A Look At REI’s Force Of Nature Campaign

A Look At REI’s Force Of Nature Campaign

My love for the Force of Nature campaign and REI in general has only grown exponentially as I learn more about marketing and why brands do what they do. As I pursue my master’s degree, I want to share insights and research on the blog. I’m writing more than ever this year, so why not expose it for a (small) crowd? The post content was edited and adopted to fit this blog.

Two years ago, there were roughly 144 million Americans that participated in an outdoor activity. However, when The Outdoor Foundation’s 2017 Outdoor Participation Report was published, it displayed a grim statistic: female participation rates dropped year-over-year in ages ranging from 6 to 24. This is a wide age range and quite frightening for the outdoor industry. Young women will have more opportunities to get outside in this age range, where taking risks and falling in love with a new activity, is important to the industry.

“We’re now seeing fewer people skiing as adults because they weren’t exposed to it as kids. When I ask my [ski and snowboard] instructors at staff orientation how many learned to ski on class trips, more than half put up their hands” (Stuart, 2018).

And so, another segment for REI was born: The Female Outdoor Enthusiast.

Outdoor adventure is an extremely popular theme within social blogs and has exploded in the past several years with personal branding on Instagram. Paired with the heightened attention from media-focused social issues, an emphasis on female empowerment that started in 2017 has carried far and wide. The strategies that REI employed in the spring of last year which launched the Force of Nature campaign are numerous and target a select audience of women by both message and media.

The Force of Nature campaign focused on 4 distinct efforts:

  1. to change the spotlight from only men in the outdoors
  2. to support diverse nonprofits and important outdoor initiatives
  3. to host more outdoor events geared toward women
  4. to update women’s outdoor clothing and gear sold at the store (Heller, 2017).


“Who cares what you even look like? Let’s focus on what you’re doing.”
– Pam Grossman, Director of Visual Trends at Getty Images

The first and primary strategy that REI focused on was social engagement. The brand began posting photos of strong, rebellious women and their outdoor inspirations, as well as encouraged female followers to share their own personal experiences in Facebook comments or as their own posts including the hashtag #ForceOfNature. REI announced weekly themes for the hashtag and shared the chosen “winner stories” across their channels. On Instagram, there are over 362,099 posts tagged with #ForceOfNature. REI only has 3,678 Instagram posts, for perspective of reach.


Almost immediately, REI was met with criticism for not featuring women of all shapes and sizes in their imagery and not offering larger size options in their retail platforms. The team has responded tremendously, adding sections onto the Force of Nature landing page as well as promising and following through in 2018 with offering a larger selection of sizes in both brick and mortar and online stores with their own brands and partners (Parris, 2017).


“Let’s make outside the largest level playing field on earth.”
– REI Brand Statement

The goal was 1,000 events. At the end of 2017, REI almost tripled that and played host to 2,700 new events driven toward women such as in-store classes and adventure travel programs. Outessa hosted one (well, three) outdoor retreats and two festivals – and they are all on my bucket list.


“Choose brands that share your commitment to a level playing field.”
– REI Blog Contributor

Doing “good” is a core goal of many brands in the outdoor industry. REI pronounced that with the Force of Nature Fund, which awarded 26 nonprofits with grant money totaling a whopping $500,000. Along with partner projects, a grand total of $1 million dollars was funded by REI to support outdoor nonprofits and to inspire and empower women in the outdoors in 2017 (Parris, 2018).

With an effort to only feature women through this initiative came an additional pivot to include product development for more women’s gear and apparel, “since the launch of Force of Nature, our women’s business has outpaced our men’s. While this was never intended to be about sales, there is strong evidence that consumers align their values to their spending” (Swapp, 2017). It is stated that just in this time alone, sales in women’s apparel at REI has increased by 20%.

I’d say that’s a successful branding campaign! Hopefully it doesn’t end here.

REI Blog & PR References:

Heller, L. (2017, April 3). REI’s Force Of Nature Wants To Change The Game For Women Outdoors. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/lauraheller/2017/04/03/reis-force-of-nature-wants-to-change-the-game-for-women-outdoors/#6770cd143cdb 

Parris, A. (2018, April 13). REI Announces Force of Nature Fund Recipients. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/blog/stewardship/force-of-nature-fund 

Parris, A. (2017, September 20). REI Extended Sizing Update: More Sizes, More Women, Right Now. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/blog/news/rei-extended-sizing-update-more-sizes-more-women-right-now 

Pressner Kreuser, A. (2018, February 23). After Hitting Massive Revenue Numbers, REI Gave Nearly 70 Percent of Its Profits to the Outdoor Community. Here’s Why (and What You Can Learn). Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/amanda-pressner-kreuser/rei-hit-record-setting-revenue-by-shutting-its-doors-on-black-friday-heres-why-its-people-first-moves-paid-off.html

Stuart, R. (2018, February 6). Special Report: Where Have All The Skiers Gone? Retrieved from https://www.explore-mag.com/Special-Report-Where-Have-All-The-Skiers-Gone

Swapp, L. (2017, December 22). Force of Nature: This is Just the Beginning. [Blog post]. Retrieved from https://www.rei.com/blog/news/force-of-nature-this-is-just-the-beginning

Western PA Hideaway – Lick Hollow

On your way to Ohiopyle, stop here for a quiet hike or picnic under mountaintops before arriving to the summer crowds at the popular state park.

  • Park: Lick Hollow in Forbes State Forest
  • Location: Along Route 40 East, incline headed up to the summit.
  • Trail Type: Out & Back, 4 Miles

Pine Knob Trail & Overlook

As for trails in the area, there are 4. We chose Pine Knob Trail, a 2 mile hike to an all-natural overlook over the Laurel Highlands. The beginning of the trail was covered in ferns and gnats but quickly moved into the traditional rocky style hike that Pennyslvania loves to present. We hiked through one switchback and eventually ended at a fork in the road where we chose to walk left and ended walking onto what looked like a quad or snowmobile trail with a few other entrances to other paths. We easily found the right way to hike (straight through to continue along the path) after backtracking a few feet. Duh. Soon after, we arrived at a rocky ledge with a view that resembles that of the pull-off along the summit and route 40, but of course, the journey and the arrival experience here is much better.

Lick Hollow in Forbes State Forest, Fayette County

“Just 2 miles long, and stretches from the picnic area to the Pine Knob overlook. The trail parallels Lick Run for parts of its length, but it is a rugged trail for the most part. Trail elevation changes roughly 700 feet from the lowest 1,440 feet above sea level at the picnic area, to approximately 2,130 feet at Pine Knob Overlook. However, nothing to worry about as it’s only Pennsylvania. Prepare for a 4 hour roundtrip. Pack plenty of liquids during the summer and warm clothes in the winter.” – Trail Map (View Here)

Hike to another area of Forbes State Forest, Quebec Run Wild Area, start here with Whitetail Trail. A 9.5 mile journey will get you to the top of the mountain into Farmington, PA. Farmington is full of history, and offers tourist sites such as Fort Necessity National Battlefield and Braddock’s Grave. #GeorgeWashingtonWasHere

This area is a great spot if you’re a local looking to get away into the woods minus the Ohiopyle crowds or a visitor that wants a beautiful aerial view of western PA with a nice hike to boot.