YETI uses traditional storytelling for nontraditional advertising

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Content marketing manager Harrison Lindsey explains the vision behind YETI's unconventional and somewhat maverick advertising style.

Instead of commercials, YETI has been producing high-quality web videos that tell intense stories about family, adventure and survival. In one, the brand features an 80-year-old, tough-as-nails barbecue pitmaster named Tootsie. Another, Charged, a full-length documentary coming out next year, follows the recovery of a man shocked with 2,400 volts of electricity in a freak accident while hiking. We asked Harrison Lindsey, YETI’s content marketing manager, how the cooler company uses and benefits from nontraditional advertising and brand messaging.

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Photo courtesy of YETI.

1. Your films are beautifully produced and powerful, but your branding in them is practically nonexistent. How does this work for yeti?
While we do integrate product in all of our films, the first priority is to tell the best story possible. We need to sell products like everyone else, but our goal with branded content is to allow people to emotionally connect with the brand. There’s a time and place to push product hard, but a seven-minute film that’s designed to inspire you or make you think differently isn’t that place. Consumers are smart; they know when they’re being sold and a lot of times they just want to be entertained.

2. How do you measure ROI for these videos?
There are so many metrics that could determine if a film or piece of content is successful. We’re constantly learning what metrics are most important to us, but there really isn’t a magic formula to know if you’re connecting with your consumers yet. Consumer behavior and how they view content is an ever-changing landscape. We commit to stories first and then try our best to understand what’s working and what’s not. Diving into the analytics allows us to learn from each release and optimize the strategy for our next film.

3. Some of the stories you tell are completely unexpected from a cooler company, like Tootsie’s story. How do you come up with an idea and decide whether it’s a winner? 
We do have a method to our madness. YETI customers have diverse habits. They barbecue, fish, hunt, camp, ride and the list goes on. We have the great opportunity to tell a wide range of stories, but every story has a purpose. The story of an 80-year-old female pitmaster warrants being told. But the story’s purpose was to show how Tootsie’s personality and values emulate YETI products—tough and reliable.

4. What’s YETI’s goal in telling these stories?
It’s human nature to crave stories, seek out inspiration and connect with characters. We want them to walk away from a film feeling different attributes of the brand. If we do connect with them on that level, we begin to build equity with a consumer. It allows us to not always be selling, but give a different note of communication in the consumer journey.

We’re also investing in editorial content that will be published on YETI channels at a similar frequency to our films in the near future. Video is important, but using words and images to tell a meaningful story is still a sound strategy.

5. Lots of brands would love to make brand movies, but don’t have the bandwidth. What sort of resources does it require?
We have a lean team in-house that’s focused on strategy, story development and distribution. For the actual production, we farm that out to independent filmmakers and production companies. We love the diversity that comes from the wide range of content producers we work with. We don’t currently have plans to build out an internal production team. That said, our team is definitely busy and a few more hands would be nice. Check out our careers page.

This story first appeared in the Day 2 issue of Outdoor Retailer Daily.

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