can see that women had slightly more of a hold with 51% share of voice, but looking at just the last week that number barely alters.

Opt Outside Gender_BW

We see that the share of voice by gender on Twitter shifted just 1%.

Gender last week_BW

Have you seen any other great examples of brands going against the norm this holiday season? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us.

Follow @bw_react for more hot data stories.

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