Outside Business Journal

Opinion: Brands need to double down on marketing right now

Throughout the pandemic, outdoor brands have slashed their marketing budgets for fear that tough times are still ahead. Scott P. Kaier, PR director at Formidable Media, explains why that might not be a smart move.

Scott Kaier

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The pandemic has created mayhem for all of us. Earlier this spring, at Formidable Media, we received more than one phone call from clients who wanted to put their plans on hold. Some needed time to assess the damage to their supply chains. Some wanted to defer payments to vendors. While we understood completely and supported all of these decisions, we took a big financial hit, from which we’re still recovering. As an agency, we continue to scramble to pick up project work, doubling down on our hustle.

Despite these cutbacks, a clear trend has emerged in outdoor equipment sales since those early days of uncertainty. A run on backcountry ski equipment came first, in early spring, followed by a surge in bike sales and a race to buy camping gear this summer. The message clear. People want and need to get outside.

What does that mean for us, as business owners and marketers? It means it’s time to double down on our marketing efforts. People are looking to get outside, dollars are being spent, and the momentum is there. I understand that it’s a scary time for many. But as we know, fortune favors the bold.

After many trade shows, events, and races were cancelled this year—and with winter 2021 shows in serious question—brands have large pots of marketing dollars left on the table. Collectively, these budgets amount to millions.

What would happen if we committed to spending that money on engaging video content, virtual education for first-timers, advertising in both endemic and non-endemic publications, and messaging campaigns to help promote our outdoor lifestyle? I’ll tell you: We’d sell a hell of a lot more gear now and in coming seasons. Now is the time to reach new and existing audiences with authentic storytelling, to drive interest in outdoor activities, gear, and innovations.

Here are some examples of what we recommend.

Engage with writers and influencers to create more content for social channels. Curate a broader email newsletter list. Support our industry publications with ad buys. Leverage public relations to keep your unique brand stories relevant to media. Reinvent your online presence. Whatever you do, now is the time to forge ahead. If you drive awareness now, you’ll create loyal customers who will buy your gear today and in the future.

Just remember the old adage, reinforced in May by Forbes. Those who advertise in a down economy always come out ahead. The Wharton School’s Peter Fader has said that “as companies slash advertising in a downturn, they leave empty space in consumers’ minds for aggressive marketers to make strong inroads.” We couldn’t agree more. Further proof can be found in the Harvard Business Review, Bain & Company studies, and elsewhere. These analyses make a strong connection between marketing investment during a downturn and performance during the growth period that often follows.

This is our opportunity to make the smart decisions that will boost our individual brands and our industry as a whole in the future. Pulling back and playing it safe may feel like the right thing to do in the short term. However, if we’re bold, we can substantially change the course of our industry and reap the benefits for decades to come.

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