Outdoor Retailer 2013–The View from an Ad Agency

What a week in Salt Lake City at the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market! (It’s a trade show for the Outdoor Recreation industry). We had the opportunity to attend several thought-provoking sessions from leaders in the industry as well as see a ton of new products and proven brands. It’s been fun because we, as an agency, have a passion for the outdoors and extreme sports. We also have met so many nice people this week that we know some great clients and relationships could come out of our work in this area.

Walking the trade show floor and the new product pavilion, we really start to see the need for companies to distinguish themselves through branding. So many companies are fighting for attention by highlighting all of their product features versus focusing on one unique product benefit. While it’s okay to focus on one or two unique product features, it’s important to translate those into clear benefits for the consumer. A consumer wants to know what’s in it for them. How does it make their life better? What’s the brand or product story? Why should the consumer trust the company? What does being a member of this brand tribe say about them?

Don’t assume a consumer or buyer is going to be able to translate your feature into their benefit on his/her own. First find a single, unique brand position that you can own in the marketplace. Who is your customer? What do they really care about? Why? Now focus on communicating it clearly and very simply. The best branding drives home one message clearly in everything it does, and not a million features that the consumer can’t digest.

When you are one of 30 new SUP brands fighting for retailer attention, it’s more important than ever to stand out. What can distinguish you? Is it your ethos? Is it something at the core of what got you into this business? Is it the lifestyle you stand for? And then visually, how do you stand out as a brand? How do you look different from the company in the booth next to you?

Never underestimate the power of simplification, especially when it comes to your visual identification. Find a visual style you can own and stick to that. Don’t use more than 2-3 colors on anything you do. Think about how you can visually zig when everyone else is zagging. Mediocre photography makes your brand mediocre when people want to belong to the tribe of special brands. We walk through the trade show and think about how much money it must cost to get to where so many of these companies are, but then they stop short of investing in smart brand building that will give them a competitive edge in a crowded marketplace. And boy was it crowded with wonderful retailers and manufacturers who made up the sea of people walking the aisles.

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