Three steps every Good outdoor company needs to take now.
Two years ago, an Outside magazine article found that only 17.9% of the U.S. population got outside once a week. Once the pandemic started, a new study found that 43% of Americans over the age of 13 said they were planning on spending more time outside, and a separate study found that 6 in 10 Americans had “a new appreciation for nature.”
With this new mindset, every company in the outdoor industry should be thriving, right? What better time to make canoes, or hammocks, or bikes or…well, anything that people use or wear outside.
But things aren’t ever that simple, are they? Supply chain shortages and renewed fears about in-person shopping, tourism and travel mean that the new appreciation for Mother Nature hasn’t necessarily translated to booming business for everyone. And across the spectrum of outdoorspeople, there’s also been a renewed scrutiny—rightfully so—in the relationships between materialism and environmental issues.
Within this seemingly ever-extending “moment of change,” there are a few key things any Good outdoor company can do to navigate the months, and years, to come:
- Lean in to environmentalism. Whether you’re ready or not, the time to reimagine the outdoor industry as the center of environmentalism is now. It’s one of our society’s most critical issues. You can be a change agent and loved for it in both the short and long term. You can and should directly address brand-relevant climate issues. Raise awareness about environmental racism and injustice and what you’re doing about it. You can expand renewed interest in the outdoors in the form of positive self-sustaining initiatives. This is not about profiting from the pandemic. It’s about seeing your role in creating a broader purpose for our industry and giving it important new meaning.
- Take some reinvention risks. Reimagine your entire product line and focus your purpose. Align your brands with a broader cause and belief system authentic to who you are or aim to be as a company. When Adidas went through a brand purpose exercise several years ago, they didn’t make their purpose “make amazing, sustainable shoes”—they made their brand purpose “to save the ocean from plastic pollution.” The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is working with denim brands to “make fashion circular” and rethink harmful manufacturing practices. Not ready to tackle such big issues? Scale it down. Make water bottles? Include a branded regional trail map with each purchase to take a stance on accessibility. Make cross-country skis? Welcome newbies with a crash course on urban skiing via IGTV.
- Prepare for what’s next. What will your consumers carry with them out of the pandemic? Does your marketing plan put you in a position to adapt to rapidly changing consumer behavior? What about supply chain issues? And how are you going to keep feeding and riding the waves of renewed interest in the outdoor activity?
Lastly, be good, do good, communicate good, but always, always be you. Patagonia is Patagonia. Nike is Nike. You are something else. Business results don’t come as a result of made-up ethics or purpose. Your true brand personality, performance and purpose need to be reframed in such a way as to be an authentic guiding light for your team. Take the nugget of goodness that’s at the heart of your outdoor company, and aggressively, fearlessly, perhaps even riskily, revolve your company around it. Done right, it can be a huge win for everybody. When Good permeates all you do, you will win more hearts, minds and, ultimately, more business.