Brianne Johnson

REI targeted campaign

Case study for REI Brandcenter student project. Not for commercial use.

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 3.37.55 PM.png

the tASK

Grow REI’s market share by targeting Asian American outdoor enthusiasts.

the problem

REI is perceived as a “white bread” brand, and including Asian American faces in advertising isn’t enough to make them pick REI.

OUR solution

Speak to novice Asian American outdoor enthusiasts at the moment adventure begins: college.

Screen Shot 2019-01-11 at 3.09.24 PM.png

Outdoor retailer REI is known for its high-quality equipment and deep staff expertise, but perceptions that REI is for veteran outdoor enthusiasts and “Colorado-outdoorsy white people,” as one interview participant put it, is an intimidating turn-off for audiences who don’t fit the stereotype. Though REI has strengthened efforts to reach more diverse markets, it has largely ignored Asian Americans.

Screen Shot 2019-03-03 at 7.20.04 PM.png

Like what barriers keep our audience from REI—and from the outdoors more generally? We set out on a quest to find out, using 10 in-depth interviews, a visit to REI and social listening across the category.



In REI’s eyes, its core audience of outdoor enthusiasts starts the habit start early. But that rule doesn’t necessarily apply to an Asian American audience. Instead, interview participants shared stories of a family-owned business too dependent on weekend foot-traffic to close for kayaking, a mother put off by the danger she sees when looking up to the mountains, and aging grandparents who needed their caretakers home, not out camping—all diverse yet culturally poignant hurdles to forming a life-long relationship with the outdoors.


Without early exposure to the outdoors, they turn to Amazon as their guide.

Overwhelmed by the research it takes to start an outdoor activity, a majority of interview participants cited Amazon as the easy-to-understand resource for comparing equipment. They know REI but dismiss it as too “extreme” or expensive for someone just getting started.

College is where the adventure begins.

All but one participant discovered their preferred outdoor activity in college, where new friends introduced them to new outdoor experiences.

Screen Shot 2019-01-13 at 7.40.44 PM.png

OUR solution

Speak to novice Asian American outdoor enthusiasts when the adventure is just beginning: college.


REI is the approachable guide to new outdoor experiences.

Mock-up to illustrate potential executions.

Mock-up to illustrate potential executions.



88,969 Asian American college students in six states with the highest Asian American populations; closest proximity to REI stores; and ample outdoor attractions: CA, WA, NJ, NY, IL, NV.


At 17 colleges and universities across six states, a campus pop-up shop will introduce students to REI and provide the necessary guidance and equipment to get them started on their first or next adventure.



Pop-up shops feature:

  • REI representatives ready to field questions and encourage students to try on equipment;

  • VR experiences to promote local and national parks and attractions;

  • To-do and to-buy checklists tailored by activity and skill level; and

  • Campaign promotional materials to learn more about REI.

Pop-up participants enter to win campaign starter kits, which feature 4-6 essential items to encourage our audience to step outside.



ACTIVITIES: 10 in-depth interviews / store visit / SWOT and competitive analyses / brand and category research / social listening

WHO’S AROUND THE CAMPFIRE: Jeremy Stokes (XD); Kelley Barrett (CW); Jenna Anderson (AD); Christopher Suarez (ST); Cody Colvin (Creative Brand Manager)