Building on the momentum of International Women’s Day, companies recognized Equal Pay Day as a moment in time to call attention to the gender-pay gap – from providing 20 percent discounts to customers to donating up to $100,000 to fund wage negotiation workshops. Yet, one company went above and beyond a day-long celebration to bring awareness to this issue in a more lasting way.
After the monumental success of their #OptOutside campaign, REI is again building a groundswell both inside and outside the company. After conducting research, REI found that 6 in 10 women say that men’s interests in outdoor activities are taken more seriously than women’s. In response, the company launched “Force of Nature,” a multifaceted approach to encourage and equip women to pursue outdoor passions. Since 63 percent of women say they cannot think of an outdoor female role model, REI is putting women at the forefront of all its marketing content and will partner with Outside magazine to create the first-ever all-women’s issue showcasing outdoor female role models. But the company isn’t just changing their brand narrative. “Through ‘Force of Nature,’ women will be front and center in our brand and storytelling spaces, but our commitment goes way beyond a ‘brand’ discussion,” says CEO Jerry Stritzke. The program also extends to the company’s philanthropic and product innovation initiatives — REI will invest $1 million into nonprofits that get women and girls into the outdoors and is working with vendors to develop gear specifically for women. The outdoor gear company is also planning more than 1,000 women-centered events to take place on May 6. And the campaign uncovers a deeply embedded part of the REI brand and history: REI was founded by a both a man and a woman. “It’s in our DNA,” says Stritzke. “We believe that access to the outdoors is a right that should be available for all—men and women.”
The magic of “Force of Nature” comes from the surround-sound approach of execution, which touches on its media strategy and advertising, product innovation, philanthropic commitments and events. This all-encompassing campaign truly demonstrates REI’s inherent company values and commitment to empowering women in the outdoor industry. In the days and months to come, we will see if a campaign of this scale may be grand enough to inspire others to act and create another movement.