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Branding / May 22, 2024

How Outdoor Brands Can Stand Out Beyond Performance: Values, Community, & Purpose

Kelly Blake

Kelly Blake

Sr. Director, PR & Integrated Marketing

While most outdoor companies understand the importance of storytelling, many fall short, relying on generic clichés or overly salesy messaging.

In a crowded marketplace saturated with brands touting their performance capabilities, innovation, style, features, and end-use, many outdoor companies struggle to differentiate themselves effectively. Without a distinct identity anchored in values, purpose, and community, these brands blend into the background, overshadowed by competitors with stronger stories.

This post explores how authentic storytelling fuels brand loyalty, engagement, and ultimately, sales growth.

Values-Based Marketing: Connecting with Consumers on a Deeper Level

Recent studies from Nielsen, Deloitte, and Kantar highlight a significant shift in consumer behavior, with growing numbers prioritizing brand values when making purchasing decisions. This trend underscores the importance for outdoor brands to go beyond mere product performance and connect with consumers on a deeper level.

Values-based marketing transcends simply promoting products; it involves aligning a brand with causes, purpose and community. Value-based marketing requires an authentic brand alignment with a focus that resonates with the mission of the company and the target audience, such as sustainability, social justice, or community empowerment. This creates a deeper connection with consumers who share similar values. 

This approach is particularly crucial for outdoor brands, as consumers often seek products that align with their passion for nature and adventure. In an era where consumers seek authenticity and purpose, brands that embody values can forge deeper connections and inspire loyalty.

Patagonia, a pioneer in values-based marketing, has consistently championed environmental activism, embedding its commitment to sustainability into its Brand DNA. Other outdoor brands like Cotopaxi, KEEN, REI and Clif Bar have also found success by supporting specific causes and aligning their values with their target audience's concerns.

Purpose-Driven Marketing: More Than Just Words

Brand purpose is the heart and soul of a company – it contributes to the definition of the mission and guides the actions. It goes beyond catchy taglines or donating money to a non-profit; it encompasses a brand's mission and its commitment to making a positive impact on the world. Integrating purpose into every aspect of the business, from sustainability initiatives and ethical sourcing to transparency in the supply chain, reinforces authenticity and fosters trust with consumers. Practice what you preach.

When a brand's purpose is authentic and deeply ingrained in operations, it resonates with consumers on a profound level. Consumers are not just buying products but investing in the mission. This fosters trust, loyalty, and advocacy, ultimately leading to sustainable growth. Purpose-driven marketing must be genuine, rather than a mere marketing ploy to capitalize on current trends or leverage sales. Consumers are savvy and can easily discern genuine authenticity from marketing tactics.

Authenticity is paramount. 

Utilize storytelling to showcase a brand's values and purpose through content, resonating on an emotional level. Stay true to the brand values and purpose. Building a loyal community takes time (be patient), consistency, and a genuine commitment to fostering meaningful connections. 

Building a Thriving Community: A Brand's Biggest Asset

Community building goes beyond accumulating followers on social media and talking about yourself (yawn). It's about fostering genuine connections with your audience, creating a space where they can share their passion for the outdoors, exchange stories, and feel a sense of belonging.

User-generated content (UGC) is a powerful tool for community building. Encourage customers to share their outdoor adventures with your products, and feature their stories on your platforms. This not only amplifies your reach but also builds a sense of shared experience and authenticity.

So what is the best way to share the work without boasting?

Incorporating purpose-driven content into the brand story not only benefits society but also sets the brand apart. Integrate it into the boilerplate, all messaging, blog/stories, photos/video and social media.

In addition to online communities, consider hosting in-person events or experiences that bring your customers together. This could involve group hikes, workshops, trail clean up, or even festivals celebrating the outdoor lifestyle. These shared experiences create lasting memories and strengthen the bond between your brand and your community.

Authentic Storytelling: The Key to Unlocking Growth

Storytelling is the thread that weaves together values, purpose, and community. It's how you bring your brand to life and connect with your audience on an emotional level. Authentic storytelling goes beyond product features and focuses on the human element – the joy of exploration, the journey, the thrill of adventure, and the transformative power of nature.

When crafting your brand story, showcase real people and their experiences with your products. Share behind-the-scenes glimpses of your company's commitment to sustainability or community initiatives. Use compelling visuals and emotive language to transport your audience into the heart of the outdoor experience.

By embracing values-based marketing, integrating brand purpose into all aspects of operations, and fostering genuine community engagement, outdoor brands can carve out a meaningful presence in the hearts and minds of consumers. People want to feel good about their products.. 

Because ultimately, in the realm of outdoor gear, it's not just about selling an item; it's about selling an adventure, the journey, a lifestyle, and a sense of belonging. Ready to explore your brand's potential? Get in touch for a comprehensive brand assessment.

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