For small brands in the outdoor market, competition can be brutal.
Established outdoor brands dominate. After all, when you’ve been around for hundreds of years, you have a clear advantage. Not only do you own a household name, but your resources are tremendous.
How can challenger brands compete? At Migrate, one of our passions is helping companies find ways to level up. Here’s some of what we’ve learned.
Go for the Knees
Up and coming brands shouldn’t even try to go head-to-head with the dominant brands. They don’t have the budget. For some huge brands, their marketing strategy is literally to outspend the competition. But even the biggest competitors have vulnerabilities (like those knees).
Do you know what differentiates your brand? How does your marketing express your brand values? Maybe your website is more dynamic and engaging than theirs. Maybe your social media is more timely and exciting. Maybe your brand has a more personal touch.
You can definitely move faster than the bigger companies, who may have layers of hierarchy. Take advantage of the fact that by the time you’ve posted that photo on Instagram, your big competitor has just started routing the post internally for approval.
President of Ad Sales at the Pursuit Channel Scott Boos says much of the industry is stuck in an outdated model. “For this industry to grow, we need to be able to generate business based on analytics and metrics, not because I get to go on this great hunt with Joe every year. That’s not a good pillar to build business on.”
It’s not that relationships aren’t important. But newcomers can leverage the fact that the industry is changing.
“There’s definitely a lemming factor in our industry,” says Boos. “If one company does something, pretty soon the whole category is doing it. And nobody is stepping back and asking why they’re doing it.”
One of the advantages of being a smaller, more nimble company is the ability to take risks. Bigger companies can be more conservative and even complacent.
“Probably the biggest challenge in our industry is for companies to not just do what they’ve always done,” says Boos.
What’s always been done is safe. And what’s safe isn’t usually what’s attention getting or edgy.
“It can be a tough exercise for some of the dominant brands to think outside the box,” says Boos. “Challenger brands have the edge there.”
Connect with Customers
In our industry, many folks are truly passionate about the outdoors and outdoor activities. We’re a haven for authenticity-seekers from other industries—people who have decided to focus on something that really matters.
That passion is contagious. And the best outdoor brands have found creative ways to share it with customers.
“If we strip down the purpose of what advertising and marketing really is, it’s about connecting with the consumer,” says Boos. “To tell the consumer about your brand and its attributes and show how it will enhance someone’s outdoor experience.”
How can you share your passion and build that connection?
“That’s where companies like Migrate take the things we’re so good at in the general market—building the connection with consumers—and bring them to the outdoor market,” says Boos.
Put Technology to Work
It’s been said that the web is the great equalizer; it’s certainly a goldmine for challenger brands.
Back in the day, you’d have to fight and claw your way into a crowded market. Today, you can get online, find your prospects and introduce your brand in numerous ways.
Whether you’re posting videos, running contests, sending offers or communicating on an individual level, your tactics online are not only relatively inexpensive but completely measurable.
And even though they have tremendous resources, many of those huge competitors of yours haven’t quite figured out what to do online. That’s because traditional media has performed so well for them over the years. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right?
Target the Younger Customers
“What we’re seeing in the outdoor market is an adaption to moving beyond watching television in the La-Z-Boy in the living room,” says Boos.
“Younger viewers—the 18- to 34-year olds—are demanding more flexibility with more platforms and more screens. They’re saying, ‘can I watch my favorite fishing show while I’m at work, laying in bed, on the train, in a tree stand?’ We have to allow them to watch our content where they want, when they want.”
Boos explains that the CEOs of the big brands are typically in their 50s, 60s or 70s. “When we are talking about mobile, live stream TV, this is something that only recently, in the last five years, has taken off. The CEO didn’t grow up with it, may or may not be using it and generally doesn’t understand it.”
That gives challenger brands an opening to use technologies better than the big boys.
“We in the communications business have to be able to adapt and not require millennials to consume media in the way their grandfathers or fathers did,” Boos says. “The companies that are rising to that challenge are succeeding.”
Make the Tough Decisions
At some point, marketing strategy becomes business strategy. Here at Migrate, we help guide challenger brands as they make the hard decisions that are an inevitable part of growth.
Maybe you can’t get your products made quickly enough. Maybe your product isn’t priced correctly. Maybe there are better distribution models.
Part of running a business is making good decisions. But how do you know if they’re good? Collect all the information you can. Seek advice from people you respect.
And call Migrate. We’ve got years of experience helping businesses understand themselves, grow or not grow, and make all kinds of decisions.