How REI Is Keeping #OptOutside A Black Friday Tradition

#OptOutside, Outdoor Activities, REI
Image source: courtesy of sduncanvideo/REI

When it launched in 2015, many of the bajillions of media impressions REI racked up with its #OptOutside campaign were a result of the sheer counter-intuitiveness of it all. A major retailer closing its doors on one of the biggest shopping days of the year is news worth talking about. For the co-op to make good on its commitment to the outdoors by closing down to give employees a paid day off that they could enjoy in the fresh air was cool in and of itself. But what took #OptOutside to a higher level was how the brand also created content and tools for people to use in their pursuit of fun outside: trail guides, expert advice, and more. What could have been an admirable stunt became an entire platform.

This year, REI is keeping #OptOutside going with what it calls an “experiential search engine,” essentially a hashtagged library of pictures, videos, and more from people all over the world who are offering up their favorite places and activities in the outdoors for others to discover. The images are pulled entirely from #OptOutside user-generated content on Instagram, augmented with real-time information about locations and experiences. For example, if you click on an image of a hiker, you’ll also see the name of the specific trail featured, the trail’s difficulty rating, directions to the trailhead, recent user reviews of the experience, and related expert advice from REI. Leading up to Black Friday, the brand is also releasing 20 films featuring this type of community-created content.

In its first year, #OptOutside got tons of attention and won almost every major advertising award. For REI’s chief creative officer Ben Steele, the strategy behind keeping its momentum going starts by focusing on its original purpose.

“Why did we make this decision? Why did we take this action? It is about closing our doors, paying our employees, and inviting the world to join us, but it’s really about enabling more people to get outdoors, in more ways, more often,” says Steele.

While the first year of the blockbuster campaign got most of its attention for closing the stores and giving employees a paid day off, last year the brand brought more partner companies into the fold, including Google and Subaru, and launched an outdoor activity finder on the campaign’s website, where people could find nearby trails and parks, upload photos, and find nonprofits that help protect the outdoors. This year the goal was to find a creative way to bring all of it even closer together.

“What started as a moment has kind of become a movement,” Steele says. “It’s about behavior change and giving people tools to do something different with their time. The experiential search engine idea is really about: if we’ve invested in helping people get out, enabling them to get out there, how can we connect those dots even more? Inspiring them with the stories of people living the life outdoors, enabling them with awesome trail content that gives them the functionality to get out there, augmenting that with classes and events and the best expert advice, and connecting the co-op into one place and one experience.”

Given the success it’s seen over the last two years, you’d think keeping #OptOutside going would be a cakewalk for REI marketers. But Steele says the challenge lies in making it even better and more useful without sacrificing simplicity.

“There are challenges in continuing this work on a couple of fronts, and the first is really being laser-focused on the purpose, the reason we’re doing it, ” he says. “We’re really lucky that we’ve got an 80-year-old co-op. It’s not like we have to invent what it stands for and what it’s all about. When we need to be reminded, we have generations of members and visionary leaders to look to. So the number one focus is to keep it simple. Why did we do what we did in 2015? Why are we adding to it? Does it help enable that? Does it make it brighter? Does it make it better? Or does it just make it more complicated?”

Trail guides and expert advice are great, but perhaps#OptOutside’s biggest draw, even among people who measure hikes in city blocks, is how it represented a brand putting its people and overall mission above short-term sales. Make no mistake, shutting down all retail and online sales on Black Friday is no small sacrifice. In the past, it was a Top 5 sales day for REI. But the payoff in putting action behind words has been invaluable.

“We talk a lot about the power of authenticity and the power of truth, and it’s got to be there in your stories, but it’s got to be there in your actions, too,” says Steele.

And that philosophy resonates just as strongly within the co-op itself.

“When we first announced this at the co-op internally, there were people who worked retail, with us and elsewhere, who had never had that day off,” says Steele. “The emotional power it had for them to know that on Thanksgiving they’re focused on their family and doing something awesome with the people [they] love the next day, versus having to go into work? That power hasn’t faded.”

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Why Maybelline is winning at social media

Maybelline, Beauty, Cosmetics
Image Source: The Gigi Hadid x Maybelline collection

Among beauty brands, Maybelline is the master of driving social media engagement.

The L’Oréal-owned brand has beat out its parent company, as well as competitors including Estée Lauder and Revlon, in cross-platform engagement since the start of the year, according to recent analysis from ShareIQ, a social analytics company. On Instagram, for example, Maybelline saw a total of over 59 million likes between the start of the year and October 20, compared to L’Oréal’s 27 million likes and Estée Lauder’s 5 million likes during the same period.

At the same time, Maybelline far outdid the competition on Pinterest, garnering 730,000 repins, compared to L’Oréal’s 167,000 and Estée Lauder’s 28,000.  (Most beauty brands find the volume of visual content that’s shared on Instagram and Pinterest, and the accompanying signals, to be more valuable than Twitter data, according to Jonathan Gardner, ShareIQ’s director of marketing who conducted the research.)

These results are all thanks to a combination of frequent, educational posts, savvy influencer relationships and a collaboration with Gigi Hadid.

“Maybelline has been keeping a baseline of fans engaged and are building spikes of excitement with new and influencer content, earning engagement with new audiences,” said Gardner.

Indeed, throughout the year, at least every other post on Maybelline’s Instagram account has either featured or mentioned an influencer, ranging from the beauty vlogger Melissa Flores(37,000 followers) to the fashion blogger Nicole Alyse (over 89,000 followers). Most of this content — which includes both pictures and short “get the look”-style videos — is generated by the influencers themselves and tagged with #mnyitlook, as encouraged by the brand in their Instagram tagline. The best responses have the chance of getting reposted.

swatches“Swatch” imagery is popular on Maybelline’s social accounts

“We know that our customer is looking to beauty influencers to provide beauty trends and education, so it’s important for us to incorporate their amazing content on our channels and partner with them to communicate to their audiences, as well,” said Marnie Levan, Maybelline’s vice president of integrated consumer communications.

But with so many beauty influencers out there today, Maybelline has a few criteria: “We try to find those who authentically talk about and use the brand’s products regularly,” said Levan, “as well as those whose content is not just engaging but also educational for the consumer.”

This past August, the brand took that relationship one step further, launching its first influencer-driven product line with popular beauty blogger Shayla Mitchell, who boasts 2.5 million followers on Instagram. Curated by Mitchell, the “Maybelline x Shayla” collection included a shade extension of the brand’s Colossal Big Shot Mascara and a new rendition of its City Mini Palette. Mitchell’s goal, according to an interview with Refinery29, was to create products that worked for all skin tones.

The surrounding social media campaign — which saw posts shared across all of Mitchell’s social accounts, as well as Maybelline’s — was the brand’s most successful to date, said Levan. The collection sold out on within a few days of the launch and is continuing to sell impressively in stores, she said.

Outside of this influencer-centric content, the brand’s Instagram account features a stream of swatch posts — in which different shades and textures of a certain product are shown on a model’s wrists — as well as staged, artful product shots.

Another factor in Maybelline’s success is how often it’s posting: On Instagram, it shares an average of five posts per day, compared to L’Oréal’s average of four and Estée Lauder’s average of two, according to ShareIQ.

And then, of course, there’s Gigi Hadid. Although she’s been spokesperson of Maybelline for a few years now, Hadid launched her first collection with the bran in early October, soon after her makeup artist, Erin Parsons, became the company’s global makeup artist.

While relying on a celebrity for influence is by no means a novel idea, Maybelline has been particularly smart about leveraging the opportunity, said Garner. It ensures that Hadid posts frequent Maybelline-centric content to her own Instagram account, where she has over 36 million followers. In the 48 hour period surrounding the lines UK launch on October 12th, she shared 7 related posts.

What’s more, Hadid always mentions Maybelline in the tags and comments, a strategy that helps push her many owned followers to the Maybelline account, said Gardner. After the model announced the first online sale of the line on the Boots UK website, the product sold out in 90 minutes.

“Paying a spokesperson is one thing,” he said, “but effectively using the channel is another.”

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A Digital Shift in the New Era of Customer Experience

Customer Experience, Age of the Customer, Digital, Customers

A Digital Shift in the New Era of Customer Experience
By Kym Gordon Moore

How do you define, and cultivate the behavior of your customer without overwhelming them? Organizations tend to obsess over ways to innovate and remain competitive as a leader in their respective industry. All too often, this obsession puts more emphasis on the operational and revenue strategy versus the welfare of their end-user, the customer. Customers are savvier, more creative and have consistently proven how the old marketing focus and platform is now obsolete.

The customer experience goes beyond the simplicity of good service. It involves engagement, trust, education, solutions, how well you treat your workforce, social responsibility, and customer evangelism. It’s about connecting to the emotion of the customer and treating them as a human and not a chatbot. How do you identify opportunities that focus on your customer, build core business data from them and better understand their behavior without disrupting their experience? The core of today’s business ecosystem puts the customer first. By initially engaging with the customer, you can get a better handle on identifying their problem through researching opportunities for finding solutions to satisfy their needs.

Here are 3 primary and important reasons why it is imperative to rethink the digital shift and plan of action in this new era of the customer experience.

1. Technology is driving change. Business is social and digitized. The language customers speak is different and faster.

2. Current customer journeys no longer comply with traditional marketing funnels. Traditional customer journey stages have become obsolete. Customers do not flow in a linear fashion with new journey models, nor do they experience each stage of the process in the same fashion.

3. Build relationships, trust and earn loyalty. Focusing on building relationships and earning loyalty through delivering exceptional experiences throughout the customer journey is key for marketers. Marketing and sales teams can effectively grow tribes of customers who will advocate on their behalf and help organically grow their business to strengthen their brand.

Over 3 decades ago we strongly connected to customers through a brick and mortar location. We were in the driver’s seat guiding them on decisions based on our suggestions of what we felt they needed. They trusted our expertise whether they needed what they purchased or not. Such transactions oftentimes resulted in buyer’s remorse, which worked against repeat business.

In our customer-led market, we appeal to a larger base of consumers. You must build your business around your customers instead of the other way around. Building relationships, harnessing your resources to create a consumer-friendly culture, earning customer trust and loyalty by taking touch points and interactions seriously, will not pigeonhole ideas but will encourage the customer to feel comfortable getting on board your current digital marketing vehicle.

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Real Estate Innovation: Don’t Gamble On Circumventing Your Competition


Incremental or Disruptive? What innovative methods are better or more suitable for your firm? What measures of innovation have you applied to your real estate business to keep it relevant, and competitive?

Real estate is one of the remaining industries yet to be greatly affected by radical/disruptive innovation (disrupting and displacing established alliances, leading firms, methods or established services and products). However, get ready because that could be changing sooner than you think.

While many companies want decreased risks (who wouldn’t right?) do not be deceived by the lack of current aggressive innovative tactics that could leave you in the dust. Real estate is one of the most highly competitive industries in this country and your organization’s strategy is key to igniting robust development. Will you fight or circumvent your competition?

Firms that implement incremental innovation enhance or upgrade a little bit at a time. Incremental innovation is just a start to keep you from being caught completely off guard when radical innovation invades your industry. Align your forces and business culture to introduce something new and different. Don’t compete or fight for market share, but become the dominant player with radical innovation. Leadership and people cannot miss out on massive opportunities by doing nothing because nothing earth-shattering is happening yet.