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What the YETI “cult” can teach you about marketing success

YETI has built a cult following for their 300 dollar cooler. Confused? Don’t be. This story isn’t rocket science; just good old fashioned product innovation and saavy marketing at their finest.

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The rise of YETI

Here at The American Genius, we feel the term “cult” gets a bad name. In fact, we find it beautiful. It’s the product of keeping promises and delivering remarkable experiences to consumers time and time again until they have no choice but to love a product or service unconditionally. That’s not just gold for your business, but it’s a grand human experience to build a relationship founded on trust and loyalty (and a leeeeeetle bit of fanaticism).

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We’ve written about cult followings before, like the Crossfit craze. However, we can understand if you’re a bit skeptical when we tell you that a company making coolers is cultivating a similar craze amongst consumers. However, the facts don’t lie. In six years, YETI sales grew from $9 million to $450 million. Sales are so strong, they can barely keep certain products in stock.

All this over a 300 dollar cooler. Yep, 300 dollars for something you usually pick up for no more than 50 bucks at any no-name Walmart.

Confused? Don’t be. This story isn’t rocket science; just good old fashioned product innovation and saavy marketing at their finest:

YETI didn’t just make a better cooler; they made a luxury product

Those janky, $50 Walmart coolers don’t cost much for a reason; their functionality is a bit limited. So, there’s plenty to improve on. But a Yeti Cooler isn’t just an improvement; it’s damn near perfect.

It’s practically indestructible. So indestructible that it’s grizzly proof. It also keeps ice frozen for a long-time. Long enough that you will still have ice after a long weekend trip in many cases. Combine those things together, and it’s not hard to believe that when a fire engulfed a vehicle, the YETI Cooler and the ice inside it survived the inferno.

Excessive? For most, maybe. However, there’s a beauty in its utilitarian luxury. And they have expanded this utilitarian luxury beyond coolers to products ranging from tumblers to soft-side coolers to bottle openers.

It’s not uncommon to find brands that succeed on a platform of relentless perfection of their product; Apple, Harley Davidson and Ferrari come to mind. Consumer trust in the quality of the product, be it durability or user-friendliness, forms a strong foundation for a relationship with your customers. Here, Austin-based YETI is no different, and more than ever, it’s necessary to be remarkable to achieve the business success you want.

Marketing to aspirations

YETI Cooler’s marketing focuses intently on the ideal outdoorsy lifestyle, and it has kept that focus throughout the product’s lifetime.

yeti

“The aspirational use and the actual use don’t always have to be the same thing,” said YETI’s VP of Marketing Corey Maynard. “We want our communication to stay as absolutely authentic to the hardcore user from the hardcore user as we possibly can.”

Influencers aren’t just Instagram yoga girls

From the beginning, YETI has marketed the cooler to people like the founders; passionate and respected outdoorsmen whose passions drove them to own the latest and greatest gear.  To do this, they hired influential guides and fisherman as brand ambassadors. They also sponsored programming on hunting and fishing TV stations. All of these early efforts earned the trust and recommendation of “influencers” and “prosumers.”

“Those commercials didn’t reach millions of people, but the people that they did reach were the most serious hunters and fisherman,” Maynard said. “So it would reach 100,000 or so hardcore hunters and fishermen who would be the person within their circle of friends who their buddies would ask about the latest gear.”

When they did land the sale, YETI made sure they could advertise that too. In the beginning, the company handed out stickers and hats with each cooler sale as a way to kick start conversations about the brand.

All of these factors created a “grassroots marketing goldmine,” where word-of-mouth made a lot of difference. That, combined with the aspirational messaging, creates a tribe where consumers feel included as a part of something bigger than themselves. So, as you go about marketing your business, consider these key concepts in your model. It could be just what you need to take your business to the next level.

This story was first published on May 6, 2016.

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Born in Boston and raised in California, Connor arrived in Texas for college and was (lovingly) ensnared by southern hospitality and copious helpings of queso. As an SEO professional, he lives and breathes online marketing and its impact on businesses. His loves include disc-related sports, a pint of a top-notch craft beer, historical non-fiction novels, and Austin's live music scene.

Business Marketing

How ecommerce brands can increase sales, even on tiny purchases

(MARKETING) These tips and tricks are prime ways to boost the dollar amount spent at checkout and close more deals — even on the tiny purchases!

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online sales

There are many marketing techniques aimed at acquiring new customers. Makes sense, right? More customers, more money. But how do you increase sales with your existing customer base? The Average Order Value (AOV) = Total Revenue/# of Transactions. This number is important because it indicates how much each customer is buying. Here are some ways to increase your AOV:

First, it’s crucial to appeal to human nature. People like things for free. So, by setting a minimum to receive free delivery, buyers are more likely to continue browsing and eventually buying, in order to avoid the shipping fee. While we all know that spending $50 when I only meant to spend $37 isn’t ideal, but I’d rather pay $50 for two products, than $43 for one and shipping. It feels like a better value.

Over half of customers will discontinue their transaction when they found out there are additional costs. MORE THAN HALF. Don’t surprise people the wrong way — we don’t like it.

Second, have you ever been to Costco? Ever left Costco with exactly the amount of food you needed? No, of course, you haven’t. The concept of buying in bulk appeals to our sense of value. Oranges are $1.09 per pound but buy a 10 lb. bag and get it for $8.50. Next thing you know, you’re feeding your child’s soccer team as well as the opponents. Offering a discount on package deals and large quantities at least gets your customers thinking about purchasing more.

We all rationalize the need for a good deal. My roommate used to buy two 12-packs of the giant muffins because “They were on sale.” A discount on a package might entice someone who was looking for a little more variety but was hesitant at first.

Next, recommending products is a great way for customers to lay eyes on new things. Not everyone is a browser — some people go straight to a specific section. By using information from previous purchases and browsing history, showing related, best-selling, or recommended products is an awesome way to generate more clicks and potentially increase sales.

Finally, help us lazy people by including a gift-wrapping option at checkout so that people buying remotely for others out of town can send things directly. In order to wrap, they would have to send to themselves, wrap, then send again or deliver to the receiver. The former sounds like it’s worth $6.99 to me!

In conclusion, there are always ways to boost sales with your existing, loyal, customers. If buyers are only purchasing one thing at a time, reflect on why this is. Perhaps a few sweeteners or additional opportunities could lead to long-term growth. Remember human nature and happy selling!

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Business Marketing

A more environmentally sensitive Pantone color of the year

(MARKETING) Why is Pantone’s coral color causing a ruckus? Marketing is just marketing, right? Maybe not…

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pantone unofficial color of 2020

Every year Pantone declares the Color of the Year and for 2019, the institute declared Living Coral to be the “it” shade calling it “an animating and life-affirming coral hue with a golden undertone that energizes and enlivens with a softer edge.” And it totally is. Imagine bright red orange swimming in a sea of crystal blue water.

Pantone’s Executive Director, Leatrice Eiseman even goes so far as saying it that Living Coral was what “consumers craved” and that it incites “human interaction and social connection” which might be a stretch. It is just a color after all.

However, some found this messaging to be anything but convivial and well, off-color.

Jack Railton-Woodcock and Huei Yin Wong, partners at Jack and Huei, a Melbourne-based design agency, took umbrage with this decision and for good reason.

Their native Australia has front-row seats to the dying of the Great Barrier Reef and for them, coral is anything but lively. If anything, it’s on life support.

To call attention to the tone-deaf decision, the duo preemptively christened Bleached Coral as the Color of the Year 2020.

Touche.

The duo furthered their burn, saying, “It’s the responsibility of all of us, creative or otherwise, to find creative solutions to big problems, and right now there aren’t many problems facing humanity that are bigger than climate change.”

Oof, way to pull back the curtain, guys.

As much of a buzzkill as this pair might be, they’re not wrong, and they bring up the larger question of social responsibility in marketing.

But it’s just marketing, right?

Wrong. The very root of marketing is aspirational. We see ads for luxury cars, we imagine ourselves behind the wheel and believe that maybe we can get there. We see beauty products that promise flawless ageless skin and maybe we decide to take better care of our skin. We see Living Coral and we’re blinded to the reality that the coral just might be a thing of the past.

Yes, Pantone’s Color of the Year is one of those fun end-of-year things we in marketing get excited about, but when you’re living in a world where climate change is our reality and we see it in unnatural weather patterns and the dying off of one of our greatest natural treasures, it’s time to take pause. We can do better.

These days it’s hard to please everybody. Try as we might to make everything for everyone, if we’re going to attempt to talk about a unifying the human race through color, we sure as hell shouldn’t choose a color that reminds us all that our environment is in rough shape and it’s largely humanity’s fault. Bleached Coral isn’t the color we need, but right now, it’s the color we deserve.

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Business Marketing

Genius: How a Yoga studio is using AI to help the masses

(MARKETING) Here’s an interesting case study in how yoga, a 5,000+ year industry is using modern technology.

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Yoga is everywhere. From small town strip mall studios and big city meccas with guidance from YouTube gurus to Instagram-able practice with goats. If monitoring your breaths and balancing your body is your thing, it’s not out of reach.

However, despite its ubiquity, getting into yoga can be intimidating.

Sure, you’ve picked up a mat at Target, you’ve purchased all the Lululemon pants and Outdoor Voices bras, but actually getting on the mat and moving your body can be overwhelming if you’ve never practiced before.

Well, Would-Be-Yogis, push those fears and worries out of your mind, take three deep breaths and get on the mat, because you’re about to start posing at your pace.

Introducing the YogaBot from Austin’s own Yoga Yoga. It’s a fascinating case study in how a 5,000+ year old industry is using modern technology.

Over the past 20 years, Yoga Yoga has guided thousands of yoga students from their first class all the way through advanced teacher training and now, to help improve students choose the right path for themselves, they’ve created Design Your Yoga.

With the intention of helping new and advanced students achieve their yoga goals, Design Your Yoga is an automated experience that begins on their landing page.

Once you arrive, the bot asks you if you’d like to “Design Your Yoga.” After an initial greeting, the bot begins by getting to know your skill level.

Asking a very straightforward, “Have you done yoga before?” you are then offered nine responses ranging from “Never” to “I am a yoga therapist.”

Once you answer, you are asked further questions regarding what you’d like to achieve from your practice, what styles you’re familiar with, and when and where you’d like to practice among a few others. At the end, the bot will ask for your email address to send you a customized yoga plan. Easy peasy.

Their algorithm has thousands of possible combinations promising to make each yogi’s practice results unique to them.

“For years we’ve been working on ways to better personalize our services to the needs of each individual student. Design Your Yoga is our solution to delivering an exceptional user experience with a plan a student can follow and stick with,” said Yoga Yoga CEO Rich Goldstein.

Landing page bots are nothing new, and more often than not, they’re annoying as hell. However, this one actually seems helpful, which is refreshing.

From a marketing standpoint, Yoga Yoga CMO Marc Lefton said, “As marketers in a city as creative and entrepreneurial as Austin, we wanted to make sure we use every tool we can to bring yoga students the information they need as fast as possible.”

He’s not wrong. It worked. After trying it out for ourselves, we can’t help but be a little more ready to get on the mat. First, we’re going to need to put down the tacos.

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