Hi-Tec Ad Campaigns Steps Outside the Box

Quick, pick up one outdoor magazine or another. Flip to an ad and cover the brand name. Whose boots are those? Whose packs? Whose jackets? What do you see? Thickly treed forests, churning streams, pristine lakes, sweat dripping off foreheads, and faces looking serious and focused. Do you see anything except hardcore, outdoorsy scenes that mostly look the same?
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Quick, pick up one outdoor magazine or another. Flip to an ad and cover the brand name. Whose boots are those? Whose packs? Whose jackets?

What do you see? Thickly treed forests, churning streams, pristine lakes, sweat dripping off foreheads, and faces looking serious and focused.

Do you see anything except hardcore, outdoorsy scenes that mostly look the same?

Hi-Tec USA has decided to take an about-face and surprise the outdoor world with its new ad campaign called, appropriately, "Go Have Fun," which debuted in selected consumer magazines (Outside, Backpacker, Sierra, and Mountain Bike) this month and in the trade press in July.

What's eye-catching is how different the ads are:There's nary a tree in sight. No forests or streams either. Or people. What you do get is lots of white space with a pair of floating shoes (without humans in them) doing everything from imaginary back flips to sitting high on the page leaving you to visualize a mountaintop. You got only the bare minimum of copy, and a short tag line for Hi-Tec with a phone number. (Select either of the following to view an example: Hi-Tec Flip or Hi-Tec Cliff.) Hard-core? Nope. Whimsical. Yes. And that's not the word one usually uses to describe ad campaigns for outdoor products.

"Our consumers, they want to go outdoors and just have fun," said Hi-Tec President Jon Caplan, explaining the attitude he was looking for in the campaign. "We decided we wanted to distinguish ourselves from all the other similar products out there."

Caplan says he wanted to establish more of an emotional connection with the brand, as have the likes of successful campaigns by Volkswagen, Pepsi, and even some beer companies -- a realistic approach since he knows Hi-Tec doesn't capture the hardest of the hardcore.

"That really isn't what we want to be," he told SNEWS®. "We want to be more inclusive than that."

So, looking at the company's prices, its demographics (families with children, occasional users, more price-conscious), the company leaped into focus groups with The Mandala Agency of Bend, Ore., that got admittedly nutty at times as they brainstormed activities one could do in the shoes. Mud-puddling? "We just got sillier and sillier," he said.

"If you really allow yourself, this is all about what you do as a kid," Caplan said. "It's 'Go outside and play.' It doesn't have to be super serious and so survivalist."

But this campaign means more to Hi-Tec than just some new ads that are cute. It's a bit of a turning point for the company -- one that can become, as Caplan puts it, "a real symbol we can get behind," one that will represent the heart of the company and what it stands for.

"It puts real energy behind us." he said, "and helps define us."

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