- Specialty outdoor retailer REI launched an in-house content arm called Co-op Studios, per a press release. The studio will develop and produce stories across films, podcasts and editorial programs that seek to shift perceptions of the outdoor experience.
- The next release from Co-op Studios will be "The Trees Remember," a three-part scripted series that explores the connection to nature through the stories of three Black women. Upcoming projects include a podcast series in September, new digital shows and episodes and a relaunch of a digital publication.
- The studio's content will complement the company's diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) activism by prioritizing stories by people that identify as Black, Indigenous or people of color (BIPOC), LGBTQ, women or members of other historically underrepresented communities. Content will also align with the company's commitment to climate action and focus on protecting the environment.
REI Co-op Studios could help the outdoor retailer meet several of its purpose-driven goals while giving it greater control over branded content, something that has surged in popularity amid a larger digital content explosion accelerated by the pandemic.
"The outdoors is for everyone, and content is a powerful and relevant way to bring that belief to our members and new audiences," Paolo Mottola, REI's director of content and media, said in the press release.
Along with changing perceptions around what "outdoorsy" means — in an effort to expand its brand among consumers — REI's content studio will tie directly to its commitments to diversity, racial equity and climate action, in both the storytellers it taps and the stories they tell. The brand's activism has helped it more authentically connect with younger consumers who have high expectations for brands that align with causes.
The launch comes as in-store shopping is starting to make a return following widespread pandemic-related shutdowns. REI, one of the first retailers to shut stores during the early days of the pandemic, didn't report a profit in 2020, mostly due to supply chain shortages, per Adventure Journal.
By creating films, podcasts, digital shows and other editorial programs, REI can deliver branded content on a variety of channels that have seen growth accelerate during the pandemic. Branded content has become a large part of budgets as marketers seek to meet consumer demands for programming, causing brands including Neutrogena and Old Spice to build internal content studios akin to REI's Co-op Studios.
As part of the content push, REI will relaunch the Co-op Journal as a digital publication called "Uncommon Path." That was also the title of a print magazine made with HearstMade that the brand introduced when it folded its catalog in 2019.
While just officially launched, REI Co-op Studios has previously produced content that fits REI's strategy. The studio co-produced "The Dark Divide," a 2020 feature film starring David Cross, Debra Messing and David Koechner that tells the story of nature writer Robert Pyle. It will begin streaming on ad-supported video-on-demand services Vudu, Tubi and IMDb TV later this month, per the release, bringing REI to a channel that has also grown due to the pandemic.