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What it Takes to Go Viral Like REI’s #OptOutside Campaign

What moves people to like and share a company’s message? What is the Golden Grail of marketing content?

That’s the question every business owner and marketer constantly asks themselves: how can I create something that goes viral? And if you’re a B2B company that Golden Grail of virality (yes, I just made up a word) seems even more impossible. Can you think of a single B2B campaign that has gone viral? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.  REI Closing Black Friday #OptOutside

What’s the secret to creating marketing content that people want to share? It’s simple: you need to move your audience. Inspire them. Excite them.  Or even outrage them. But DO something that separates you from the masses and gets your audience to feel something or to belong to something.

Take REI for example: if you love the outdoors and are obsessed with outdoor gear, chances are you’ve heard of REI. As an avid backpacker and REI member, when they announced they were closing and urging outdoor enthusiasts to #OptOutside instead of fighting the Black Friday frenzy, I heard about it from my backpacking peer groups before I had a chance to check my email (which I do several times an hour).  Literally, seconds after the announcement hit email inboxes their audience excitedly spread the news on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest sharing the ways they were going to skip Black Friday mayhem and #OptOutside by hiking, biking, climbing, and skiing.  At that moment, REI members and fans became part of a club, a movement, a counter-revolution against Capitalist greed and consumerist mania – and they were proud#OptOutside to tell others about it.

The “REI is closing on Black Friday #OptOutside” meme went viral within 24 hours.  It was so popular that California State Parks announced last week that in honor of #OptOutside entrance to all state parks would be free on Black Friday. How would you like to have that much influence with your marketing campaigns?

REI took a huge risk closing on Black Friday- and they may or may not lose revenue this holiday season (you can still shop online), but what they gained in loyalty and respect from their target market is priceless.  REI not only understands the demographics of their target market, but they understand an even more important aspect: psychographics. REI members are outdoor fanatics who value solitude over crowds, peace and quiet over the hustle and bustle and their free time over saving a few bucks. REI types feel inherently unique from the masses who flock to malls, Walmarts, and Best Buys before their turkey, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie even has a chance to digest. And, as a business, REI gets it!

Whether you are a B2B or B2C company, what does your target market value? What club or movement would make your audience be proud to belong to? Remember, Return on Investment (RO) is the short game; customer loyalty is the long-game that pays off in spades.







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