Outdoor gear supplier REI has a reputation for strategically setting traditional marketing on its head. They made headlines four years ago when they launched the “Opt Outside” movement and closed the doors on their retail outlets on Black Friday.
“We pay our employees to get outside, instead of going to work, and invite the world to join,” they wrote about their decision. “Because we believe a life outdoors is a life well lived. And we want to help everyone discover the benefits of spending time outdoors.”
Now, they are at it again, launching a print magazine in partnership with Hearst, writes Adrianne Pasquarelli in AdAge.
“Called Uncommon Path, the print publication will run on a quarterly basis and include stories focused on the outdoors,” she writes. “Kent, Washington-based REI is partnering with Hearst Magazines on the project, which will be staffed by a team of roughly six in-house REI employees as well as a collection of freelancers and Hearst workers.”
They are discontinuing their catalog in favor of branded journalism, to leverage their print marketing to tell deeper stories.
“What this magazine represents is how we are trying to deliver some of our own content and environmental journalism to help people understand issues around the outdoors better,” says Paolo Mottola, the magazine’s editorial director.
Uncommon Path will also serve to drive revenue directly, with a sales price of $4.95 and advertising from a mix of brands that want to tap into this environmentally aware and relatively affluent market.
“Typically, catalogs are break-even—they’re not money makers—but magazines can be,” explains Sucharita Kodali, VP with Forrester, who believes the magazine is a smart move for the brand.
“The first issue of Uncommon Path will include features on a bike ride through Atlanta and the U.S./Mexico border,” Pasquarelli continues. “Michelle Flandreau, senior editor, says the publication will also focus on product testing, gear reviews and exploring climate change. REI also said this week that it is investing in 10 local news organizations through NewsMatch, a campaign for furthering local news. The retailer expects to donate $100,000 to local, nonprofit news this year.”
It’s a bold move, not surprising for a brand that likes to go big in its strategic initiatives. As we say around here, print magazines are the long pants of brand fashion. In this case, maybe they’re the waterproof cargo shorts too.