Outdoor Industry: What Is Your Brand Saying to Women?

Are you giving women the emotional connection with the outdoors they want from your brand? Women are looking for a brand story they can relate to, identify and engage with — and promote and include — as part of a personal collection of “badges.” One that tells the world, “hey, this is who I am and what I’m about.“ Do this and you’ll attract them to your products/services.

To that end, women are increasingly embracing their adventurous side, making an effort to spend more time outside. According to Outdoor Industry Association’s 2014 Outdoor Participation Report, young women’s participation saw the highest numbers since 2006. They are focusing on a deeper connection with family, their physical and spiritual wellbeing, their environment and truly pushing their limits and experiences to new heights. The growing need among active women consumers is the realization and recognition that women are tough, practical and prominent consumers. Take them seriously.

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For a majority of consumers, the act of purchasing a product is an emotional decision based on a set of values through which they see the world. The image above illustrates top female values compared to men. Many outdoor gear purchases are made based on an aspirational lifestyle that consumers strive for, not necessarily one that they are already living. So, to pull consumers in, brands need to first communicate why they do what they do. Before racing to product features and functions, communicate how your brand’s “why” aligns with consumers’ aspirations, sense of self, and values.

GETTING IT RIGHT

When we look at brands that women say are getting “it” right, what do they have in common? What is it that they are doing right. To find out, we asked women to respond to a Spawn Ideas survey about what women want out of their gear. In it, they shared brands that were “getting it right” when it comes to designing gear for them.

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Each of these brands clearly illustrate that they understand why women do what they do outdoors and, thus, are able to authentically align their values with their consumer. They champion women and speak directly to them. This builds trust and invites women to explore products and discover features that lead to purchase decisions based on a relationship of shared values with the brand.

The Women and Gear study (Spawn Ideas, 2012) went further to explore what women want out of their outdoor gear. Durability and design rank in the top five reasons to purchase a particular piece of gear. Results also showed a general frustration with brands who gave little thought to what women are trying to accomplish, lacked an understanding of their use of the product and fit, and weren’t clear with descriptions of performance, fabric technology or product features. Overall, in Spawn’s study, women believed that there was not enough attention paid to the fit and functionality of the product, which led them to feel that brands “don’t understand what I do or why I do it.”

One participant noted, “Outdoor women shop differently; we want it to fit, work like it’s supposed to and enhance performance. We have low tolerance for brands that don’t work and won’t go back once a brand has not worked in the past. Tough customers.”

top 10 attributes important to women

It’s understandable that women express a frustration for brands that don’t “get it”. Women want all of the same things as men when it comes to products and services, including functionality and dependability. When brands recognize that women are looking for an experience that enhances their sense of adventure without compromising on form or function, they will have customers for life.

Interested in gender-specific messaging? Consider these rules of thumb:

  • The closer your product offering is to the body, the more gender matters.
  • That most of your consumers are men doesn’t mean your offering is solely for men. This is true for women, too.
  • Design and message should emphasize behavior over gender.

BEYOND OUTDOOR

Does your brand fulfill values and needs of consumers beyond your traditional market? Sorel is a brand that has successfully diversified its brand from being outdoor prominent to reaching a whole new audience seeking form, function and style on the street as well as on the trail. With Athleisure fashion trends still picking up steam, outdoor brands have an opportunity to redefine what form and function means, and reach an entirely new audience that wants to include your brand story in their collection of personal badges. Bringing fashion-forward thinking to outdoors-centric women is critical in maintaining brand loyalty and increasing market share.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Do women know why you do what you do? Are you providing a beacon for them to find you in a sea of brands within your market, or are you strategically breaking into new markets? What do you offer them to elevate their experience, and enhance their “why” or purpose for participating in outdoor recreation?

Simon Sinek, author of “Start With Why,” uses the concept of the Golden Circle to clearly illustrate the use of “why” in conveying strong strategy and messaging:

THE GOLDEN CIRCLE

WHY = The Purpose
What is your cause? What do you believe?

HOW = The Process
Specific actions taken to realize the Why.

WHAT = The Result
What do you do? The result of Why. Proof.

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© Simon Sinek, 2012

As your brand tailors its marketing strategy and message to appeal to women consumers, it’s important to understand their “why.” It’s the sure way to build long-term trust. Clearly balance why your brand exists with how you realize that set of beliefs through products, services and support of your consumers and community. That’s a winning strategy every time.

About Spawn Ideas:

True fans of the outdoors know that “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad gear.” Nowhere is that more true than Alaska where Spawn Ideas is headquartered. Our dedication to an outdoor lifestyle includes regular forays into a wilderness that most agencies would call extreme. Our team, dominated by strong women, understands consumers’ need for function, comfort, style and agility. 

**Originally published in the Snowsports Industries America blog under the title “What Does Your Marketing Tell Women About Your Brand”