Featured image: the REI logo, courtesy of Lance Trueb
“Welcome to First Friday” is a new series on Flip the Media where we introduce the hosts of our First Friday events — monthly gatherings where companies share their expertise and insights with the Comm Lead community, and people can mingle and network in an informal, relaxed environment. This month Communication Leadership students will get to meet REI employees first hand on Friday, March 4 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the MiiR Flagship at 3400 Stone Way N. There will be a screening of an award-winning REI short film and complimentary coffee and beer. The event is free to attend.
In 2015, a Kent-based company made some big waves on Black Friday. It wasn’t because they were offering doorbuster deals, an exclusive look at the latest gadgets, or skipping Thanksgiving altogether and starting the holiday shopping season sacrilegiously early.
They did the opposite. The company closed all 143 retail locations nationwide and gave its 12,000 employees the day off. The Internet, predictably, went nuts.
— REI (@REI) November 26, 2015
But this kind of guerilla campaign, known as #OptOutside, was nothing new for Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI). Founded in 1938 by 23 mountain climbing friends, the company has long been praised for its innovative marketing campaigns and commitment to its core values. There are around 5.5 million REI members worldwide, making it the nation’s largest consumer cooperative. It has arms in the philanthropy and education spheres, partners with 300 nonprofit organizations, and offers outdoor education and training courses.
And if that wasn’t enough, REI has made FORTUNE magazine’s list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For” every year since the rankings began in 1998 (it was no. 58 on 2015’s list).
Lance Trueb, a Comm Lead student, is one of three program managers on the social media team. He was hired on as a temporary employee almost two years ago, but eventually worked his way up into managing the social media editorial calendar and overseeing local social media outlets. His team also helps create, implement and maintain experiences like #OptOutside.
“Closing on Black Friday and paying our 12,000 employees to take the day off was such a special moment for the co-op,” Trueb said of #OptOutside. “I feel privileged to have played a part in sharing that with the world.”
Trueb said the fact that REI is a co-op — which means it is a privately held company with a business model that revolves around paying dividends to co-op members based on their annual purchases — can make crafting the story behind the brand that much more interesting.
“[As a company born in the Northwest], we have the great privilege and responsibility to act in the best interest of our members, not shareholders,” Trueb said. “As a brand, that creates unique storytelling opportunities for us, and the Comm Lead program equips students with the needed perspective, strategy and skill set to do that well.”
Other Comm Lead students and alum who will be in attendance are Sheila Ghaibi, social media specialist, Paolo Mottola, content strategy manager and Amy Ball, paid media program manager .