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Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Opting Out of Black Friday

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015


Before the Thanksgiving food coma even had the chance to take over, millions of Americans lined up to secure their spot at shopping centers everywhere to take advantage of the advertised “doorbuster deals”. Not all retailers opened their doors to welcome eager shoppers on Black Friday. In late October, Seattle-based outdoor outfitter REI announced it would be closing all 143 stores across the country instead of keeping its doors open on Black Friday. Instead, 12,000 employees received a paid day off to enjoy the great outdoors. Was REI’s choice to opt out of the retail holiday a poor business decision?

Jerry Stritzke, president and CEO of REI explained the company’s decision to #OptOutside after the announcement was made: “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.” Instead of welcoming crowds of holiday shoppers into their stores, REI chose to emphasize how its organization is different and has value. As one of the most powerful forces in outdoor retailing, the company urged its employees and shoppers to enjoy the great outdoors instead of losing sleep and money running from store to store.

In November 2014, the National Retail Federation reported Thanksgiving and the day after accounted for $50.8 billion in revenue. Choosing to close doors on a day that promised an increase in revenue may have cost REI some profits, but it was not a poor business decision. The decision to close its doors encouraged goodwill from customers and higher post-Black Friday sales. Many shoppers have already transitioned to online holiday shopping instead of visiting physical stores to avoid the holiday crowds.

REI’s approach for #OptOutside was heavily promoted on the company’s social media and website, a countdown to Black Friday even displayed on the homepage of its website. Additionally, a feature on the website allowed visitors to share their plans for Black Friday by selecting an image of an activity of their choice. The image was then stamped with a graphic that read, “On Black Friday, I’ll be Here #OptOutside.” Although the promise of increased profits was missed by REI, the decision to close stores for Thanksgiving and Black Friday was a successful business decision because of the organized campaign on the company’s website, paid holiday off for employees and the encouragement for others to enjoy the great outdoors instead of participating in the craziness of Black Friday shopping.


Ann Keeling says:

REI made a bold move by closing on Black Friday. However, it was likely one of the smartest moves a company could make, especially when the decision is positioned to so closely aligne with the brand’s character. Their online sales will likely equal if not exceed what their brick-and-mortar sales would have been (on Black Friday and the weekend after).


Opting Out of Black Friday

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Leaves have fallen and the air has become increasingly chilly. Children have abandoned their costumes for dreams of cookies, Santa and the latest tech gadgets and toys. Tis the season for family, friends and shopping, lots of shopping. Before the turkey has even landed on the table, advertisements have been scanned, coupons clipped and strategies contrived to navigate through hordes of aggressive shoppers on Black Friday.

A modern tradition, Black Friday has long symbolized the start of the holiday shopping season. Last year, 86.9 million Black Friday shoppers combatted crowds, dished out cash and waited in extensive lines – many even camp out days before to get the best deals. A goldmine for brands, most retailers wouldn’t dream of closing on the most profitable day of the year. However, for one retailer, that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Outdoor and fitness apparel and gear chain, REI, announced last week that it would in fact be closing all 143 of its stores on Black Friday, while still paying its employees to take the day off, too. In a campaign titled #OptOutside, REI encourages consumers to forgo the shopping madness to instead spend time outdoors.

“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,” writes REI President and CEO, Jerry Stritzke.

The #OptOutside campaign features a video of chaotic and frenzied Black Friday news reports silenced by beautiful rolling mountains and spacious skies. On Friday, November 27, REI’s official website will “go black”, redirecting visitors to the #OptOutside campaign website; which provides guides to hiking trails and other outdoor activities around the U.S. Additionally, individuals are encouraged to share their time spent outdoors utilizing the campaign hashtag on social media.

In our on-all-the-time world, REI’s #OptOut campaign is refreshing and unique. Although it’s yet to be seen how this bold move will affect REI’s seasonal sales, it’s safe to assume, if successful, other retailers may follow their lead.


Ann Keeling says:

REI certainly is making a bold move and one that other retailers may or may not follow. Even more important though, is that REI is being true to its brand – and what a brilliant way to leverage its essential equity – what they’ll realize from this effort is massive brand awareness and likely the biggest season of profits ever. Let’s be on the lookout for their sales numbers in January.

Finding the Normal

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

Saying goodbye to summer can be bittersweet. Many have become accustomed to the more leisurely pace of the summer season with kids on break and vacation days in sight. Now that the lazy days are over and the kids are back in school, many are finding that returning to their normal schedules is easier said, than done. Whether we like it or not, our vacation from normal is over and it’s time to get back to business.

During the summer months, website traffic declines noticeably. People are outside enjoying the warmer weather and their vacations. Social media feeds have less serious content and present a more casual tone. In addition, the number of posts that appear decreases. Calendars have fewer meetings and business networking events come to almost a complete halt. One study found that workplace productivity drops 20 percent during the summer months. It’s time to get motivated and reenergize the workplace.

Returning to the workplace with a positive and productive attitude is the first step to achieving normal again. Look closely at your work environment, including the physical space and the people around you. If your work environment has collected clutter from the summer months, clean up. Get yourself organized. Examine your relationships with your coworkers. If there is tension, try working out your differences and recognizing the diverse skills and abilities each of you possesses. Sometimes a simple conversation between two individuals can solve the problem that has caused an uncomfortable work environment. Tidying up your workspace will allow you to focus on more important tasks.

After working on creating a healthier professional environment, prioritize your daily tasks. If you are a morning person, don’t waste your time doing a mindless activity in the early hours. Utilize this time when your brain is awake and ready to use its creative power to tackle the more difficult tasks on your checklist. Approach these tasks with a determined attitude and you will find yourself genuinely motivated to accomplish these goals. Take the time to reflect on the first part of the year and optimistically look ahead to what needs to be accomplished for the rest of the year.

Now that you have taken the steps to get back to business as usual, ensure your productivity continues throughout the Fall and Winter. Summer is a great time for us to recover the energy we need to perform our best in the workplace.


Ann Keeling says:

The pace of work certainly does slow over the summer, with many people on vacation or on “summer hours”. It can be bit of a rude awakening post-Labor Day when everyone is back in the action, so be ready!

Karma or Cruel Consequence?

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

Poetic justice was the vast sentiment expressed on Tuesday, August 18, when the names, credit card numbers and email and home addresses of nearly 33 million Ashley Madison users from around the world were exposed via the Internet. As news of the published list broke, many individuals snatched a bowl of popcorn and took to social media to reprimand the nefarious cheats. Pure. Entertainment. Right? Those dirtbags got what was coming to them, or did they?

It’s all too natural for society to place blame and point fingers, but we forget the impact events such as this have on communities and families. Unfortunately in matters like this, the guilty party is not the only one who suffers – children are ridiculed by classmates, spouses suffer immense embarrassment and families are torn apart. “…kids do not deserve to lose a parent. Their family doesn’t deserve to lose a loved one,” asserts security expert, Brian Krebs.

Aside from the devastating potential of losing their families, guilty parties are at a serious risk of also losing their careers. Roughly 15,000 military and governmental email addresses were exposed in the hack, which present tremendous consequences for those involved. “Under military rules, philanderers can be punished by a year in confinement and a dishonorable discharge, which means losing their pension,” reports Michael E. Miller in his article, Don’t gloat about the Ashley Madison leak. It’s about way more than infidelity.

As the wolves descend, it is imperative to remember that not everyone on the list actually cheated on their spouse – whether that matters or not. In fact, a majority of the female accounts on Ashley Madison are fake. Additionally, Ashley Madison does not confirm email addresses – this means a colleague, friend or neighbor could have potentially created an account using someone else’s name and email.

It’s fair to say that some guilty parties received what was coming to them, but many innocent persons were undoubtedly caught in the crossfire. Ultimately, we must remember that this incident goes far beyond the realm of exposing immoral scum; it’s a sincere privacy concern. The Ashley Madison hack is a valuable lesson everyone in the realm of reevaluating ones presence online and the information that they are sharing. Oh, and of course, not cheating on your spouse.


Ann Keeling says:

There are likely people we know personally who are on this list. But really, what does it matter? It’s not like we don’t realize that guys are doing things like this (and maybe even worse), it’s just that now it becomes more real. But the idea that all of these men put their info on a “secure” site is ludicrous – there really is no secure site, particularly for information of such a personal nature.

Surprise and delight.

Thursday, July 30th, 2015

When a brand is seeking to reach a larger group of consumers, strategic partnerships are often utilized. Cross-promotional marketing, also known as a mutually beneficial partnership, occurs when like-minded companies choose to create a partnership in an effort to maximize their marketing efforts. These collaborations allow each brand to access groups of consumers in a unique way that might have otherwise been difficult to reach.

Two brands that recently mastered cross promotion through a surprise and delight campaign are Coca-Cola and JetBlue in the “Share a Coke with Humanity” campaign. The cross-promotional campaign took place at New York’s Penn Station. A vending machine set up in the station returned two Coca-Cola cans to any customer who purchased one. When the puzzled customer received the second refreshment, signs on the machine encouraged them to “Share a Coke” with someone else in the station. For the customers who did share their second drink with a stranger, a JetBlue crewmember approached them and praised them for their generosity. Captured on camera, the crewmember tells the customer their act of generosity has earned them two free round-trip tickets on JetBlue.

Of the 150 transactions from the vending machine, 70% of the unsuspecting customers gave away their second bottle and were rewarded for their generosity. Both Coca-Cola and JetBlue are brands that tend to celebrate positivity in all of their marketing efforts. This cross-promotional campaign highlights the shared values and principles of both companies and provides a successful example of how sharing (not just a Coke) can make a difference in a brand’s marketing efforts.

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Ann Keeling says:

Good creative campaign concepts, particularly those that are built on real world engagement are optimal for a brand. Coke and JetBlue hit it out of the park with this concept that showed the generosity of humanity served up as something to surprise and delight people. Wouldn’t it be great if more marketers thought about consumer engagement in this way – the brand visibility and authenticity aspect is far more valuable than a bunch of billboards, print ads, etc.