A picture of a man ice climbing on K2 with the phrase “It’s not just gear. It’s inspiration. Find out.” A woman perched on a ledge dwarfed by the canyons around her and the words “Feel small”. REI’s print ads ignite the adventurous spirit and inspire a thirst for exploration…unless you’re not in to that sort of thing. It seems like everywhere you go; you see some type of ad or promotion for REI. That is if “everywhere you go” is on a mountain, at a ski movie or doing a trail clean-up. In case it’s not exceedingly obvious yet, REI targets the middle to bottom of the funnel. Their advertising presence reminds existing customers that they need the latest and greatest gear and gives a little nudge to that active hobbyist that has been thinking kayaking may be a fun way to get outside.
REI seems to have their customers nailed and positions themselves as a partner in outdoor adventuring rather than simply a gear retailer. They hold in-store classes to teach people how to navigate with a map and compass. They organize snowshoeing events with a streamlined way to rent their gear. Even their in-store sales associates are spot on in how they sell to REI customers. I often leave with hundreds of dollars of gear convinced that the person I was working with pushed me toward the most appropriate items, not the most expensive.
Most recently, REI has been in the news because they appointed a new CEO. The story that is highlighted over and over is how he has traded out his suit and tie for a flannel shirt and Patagonia (*plug*) vest. Consistent with every other flavor of their marketing, this story is meant to resonate with the nitty gritty, no frills outdoors enthusiast.
REI has done an amazing job fostering their relationship with their customers. I do not think they should alter this strategy. They could go after the top of the funnel, or they could continue to create customer evangelists that will keep doing it for them.