Culture Shift: How to #OptOutside


Manager of Marketing Content Ali Mercier shares her thought on how to #OptOutside this coming Black Friday

Are you thinking about how to #OptOutside? Check that, have you even heard of REI’s #OptOutside statement/campaign/movement?

When every other retailer is scrambling to open as early as possible on Black Friday, while simultaneously redefining “early Friday” to “earlier and earlier Thursday” (aka Thanksgiving), REI just announced that they will be closing all 143 their stores, and paying their employees to “head outside” rather than work arguably the most heinous retail day in the calendar (spoken from personal experience).

Talk about giving a WOW moment.

They’re encouraging their employees to take adventure. A paid adventure. They also open it up to the rest of us, to tell the world, explore the outdoors, or check out the #OptOutside gallery.

Here’s why, in an excerpt from a message put out by REI’s CEO and President, Jerry Strizke.

“For 76 years, our co-op has been dedicated to one thing and one thing only: a life outdoors. We believe that being outside makes our lives better. And Black Friday is the perfect time to remind ourselves of this essential truth.

“We’re a different kind of company—and while the rest of the world is fighting it out in the aisles, we’ll be spending our day a little differently. We’re choosing to opt outside, and want you to come with us.”

Well then.

While everyone else is jumping on the open-early or at least open-all-day bandwagon, REI created a brand new wagon and invites us all along for the ride. A lot is happening here:

  1. Mission: REI is holding true to its true north/noble cause (a life outdoors), the heck with what the rest of the industry is doing
  2. Community: REI is taking care of its people; not only giving them the day off, but paying them for it (close to unheard of with a primarily retail part-time staff).
  3. Inclusivity: REI is inviting the rest of us to do the same.

REI has a reputation for taking care of its own and sticking to its values. It hires employees who love the outdoors and is found year after year on top-companies-to-work-for lists. How does #OptOutside play into this? What can we learn from it?

We are so often stuck in our own whirlwind that it becomes hard to notice when we’re out of whack. How often do you take the time to examine your company’s efforts, and see how they align with its values? How reliant are you on your true north in moving forward? It can be easy to get off track. The Cranberries’ Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can’t We? speaks to this age of #FOMO. But just because everybody else is doing it, doesn’t mean you want to. It doesn’t mean you’re missing out. It might not be right for your business or your staff. What’s the impact of realignment? Power-packed strength in your community, and bold statement, and a compelling moment for your existing clientele.

Take a note from REI. Check your #FOMO and redefine it to what you’d rather be doing. And, for bonus points, follow REI’s model:

Invite the world along for the ride.

What do you think about the #OptOutside movement? Share in the comments section below, or tweet me @AliMercier.


By Ali

Ali Mercier, Marketing Content Manager at The Leadership Program, prides herself on her "move fast, break things" pace, eager to bring the world of Youth Development into the world of tomorrow. She insists that you find joy wherever you can in life, including (and sometimes especially) in your work. Ali earned her writing degree from the communications- and arts-focused Emerson College in Boston. Connect with her on Twitter @AliMercier.