I love disruption. Not many people can say that. Disruption is a breath of fresh air to rituals and expectations. Leveraged well, disruption is an amazing marketing tool.
Take REI in America. They chose to CLOSE their store on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year in the US.
While some accused the retailer of simply pulling off a promotional stunt, the concept ran much deeper. The idea of closing so their employees and customers could actually go outside and play was in keeping with their brand promise of enjoying the outdoors. It struck an emotional connection with their audience. The fact that 1.5 million people then contributed content through social media to tell how they spent their day outside, of course added to the effectiveness. The company created the hashtag #OptOutside to help channel shared content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Youtube. And the press went crazy giving them tons of free publicity for rejecting Black Friday. They became a top news item nationally. It’s an act of bravery to close 143 stores on your traditionally busiest day. But it would appear that subsequent online sales actually more then made up for it. They were reportedly up 26%.
It was a clever disruption.
But here’s the real insight. Data analysis would have told them this was a crazy idea. According to REI analytics, visits are preceded by one of more digital experiences, especially using mobile. Getting people to the site and keeping them there is the end goal for REI. Putting up a closed sign on their website ran counter to everything analytics told them. So too did putting up a closed sign on their 143 store location doors for the day.
But what data can’t measure well is emotion and values. Data gives you tracked behaviour, but creativity and disruption allows for justified leaps of faith. In this case, REI realized that the message to reject consumerism for the day would resonate, especially if they were encouraging people to step away from online, and to get outside and connect with nature. It also played out well for how they valued their employees in giving them the day off.
Data is about the past, but it is often used to predict the future. And it can do a good job to a point. But the one thing for certain about data is that it can also blind you to leaps of faith that allow an emotional connection based on values.
Have a think on that the next time you get tangled up in the reeds of numbers and analysis.