REI (Recreational Equipment Inc.) was named most respected brand in the private company category by branding and advertising firm GreenRubino in 2011. So how does this iconic outdoor retailer invest in marketing to support their success?
In 2011 REI spent approximately $60M to support their $1.8B business. To put this in perspective, they spent 3% of their sales on advertising to drive an 8% growth in sales compared to one of their competitors who spent 8% of their sales on advertising to drive a 5% growth in sales. REI’s marketing dollars are aimed toward supporting their catalog distribution and their social media campaign. REI puts a lot of stock in their Facebook and Twitter relationships as well as their educational videos on YouTube, known as ‘REI Expert Advice.’ These simple short videos, which can reach millions of people, help foster a relationship with the consumer by sharing tips on topics from the basics of paddle boarding to how to teach your child to ride a bike.
REI doesn’t just market their brand through traditional market techniques that appear on their income statement. Shopping with REI is very experiential–from the knowledge of their employees to their store design and layout. They invest a disproportionate amount of time on training and focusing on employees, as compared to other retailers, to ensure that if you want to know which sleeping bag is best for camping in Yosemite in November or the best secret camp sites in the Sierra Nevada’s… the sales person will know the answer. Their store designs and layouts also offer terrain to test out hiking boots and, in some locations, a rain tunnel to test the latest waterproof gear. For REI it’s all about the experience and they rely on positive customer experience to build generational customer relationships.
Another example of REI’s relationship marketing is their ‘REI ADVENTURES’. REI provides travel arrangements and packages to bring fellow outdoor enthusiasts together to enjoy what they love. Pictured here is an example of one of REI’s adventure packages.
Bottom line,: REI spends their marketing dollars in all the right places. They seem to have mastered how best to market their brand and created their desired customer experience in all that they do.