It's summer break and a family of four with two teenage kids is driving to Yellowstone National Park. Noticing they need gas and knowing they need to stock up on a few camping essentials, the driver seat suggests that one of the kids find a good gear shop nearby. An ad for the store, Sunlight Sports in Cody, Wyoming, had already populated one of their Facebook feeds. Then, they drive by a billboard for the same store. 

They go, and upon walking in, the family sees the same imagery as in the social media ad and on the billboard. The pictured tent is even set up in the store's center, along with an array of complimentary items—a cook set, a camping chair, a luxury camp pillow—and a special guide to hotspots in the area. A friendly employee helps them pick out a few things and even suggests a place to eat for lunch. And the four leave with new gear and a new favorite store.

It's hypothetical, but this was a possible scenario and the customer journey that Sunlight Sports and three brand partners—Native Eyewear, NEMO Equipment, and Merrell—had in mind when they each created retail-centric campaigns around the theme "A Day Well Spent" last spring.

Matt DeWitte, Wes Allen, Megan

Matt DeWitte, Wes Allen, and Megan Baumeister have 45-plus years of experience leading global brand marketing organizations, guiding independent retail, and producing sales driving creative.

Argot [ahr-goh] is a noun that means the special vocabulary and idiom of a particular profession or social group.

The projects were conceptualized under a new creative agency, Argot, the brainchild of dream team Wes Allen, Megan Baumeister, and Matt DeWitte. They've begun creating experiential campaigns that enhance the brand-retailer relationship and give customers a very localized, specific experience—all to drive sales and reinforce the importance of retail.

"It tells a story and there’s consistency to it," DeWitte said. "This started some  conversations with consumers, which led to sales, which for a retailer is extremely important."

After piloting the campaigns in Allen's store, Sunlight Sports, the team is ready to take the model to other premium specialty retailers across the country. Up next, Native is partnering with Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colorado; Maine Sport Outfitters in Rockport, Maine; and a sunglass shop in Charleston, South Carolina.

"Native has always said that we need to find ways to support our specialty retailers because they are the most important people in the entire nation really strengthening our business and connecting to consumers," said Jessica Bryant, who works marketing at Native.

The Argot team knows just how tough it is to survive as a retailer. Their mission is to be an extension of and support for both the brands and retailers to create packaged, turnkey campaigns. From start to finish, the team also tracks tangible metrics and analytics—physical traffic, digital traffic, sales, margin reports—for each element and activation.

"We always talk about experiential retail and it’s been fuzzily defined," Allen said. "One of the truisms in the outdoor industry is that good retailers, good brands, and consumers all meet at this one spot in brick-and-mortar stores."

After all, retailers are the original influencers, according to Argot.

Case Study: Sunlight Sports and Native Eyewear

Campaign theme and goal: Using the theme "A Day Well Spent," Sunlight Sports and Native targeted visitors to Yellowstone National Park and Teton National Park, as well as the locals in Cody, Wyoming—especially those who sought backcountry experiences, not just the obvious trip to the Old Faithful Geyser. The goal was to capture that customer as they drove into town and entice them to explore more at Sunlight Sports. Branding was consistent, so it became familiar by the time the customer entered the store. The in-store experience was a curated one that displayed the best things they could for what they’re going to do.

Content collection: Team members on the brand and retail sides met up to explore four different spots—Beauty Lake, Heart Lake Overlook, Granite Lake, and Grebe Lake—to compile trail notes and take photos to use in the campaign. They nailed down the details: social media ads, a billboard, in-store display and experience, a lake guide, a takeaway journal—all shown in the slideshow.

Duration: Native's campaign ran from April until July 2018. Most campaigns are about eight to 12 weeks, and DeWitte says some brands would love to stretch to 16 weeks. But it all depends on a brand's budget.

Results: Success! Native sold out of all inventory in Sunlight Sports and saw twice more sales for the campaign months compared to years when they had no campaign. The store also benefitted from that boost in sales.

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