Black Friday, 2015, was supposed to be like any other Black Friday. True, a day of exuberant spending, mobs of individuals craving the most elaborate savings, and hundreds of thousands of consumers flooding the general market is not a typical day in business. However, for a major retail corporation, the Friday after Thanksgiving undoubtedly proves magnificently profitable. So profitable, in fact, that a corporate decision to “opt out” of this endeavor may be perceived as detrimental, if not altogether stupid. Say hello to REI’s #OptOutside campaign.
This novel campaign aimed to allow individuals to “reconnect outdoors over the holidays”(REI Staff). REI paid its over 12,000 employees a typical daily salary to simply stay away from work on Black Friday and go outside; moreover, instead of containing the campaign within the confines of its staff, REI invited consumers to also partake in the day of disconnect (and ultimately, reconnect). What may have originally been perceived as a faulty business venture proved wildly successful–“1.4 million people and 170 organizations chose to #OptOutside” (REI Staff). This venture allowed for greater public presence, simultaneously promoting the REI brand as well as a general spirit of adventure.
Although this campaign began well over a year ago, the tradition has been established. REI, along with several business partners, agreed to promote outdoor activity on Friday, November 25, 2016 instead of opening business to consumers. Once again, the outpour of support and consumer participation in the campaign was overwhelming.
This experience, although quite reflective of the exploration and nature (our biological ecologies), proves equally reflective of rhetorical networks.
Rhetoric may be prescribed as an ecology, or network, of discourse in which communicated and circulated texts are continually transforming audiences, presenters, and all parties involved. This working evaluation of rhetoric, mainly adapting the perspective of Jenny EdBauer, applies to REI’s #OptOutside campaign. The campaign grew to constitute more than simply staff participation as the internet (primarily Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook) flooded with consumer pictures accompanied by “#OptOutside.” This discourse–an open critique of the drastically exemplified material culture on Black Friday specifically–was established by REI, perpetuated by consumer involvement, and altered between the relation between the two. This further altered as other organizations provided support to REI’s campaign; for example, in 2016, Subaru had a commercial circulating of humane society dogs ‘opting outside’ and playing, simultaneously contributing to REI’s campaign, calling attention to animal adoption, and promoting their brand. This reflects EdBauer’s notion of an unstable, adapting location and situation, as far as rhetoric goes.