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3 Strategy Trends To Expect From Outdoor Gear Brands In 2017

(Part 2 of 2)

You may have read my recent article about the top trends I observed at the 2016 Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show in Salt Lake City, the largest outdoor gear show in the U.S. Of course it's critical to know what your competitors are doing. But this time, I want to talk about what they're NOT doing — and how you can fill in the gaps to get ahead. Here are three brand marketing opportunities that can set your brand apart in 2017.

  1. Social media activation

    Yeti and GoPro have given us the blueprint. It‘s not easy to develop and execute on a complete social media plan for your brand, but it‘s the cost-effective way to gain traction and awareness in your category. After researching 20+ brands from the OR Show across the major social platforms (IG, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube), what did I find? Inconsistency. While most of these brands have an active account on the major social platforms, they generally lack uniqueness and cohesion. Most of Yeti‘s early success (we‘re talking $0 to $100MM and beyond) can be attributed to their social strategy and building their brand advocacy. GoPro created a category and then empowered their consumer base to market their outdoor passions (and product) on these platforms for them. They wrote the book on earned media value.

    In 2016, this should be common sense. Decide which platforms will serve your audience best, be courageous and try something new, create a cohesive plan, and execute like crazy. Most of the big players don‘t need help with this. Mid-level and challenger brands, it‘s time to step up. Pre-dispose your consumers to your brand before they search product comparisons or walk into a retailer. If you don‘t, you‘ll lose.

  2. Virtual reality (VR)

    Advocates in the outdoor adventure space aren‘t created with product descriptions; they need to see for themselves how your product performs in the elements. While there were some unique product comparisons and trade show displays at the OR Show, there were not a ton of product demonstrations.

    VR could be an opportunity for outdoor brands to demonstrate their products' features and durability at indoor events, on social media and beyond. I‘d love to see how my favorite hiking boots or 3-season tent hold up in the elements before I buy them. Retailers selling to consumers would want to see the same thing. And not only can VR show the product performance — it can also inspire the personal adventures that motivate purchases.

  3. Recognizable influencers

    If I listed their names, most people probably wouldn't know the majority of the speakers and special guests present at the show. I saw familiar names on products but didn‘t see the faces behind them.

    Brands in the outdoor adventure category can gain trust and credibility by aligning with more recognizable icons who have relevant expertise. Show me my favorite Naked and Afraid star using your survival gear, Bear Grylls using his own knives or the Dual Survival teams wearing your clothes, and I‘ll be a believer.

Based on who and what I saw at the OR show, the outdoor recreation category is going to continue growing. TV has made outdoor survival and living more appealing and accessible to the masses. Brands will continue adapting until they can serve the hardcore and everyday audiences equally. The question is, which brands will be the first to seize the marketing opportunities others are missing? These brands will be the ones that survive and thrive as the category continues to evolve.