With content marketing stepping to the fore in 2013 (as widely predicted) and more brands embracing the ‘always on’ publishing mentality essential for building lasting connections with consumers, we thought we’d take a look at how eight brands from the outdoor sector approached content marketing in 2013.
Founded in 1966, UK-based Berghaus commands a strong position in the global outdoors market. Fortunately for adventurers and outdoor-enthusiasts everywhere Berghaus has shown a readiness to embrace content as an engagement tool, rather than remain trapped in the same old ‘push’ marketing habits of the past.
As content marketing projects go they don’t come much bigger than a cinematic release, and that’s exactly what Berghaus helped to create this year with the help of film-maker Alastair Lee and sponsored athlete Leo Houlding. The film charts Leo’s attempt to climb Ulvetanna, one of the highest mountains in Antarctica, and while I won’t give away the ending of the film by telling you whether he made it, I can say that the film has been hugely successful with a sell-out Leicester Square premiere and a special screening at the Kendal Mountain Festival.
The brand featured stories and images from the team’s pre-expedition training and testing programme as editorial content in its AW13 ‘Extrem’ range guide (essentially a print catalogue-cum-magazine, produced by Speak Media) – helping to build excitement for the main event at the same time as showcasing some of its latest products.
Compared with stalwarts like Berghaus and The North Face, Poler Stuff is something of a baby brand. Started in 2011 with a very small team, the Oregon-based apparel and camping specialist has blossomed in the last two years into one of the sector’s most exciting new brands. A recent collaboration with Nike shows how far Poler has come in a very short time, and much of this success is driven by content.
The Poler content mix for 2013 is focused on visual storytelling. ‘Adventures’ is the centerpiece of Poler.com a strand of photo essays that is as old as the Poler brand itself. It’s a great way of showcasing product as part of a wider story. Away from the brand website Instagram hashtags #campvibes and #adventuremobile generate huge traction/interaction, while Tumblr blog and Pinterest pages act as catch-all aggregators for both created and curated content.
Mammut, originally from Switzerland, staked a big claim to a very specific segment of the outdoors market this year with its night-ice-climbing video (below).
It’s a great film, beautifully shot, and it clearly took a lot of effort to create. All this is especially impressive given the relatively tiny number of people who might actually attempt ice climbing at night compared with say, snowboarding.
There are two big benefits to this kind of segment-focused content; it demonstrates the technical prowess of the brand’s product in a very specific application and it will create a greater sense of engagement among the smaller segment than a similar piece about snowboarding might generate in what is a very crowded content landscape.
When it comes to using content for brand positioning, Patagonia is the grand master. The California-based brand has always been fiercely proud of its environmental responsibility, but this year saw Patagonia step up its content production to mirror this.
Worn Wear is a content stream devoted to storytelling that lives on a sub-domain of the full Patagonia website. Specifically it’s about telling ‘The Stories We Wear’ (or the tales behind the items of clothing you already own). On Black Friday (29.11.13), as part of this content project, Patagonia released a short film (called Worn Wear) – it set out to ‘explore quality’ in things we own.
On what is typically one of the most atavistic days of the year Patagonia stood out for focusing on gratitude for things we already have.
Patagonia is also the only brand in this list that implored us NOT to buy its products this year.
The North Face
Quite simply the world’s biggest outdoor brand, The North Face overwhelms with the sheer volume of content it produces.
A highlight this year saw two The North Face sponsored athletes head to the Antarctic to ski and snowboard their way around some of the most stunning and unique landscapes on the planet. Of course the whole expedition was shot in glorious HD and anyone with an internet connection can now relive the adventure from the comfort of their own home, courtesy of The North Face’s dedicated content hub; thenorthfacejournal.com.
Telling stories with infographics is also a specialty of The North Face with most expeditions and events supported with at least one beautifully designed chart. The image below is one of a suite that give TNF fans the down-low on a current alpine expedition to summit Nanga Parbat in Pakistan.
Finally, there’s the novel way the brand allows online shoppers to find the right product for them, with a neat ‘jacket finder’ tool on the brand’s ecommerce site.
French brand Salomon uses content to stake its claim to a specific segment in much the same way as Mammut. While the brand has a strong presence in the winter sports market the area where Salomon truly outstrips the competition is trail running.
The dedicated YouTube channel, SalomonTrailRunning, currently hosts more than 200 videos, 32,000 subscribers and well in excess of 3 million views. This year saw the brand launch the third season of Salomon Running TV, as well as bringing its massively popular ‘Kilian’s Quest’ strand to a close after 11 episodes averaging 100,000 views per video. The beautiful landscapes and zen-like philosophies of the Salomon sponsored athletes take centre stage in the brand’s video content, with impressive restraint shown on product placement and messaging.
Elsewhere, Salomon has an impressive array of content specifically geared to each of its main segments. There are streams for snowboarding as well as alpine, Nordic and freestyle skiing, all rich in beautiful photography and high quality video.
Occupying the pricier end of the outdoor market Arc’teryx fuses top-spec gear with a fashionable aesthetic, creating products that are as much at home in the city as they would be on the slopes.
Rather than load its ecommerce site with a large amount of content Arc’teryx focuses its efforts on social with only a few pieces of featured content living at arcteryx.com, the brand’s homepage. The brand’s Pinterest account is well populated with more than 3,000 followers, while its Instagram backs up the visual side of the brand narrative with high quality ski photography.
Of course alongside the glossy, high quality visuals sometimes it’s fun to break with the norm and do something different, and in Arc’teryx’ case that means spoofing those ‘expedition preview’ videos that feature so abundantly on the websites of outdoors brands large and small.
This year Jack Wolfskin has seen impressive growth into the British market, partly fuelled by its investment in content. The brand’s blog is frequently updated covering new products, inspiring adventures and with posts from the brand’s sponsored athletes providing particular highlights.
Jack Wolfskin’s Winter 2013 catalogue is also a strong example of editorialised content taking centre-stage in the commerce process. Available to browse online or in print, the product pages are strung together by a series of expedition stories and in-depth examinations of the brand’s technologies.
Most impressively, the brand manages to produce compelling content in both English and its native German.