REI: Moment to monument — Live from the Brands-Only Summit

Coverage of this session by Peter Wiley of

4:30 —'s Erin McDaniel introduces REI's Lulu Gephart.

4:34 — Lulu: About REI, we're a member-owned co-op, over 75 years old, and all about outdoor gear and recreation. We do trips around the world and have tons of classes. We're the nation's number one outdoor instructors. We're mission driven and really all about getting people outdoors.

4:36 — Lulu introduces her team and explains how she's evolved it, incorporating people who are experts in earned media to push the bounds of what her team can accomplish.

4:37 — Lulu: Two years ago, we launched #REI1440PROJECT, and we were floored by how successful it was. The campaign's ask was to come to the microsite and upload your photo. The microsite is still up today (, and we've still been riding that wave.

4:38 — Lulu: There are three major things we learned from this experience:

  1. We got through a lot of legal hurdles re: user generated content (aka UGC),
  2. This is an amazing source of content (proving the power of UGC),
  3. And how we capture UGC has provided a great data framework for how we organize data into the future (especially regarding information tracking — if we needed a photo of a mountain biker in New England from 2 months ago, we could query the data to find it very easily).

4:40 — Lulu: The majority of our uploads come from Instagram, and we're continuing to look for ways to evolve that.

4:41 — Lulu: The first way we're finding value in UGC is in the authenticity of expression. The imagery is rich, inspirational, and it really brings our brand to life in a way that a creative department never could.

4:42 — Lulu: Even five years ago, customers didn't have the tools to help craft a brand image via UGC, and a campaign like this would have been really scary.

4:43 — Lulu: Brands have to be mindful of the platform that will bring the quality from crowdsourcing content.

4:44 — Lulu: We always find much deeper stories and benefits from creating advocates and reaching out to the people who have generated UGC.

4:46 — Lulu: Regarding this whole “moment to monument” concept, be aware of what kind of hashtag strategy you take — that it can be sustained. The best way to do it is similar to the way we did it, which was non-platform-specific.

4:48 — Lulu: Regarding where we're going with the program, we're trying to consolidate the message and be thoughtful when and where we use a UGC call-to-action. There's only one primary hashtag that our brand-wide campaign uses, and we reel it in when our creatives want to use other hashtags or extend UGC to other campaigns. We also want to extend the integration of UGC to customers. This holiday season, we're incorporating video booths into our physical stores so that customers can leave video stories, so expect a lot of content coming soon!

Q & A

Q: We've had a hard time getting quality UGC for our campaigns, and we want to know how you got legal approval on your hashtag strategy because that really seemed to work.

A: Look at our terms that we've used on our site. Our long-term solution is platform-agnostic, and we recommend advocating the ‘hashtag-agree' approach.

Q: Can you talk about how you have staffed up or re-organized your staff since the growth of your use of UGC?

A: Currently we have one full-time person picking out UGC content, and one other person (who's here in the audience). If you look up our hashtag on Instagram, it's not hard to find quality content. Eventually, we're going to have to cross a bridge where we hire more help to find content, but it's not quite there yet.

Q: Do you ever get negative UGC feedback from the user that created the content after they see it in a campaign?

A: Not that I can think of. We've been very explicit in letting users know how we will use the content and getting approval. Two years ago, we received some pushback, but it's an entirely different game now.

Q: How did you get the word out initially about the campaign?

A: It was definitely sub-optimal at first. We didn't used to get enough internal buy-in — but now everyone is gung-ho about it, of course. We launched it and it pretty much came to life in our social channels. No real magic to it.

Q: How do you prove that a UGC campaign like this works?

A: The argument we use is that it's so easy to get quality content via UGC. Also, our program isn't so tied to ROI goals as other brands might be. I know that it's a soft answer, but it's lucky that we can give a soft answer!