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(Recreational Equipment Inc.)

Boosting recognition and loyalty, for North America’s No.1 outdoor retail brand.

REI, North America’s largest outdoor recreation retailer, aspired to secure and retain more consumers.

To do this, the organization had to become much more sophisticated when communicating their parent brand, and better able to convey the virtues of their own-label products.

To that end, it was necessary for United to perform a full category audit and create a completely new corporate and product design language, one that was able to secure consumer belief and recognition at retail, overcoming the growing threat of mainstream competitor brands.

Ultimately, we had to build a business culture that understood – and believed in – the potential and viability of private label.

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Lawrence Haggerty / Partner
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“REI was looking for an external design partner who could not only manage the sheer scale and complexity of the project, but also work harmoniously with the well-established in-house design team integral to the entire process. Going out-of-house was uncharted territory for them, and they were anxious to find the right fit for their brand. They didn’t just want a design agency; they were looking for the whole package, a partner they could trust to have the same passion and enthusiasm for the outdoor life as themselves.

After a rigorous RFP process – one that focused as much on cultural credentials as it did design capability – United was awarded the work.”
Lawrence Haggerty / Partner


Defining potential

Driven by their insatiable passion for the outdoors, REI understand firsthand the importance of high quality outdoor gear, designing, developing and rigorously testing their own line of award-winning branded products.

Despite this, the brand identity across their core range was un-engaging and displayed little of the brand essence or product information required to captivate both new or even existing customers. Furthermore, it didn’t convey the quality needed to support its rightful place alongside high value, technical, premium brand competitors.

Working closely with REI’s core teams throughout each level of the business, we quickly identified that the biggest opportunity was in challenging the perception of what the core brand was and could be.

Our category audit process revealed that, even within REI’s own stores, mainstream competitor brands were considered the most important, 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.

Finally, in the wake of the leading brands opening their own stores, developing more powerful retail offers that don’t rely on independents, we established that there was also a proven opportunity for REI’s emphasis on mainstream brands to shift back towards their own private label offering and capitalize on improved store presence.



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Establishing direction

Our research enabled us to formulate (and formalize) REI’s new creative direction, leading to innovative concept work that explored everything from apparel, packaging, in-store and merchandising, to advertising, digital and marketing, in more effective and engaging ways.

The process also led us to develop how the business talked about their own ranges, increasing awareness of product quality and range, both internally and externally. In turn, we demonstrated the level of creative standard that could be achieved on a private label range. One that would enable REI to firmly compete with brands such as The North Face, Marmot, Columbia and Mountain Hardware.

Behind every stage of the concept work, there were meticulously considered recommendations around language, positioning and visual identity for each product range. Through these new strategic and visual personalities, United were able to evolve the corporate brand itself, developing what essentially became a stronger parent brand. One more versatile, relevant and with clearer purpose and direction.



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Delivering on promise

REI’s chosen new creative direction engages customers far more effectively by way of better-quality materials, iconography, photography and more prominent technical information. All of which brings them clearly in-line with premium competitors.

Ultimately, we have delivered a more ‘user-friendly’ and aspirational design language that motivates people into understanding what choices to make and how to buy.

Indeed, because the work we produced for REI’s own-label ranges was so progressive, this fed back into the company at an umbrella level, prompting them to instruct us to work on their internal communications. Further activity therefore included a complete suite of brand manuals that could be used across the business to promote learning and understanding.

Brand guidelines for internal use were thoroughly developed to clearly define how the master brand had been repositioned and how all assets could and should be used. These proved so comprehensive that they have since been adopted as the Corporate Standards for the entire company.


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