Can a cat help Columbia sell its jackets? Brands tap web-only ads with irreverent humor to convey new technologies

More outdoor brands are hitting the web with commercials looking to become the next viral hit. A cat helps Columbia sell waterproof/breathable technology, Golite Footwear scientists discover that rocks hurt and Cocona blends up a fabric smoothie.
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Columbia Sportswear wants consumers to know that its latest jackets with Omni-Dry technology will keep them dry and breathe during strenuous activities.

The outdoor brand could present charts, graphs and figures showing how the technology works. Or release a web video campaign featuring a cat fitted with an Omni-Dry jacket to see how the water-despising feline reacts to a simulated rainstorm.

Entertainment is what gets eyeballs on the web, said Columbia spokesman Scott Trepanier.

A week after debuting the cat commercial along with three other humorous takes on its technology, Columbia has seen more than 200,000 combined views from the commercials plus a flood of free social media coverage, he said.

“There’s definitely a time and a place to geek out and talk about moisture and vapor transfer rate, but for the majority of consumers, this is an easy and fun way to get the message: ‘This will keep you dry, this will keep you warm or this will keep you cooler.’”

Indeed, quite a few of the latest outdoor product commercials feature company scientists in white lab coats explaining the product technology in a tongue-in-cheek manner.

Take Golite Footwear’s web commercial in which its scientists discover that “rocks hurt” during a trail run. The revelation is meant to poke fun at extreme minimalistic footwear, while promoting Golite Footwear’s take that runners still need some form of protection.

Even outdoor product ingredient brands are getting into the web commercial mix. Cocona spoofed another web video hit, “Will it Blend,” with its lead scientist (and this guy actually does have a Ph.D.) Greg Haggquist explaining how the company’s fabric is made.

Trepanier said Columbia is increasingly targeting its media toward the web. It's not only to target consumers, but to get realtime feedback. "One of the great things about going digital is that there are metrics," he said. "We don't just count the hits, we're also monitoring social media with hashtags to see how much and where it spreads."

The industry’s biggest web video hit within the past few years has been Hi-Tec’s “Liquid Mountaineering” mockumentary. The video films athletes discovering that they could run a few steps on water with a combination of skill and their new HiTec shoes. It gained so much attention that Discovery Channel’s “Mythbusters” program took on the challenge to test out the theory. The show busted the myth.

That didn’t hurt HiTec. To date, the video has more than 11.4 million hits on You Tube.

--David Clucas

Is your outdoor brand producing web-only commercials? Email us at to tell us about the campaigns, objectives and results.



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