Over the last few years, we’ve seen the exponential rise of outdoor activities. From car commercials, social media posts, and Oscar-winning documentaries, the outdoor culture has taken the spotlight. And we’re lovin’ it!
But this ubiquitous presence, both online and offline, didn’t happen over time. It took rigorous marketing campaigns to disrupt the typical advertisements geared towards city folks and suburban homeowners.
In a forest full of trees, Patagonia and REI are leading the way and showing the world how disruptive marketing and social media can work hand-in-hand. More than just clothing companies, Patagonia and REI are brands that have etched their names as industry innovators because of their unique identities and disruptive, yet memorable, campaigns.
Founded by rock climbing pioneer Yvon Chouinard in 1973, Patagonia is a vanguard when it comes to incorporating ethical business practices into their marketing efforts. The apparel company has not deviated from this practice, even today. This shows in many of Patagonia’s digital marketing strategies. Glancing at their social media, Patagonia’s content, while it resonates with their more than 4 million followers, suggests that they are more than just an outdoor brand.
With a mission to “build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis,” Patagonia is known for its long-lasting apparel and disruptive marketing strategies.”
Not only do they create sleek jackets or climbing pants, Patagonia actively raises awareness of environmental issues by utilizing social media. Back in 2015, they started a campaign using #CrudeAwakening to protect coastlines. The campaign came after the Refugio oil spill near Santa Barbara. Patagonia partnered with local organizations. They led group paddle boarders, surfers, and kayakers to raise awareness for four bills that promised to stop new offshore drilling and improve pipeline safety. Their strategy is so effective and powerful that they passed three laws that require strict guidelines that drilling companies must now follow.
Patagonia is known for going against the flow of traditional call to action. Telling consumers to buy a jacket is so 1950s. In their bold 2011 marketing campaign “Don’t Buy This Jacket” challenged consumers the world over. This made their audience think twice before buying anything. Patagonia is winning the hearts and minds of not just their loyal base, but also general consumers. Their secret? They stayed true to their mission of building the best products and implementing solutions to the environmental crisis.
REI is an outdoor brand that’s run as a co-op that reinvests profits back into their employees, nonprofits, trail restoration projects, and hundreds of outdoor groups. This philosophy already separates them from other retail companies. This same idea of leveraging their community has changed how digital marketers use social media by augmenting user-generated content.
They started with creating hashtags like #OptOutside and #REIchallenge that encourage people to share their outdoor adventures on social media. REI retweets or reposts these user-generated content on their social media profiles. It’s an amazing way of engaging the community and spreading brand awareness. But more than selling top-quality gear and apparel, they also have informative and high-quality blog content that spans a wide range of topics from personal experiences, camping gear, and how-to blogs.
Fall 2015, REI opted out of Black Friday, the most anticipated shopping day of the year. Talk about a disruptive marketing strategy! The goal of their campaign was to encourage people to go outdoors, instead of shopping on Black Friday. This inconceivable action shocked everyone but showed their loyal customers who REI is. They are just like the people who walk into their stores looking for essential gears and apparel.
REI paid its employees to #OptOutside rather than working in a chaotic store. REI runs its business with empathy which gives the retailer so much success. After the initial run, the #OptOutside campaign received more than 6 billion media impressions and inspired millions of consumers to devote their day outside.
What’s your favorite brand with a disruptive marketing campaign? Comment below!
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