|WORK / REI | RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT INC.||UNITEDDSN.COM|
REI is North America’s number one outdoor retailer. Although endorsed, recognized and awarded annually by the industry for it’s own brand product innovation and quality, the presentation of the brand did not drive brand recognition with consumers. Through a comprehensive re-positioning and re-branding program, United elevated the overall brand perception to align with the quality of the product and reaffirm REI as the North American industry leader.
|PROCESS / REI | RECREATIONAL EQUIPMENT INC.||UNITEDDSN.COM|
REI – A CREDIBLE, HIGH-TECH SOLUTION THAT LIVES UP TO PRODUCT QUALITY.
Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI), is the privately held retailer organized as a consumer cooperative, selling outdoor recreation gear, sporting goods, and clothing via 128 retail stores in 31 states. REI's sales exceeded $1.8 billion in 2011 making them the nation's largest consumer cooperative.
Driven by their insatiable passion for the outdoors, REI understand first-hand the importance of quality outdoors gear, designing, developing and rigorously testing their own line of award-winning branded products.
Despite this, the brand identity across the core range was dull as dishwater and displayed little of the energy and passion it needed to captivate both existing and new audiences. Above all however it did not convey the quality that supported its rightful place alongside high-value, highly technical national & international brand competitors.
REI & UNITED – IN THE BEGINNING.
REI needed to reposition their brand by creating a credible, high-tech solution that lived up to the product quality. In order to achieve this they realized they needed to go ‘out-of-house’ and team up with an external design partner that was not only experienced in re-positioning and rebranding but was capable of handling the scale of a project as large as this.
The partner had to be one that fitted them perfectly, both on a commercial and a cultural level, for this to truly work. Having never worked with an external design partner before, REI were naturally both cautious and diligent.
The RFP process was an aggressive, disciplined and lengthy one, it didn’t just focus on agency credentials but drilled down carefully into who we were as people, what we stood for and how we lived our lives. Fifteen prospective agencies were selected down to five and subsequent “chemistry” meetings took place over several months.
Overcoming competition from some of the most reputable design teams in the industry, United swept the floor with the energy, passion and intelligence needed to reassure REI that they could reveal the heart of their business to someone completely new.
REI are the perfect UNITED client – passionate, devoted, connected to the world they live in and driven by positive values. As their agency of record, we not only live & breathe their brand and what it does but are integral to their wider commercial ambitions.
DEEPEST DIVE EVER…& FORMULATING THE BRIEF.
With the RFP signed-off we were invited to dive in, meeting their core teams and participating at a board level on strategy and planning meetings that covered everything from research, marketing, in-store experience, customer services and beyond.
Using the masses of data available due to their co-operative DNA, our role was to evaluate the REI core brand against the competitive landscape across product packaging, in-store activity and on and off-line communications.
Historically mainstream competitor brands were considered the most important through quality and appeal, while private label ranges were regarded as the cost effective alternatives. This had to change – REI products were better value, but equally as well made and more versatile.
In the wake of the leading brands opening their own stores and building more powerful retail offers that don’t rely on independents, there was also a significant and growing opportunity for REI’s emphasis on mainstream brands to shift back towards their own private label offering and capitalize on improved store presence.
Our challenge was to professionally challenge the perception of the REI core brand, helping to nurture the culture of the business to become one that understand the power of private brand, how to talk confidently about their own ranges and how to increase awareness of the quality and scope of them.
Next came the concept work phase where we explored apparel and gear packaging, and how REI could treat in-store merchandising and advertising. This allowed us to demonstrate the level of creative standard that could be achieved on a private label range that in turn would allow them to compete squarely with brands like The North Face, Marmot, Columbia and Mountain Hardware. Behind every stage of the concept work was a multi-faceted exercise around language, positioning and brand & product range clarity.
REI MASTER BRAND REPOSITIONING & REBRANDING
The chosen concept launched Jan 2013 and now in store, brings REI customers a more high-tech look with brushed metal finishes and stronger, more prominent technical information. The design explores better ways of using hangtag systems to communicate the most important product attributes and is presented in ways that bring them in-line with premium competitors. By realizing crucial design-specifications that were previously being lost both on product packaging and throughout the store, we have delivered a more ‘user-friendly’ icon system that motivates people into understanding what choices to make and how to buy.
Further requirements included the need for brand manuals that could be used without the need for lengthy learning sessions around understanding and application. REI’s brand guidelines for internal use were therefore developed to be used across every facet of the business and clearly defined how the master brand had been re-positioned and how all assets should and could be used by everyone from digital, marketing, sales and through to design. The guidelines United developed have been acknowledged by REI to be so comprehensive and complete that they have now been adopted as the Corporate Standards for the Entire company.