Today, the YETI® brand is a well-known name with a valuation of $1.7 billion dollars. But in 2006, there was a lot of uncertainty around a company that aimed to sell a $300 cooler in a world of $20 ones. Nevertheless, Ryan and Roy Seiders believed in their innovative spin on a timeless product. Through an extensive brand strategy, the duo turned the YETI brand into an unforgettable household name.
What is brand strategy and why do companies need it?
Who? What? Where? Why? How? When? Simply put, brand strategy develops a set of standards and practices for the way in which a brand answers these questions, thus determining how a company communicates with its target audience.
YETI is the perfect example of why businesses need an effective brand strategy. Without one, the company would’ve floundered. Instead, by following the tactics below, they found a way to emotionally resonate with customers. In the process, YETI built a strong brand that fosters a sense of trust, belonging, and community.
Check out the five various ways all business owners can implement the brand strategy used by YETI.
Step One – Figure Out the Brand’s Purpose
Successful branding focuses first on the purpose of the company. Without a defined purpose and mission, a brand offers no strong reason for customers to support their business. Competitive pricing is great, but it doesn’t build brand loyalty. That’s why tactical planning like this is crucial for organizations.
With that being said, YETI’s purpose and overarching strategy stemmed from a real-life problem that needed a solution. As avid fishermen and hunters, the brothers spent much of their time in the outdoors, but they often experienced frustration with the sturdiness of their coolers. For example, in “Our YETI Story” they explain their adventures often led to broken equipment. After each season, they’d find themselves back at the store wasting money because they had trouble finding high-quality, long-lasting gear.
Being avid sportsmen helped the duo easily identify the reason for their company. Ultimately, when it came to purpose, the brothers decided YETI would offer high-quality products to adventurers looking for high-quality gear. After all, they knew firsthand that an outdoor enthusiast’s focus is on having fun and making memories, rather than dealing with the frustration of broken equipment.
Step Two – Fulfill the Target Audience’s Needs
It’s been said business owners should never develop a new product for themselves. However, in the Seiders’ case, this wasn’t true. Their customer avatar mirrors their lives. They’re well-established Gen X-ers who are serious about their outdoor lifestyle. They don’t mind spending some cash on high-quality sporting gear if it means their adventures (and their lives) will be improved. Similar to the Seiders, YETI’s customers fall into this demographic.
When developing their brand strategy, the brothers stuck to a problem-solution formula. The Seiders knew the pain points and needs of their customers. YETI’s coolers solved a specific problem. There were no bells and whistles. They addressed a very real problem with a very real solution.
That formula proved undeniable when explaining the price point. Yes, YETI coolers were considerably more expensive than others, but the reason for that was easily understood by their audience. Because they were so immersed in the culture of the outdoors, they knew other sportsmen and adventurers would immediately identify with the solution they provided.
Step Three – Tell a Great Brand Story
Telling a brand story is something a company can’t afford to miss out on. Storytelling connects a business’s product or service to their potential customers’ subconscious through eliciting emotional responses. In doing so, stories that speak to buyers’ hearts greatly affect their decision-making and purchase process.
Because stories emotionally connect a brand to its customers, it’s one of the most crucial factors of brand strategy. With an effective brand story, the target audience’s response to ads or social media posts will be, “That’s me. I identify with this message. I am (or want to be) a part of this club.”
When storytelling, YETI’s marketing successfully weaves in elements of its purpose, mission, and target audience. They even use real-life experiences and dedicate an entire section on their website to making customers the hero of their own adventures. That’s why getting clear on purpose and needs are important for business owners and leaders working on their own brand strategy.
Keep It Simple
Communicating a simple message that resonates with customers is the main goal every brand should keep in mind. One of the best parts of YETI’s brand strategy is that it is refined at every stage in the process. From the logo, packaging, ads, social media strategy, website content, and other brand touchpoints, the company tells the same story in different formats over and over again.
YETI’s brand story is simple. Their cooler inspires customers to pursue their own wild adventures. It’s built to weather the storm and onto the next journey. Because they have the cooler by their side, rough-and-tumble customers can live life to the fullest. The message never strays: YETI’s cooler and water bottles provide amazing life experiences.
Step Four – Develop a Strong Sales Strategy
Starting out, YETI chose a more intimate, exclusive strategy focused on the buying experience. Instead of taking their products to Wal-Mart or other major retailers, they chose local mom-and-pop tackle shops and sporting goods stores. They knew serious outdoorsmen and adventure lovers look for top-quality gear. Furthermore, due to its high price point, the cooler would be an easier sell to those who frequent smaller stores. Besides, if small store owners and their employees became fans of YETI products, they would be more likely to enthusiastically promote the brand.
Another way YETI’s marketing built upon their brand strategy in a grassroots manner was by getting brand ambassadors and outdoor guides on board with their products. They went out into the field, talked about their business, all while giving out hats, t-shirts, water bottles, and coolers. Furthermore, they found a niche for gaining credibility among professional outdoorsmen. Roy Seiders tells Britton about their creative marketing strategy: “It was a huge help to have high-profile hunters and fishers reinforce that image with testimonials. At the time, no other cooler company was advertising to outdoor enthusiasts or taking advantage of the professionals in the sport.” Once they made fans at a local level, word spread like wildfire.
The Seiders laid the foundation for a consumer-driven sales strategy based on storytelling and sharing experiences. In the process of gaining raving fans of YETI products, they’ve also gained hundreds of thousands of marketers. As the company’s former VP of Marketing told Campaign US about their brand strategy, “We targeted people who spent the money on the best gear. . . The people who will always have the latest stuff, and then we let them tell their stories to their friends on our behalf.”
Step Five – Never Stray from the Company Mission
One of the reasons YETI is such a successful brand is because they’ve never strayed from their purpose and mission. Although the brand has grown exponentially, the company’s roots are still undeniably present. The Seiders brothers still make durable, high-quality products for adventurous people who want to live life to the fullest.
Constant innovation and playing on the offense to new competitors in the game helps YETI remain an industry favorite. In 2016, the company opened its own Innovation Center where they regularly develop and test new products. In true form, the brand is always looking for ways to become better for their customers.
While YETI continues expanding into larger retailers, the personal connection strategy for sales is still the same. According to the Seiders’ local hometown newspaper, Austin American-Statesman, YETI’s founders say “the vast majority of sales, more than 70 percent, come from small, independent retailers.”
As they expand their product line, YETI doesn’t stray from the heart of their brand. While they’ve broadened their marketing strategy to reach more types of sports and nature lovers, the overall message stands. They continue speaking to the souls of adventurers, no matter which journey (or product) they choose.
Great Brands Offer More Than a Product or Service
Business owners and company leaders targeting customers, especially through online marketing, must put themselves in their audience’s shoes. Strategizing how your brand sends out messages and creates a better experience for customers is crucial.
Think about how much unwanted content you’re exposed to each day. From 2014 to 2019, Statistica reported ad blocking grew from 15.7 percent to 26.4 percent. The projected number for 2021 is 27 percent, which means consumers are getting more frustrated with the messages they receive from brands.
YETI’s marketing is a great example of creating content people want to hear, and even search for. They have a podcast with a cast of interesting characters and a YouTube channel with over 38 million views. With their brand story, YETI has developed a community for its customers—a place where they feel like they belong.
Want to build a brand strategy as strong as YETI’s?
Check out these three book recommendations:
- Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller
- What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn
- Marketing Rebellion by Mark Schaefer