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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.

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“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.

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

Use the ‘Blemish Effect’ to skyrocket your sales

(MARKETING) The Blemish Effect dictates that small, adjacent flaws in a product can make it that much more interesting—is perfection out?

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Presenting a product or service in its most immaculate, polished state has been the strategy for virtually all organizations, and overselling items with known flaws is a practice as old as time. According to marketing researchers, however, this approach may not be the only way to achieve optimal results due to something known as the “Blemish Effect.”

The Blemish Effect isn’t quite the inverse of the perfectionist product pitch; rather, it builds on the theory that small problems with a product or service can actually throw into relief its good qualities. For example, a small scratch on the back of an otherwise pristine iPhone might draw one’s eye to the glossy finish, while an objectively perfect housing might not be appreciated in the same way.

The same goes for mildly bad press or a customer’s pros and cons list. If someone has absolutely no complaints or desires for whatever you’re marketing, the end result can look flat and lacking in nuance. Having the slightest bit of longing associated with an aspect (or lack thereof) of your business means that you have room to grow, which can be tantalizing for the eager consumer.

A Stanford study indicates that small doses of mildly negative information may actually strengthen a consumer’s positive impression of a product or service. Interesting.

Another beneficial aspect of the Blemish Effect is that it helps consumers focus their negativity. “Too good to be true” often means exactly that, and we’re eager to criticize where possible; if your product or service has a noticeable flaw which doesn’t harm the item’s use, your audience might settle for lamenting the minor flaw and favoring the rest of the product rather than looking for problems which don’t exist.

This concept also applies to expectation management. Absent an obvious blemish, it can be all to easy for consumers to envision your product or service on an unattainable level.

When they’re invariably disappointed that their unrealistic expectations weren’t fulfilled, your reputation might take a hit, or consumers might lose interest after the initial wave.

The takeaway is that consumers trust transparency, so in describing your offering, tossing in a negative boosts the perception that you’re being honest and transparent, so a graphic artist could note that while their skills are superior and their pricing reasonable, they take their time with intricate projects. The time expectation is a potentially negative aspect of their service, but expressing anything negative improves sales as it builds trust.

It should be noted that the Blemish Effect applies to minor impairments in cosmetic or adjacent qualities, not in the product or service itself. Delivering an item which is inherently flawed won’t make anyone happy.

In an age where less truly is more, the Blemish Effect stands to dictate a new wave of honesty in marketing.

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Business Marketing

Who’s teaching Gen Z to adapt to working with other generations

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Gen Z patch 1.1: How to work with other generations. The newest tech savy generation might need an update to work well with others

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We know the current work force is made up of a multitude of generations which is the first time so many have been working at the same time in history and this is should be absolutely fascinating to dig in to the research and how this drastically affects businesses.

To think how we each have our work ethic and style influenced by so many factors on how and when (and where) we were raised, plus what generation our parents were in and what was passed down to them from the generation before. Millennials received a lot of attention for being entitled and lazy. Gen X receive constant jokes that they are the forgotten generation. And let’s not forget the cringe-worthy “OK Boomer” meme theme recently.

Now we have moved on to Gen Z (b. ~ 1997-2012) in the work force and many are currently attending college. There were other considerations for their name: Gen Tech, Gen Wii, Net Gen, Digital Natives, Plurals, and Zoomers. If you google about them, there are many books to read about this generation that has never NOT known technology.

They are used to being seconds away to finding an answer on Google, sending their current status to friends via a fun picture or video and learning anything they want to learn via their laptop (for example on YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, Google online courses, Udemy, Teachable, among others). They are no strangers to businesses evolving to continue to be consumer-minded and have an app for that when it comes to convenience like: ordering your coffee before you get there, order a ride from no matter where you are, order your groceries online and pick them up outside the grocery store or (gasp!) even have them delivered to you via some other third-party app. And let’s not forget, there better be Wi-Fi on the plane.

There are a lot of wonderful things about every generation and maybe some things we all contribute to regarding stereotypes. No matter age, experience or style, it’s key to learn about the people you are working with (peers, supervisors, leadership teams) or if you are an entrepreneur and business owner: your customers and any differences needed for them (should you be on Tik Tok? Is Instagram still where it’s at? How do you add online appointments to your site? Do you need an app for that?).

In this world of instant gratification, we have all adapted to the conveniences of technology so why would this new generation be any different. There’s been research shared with how they shop and even how they learn. Is anyone teaching them about those that came before them when they enter the work force or look to gain professional experience working with entrepreneurs, startups or small business owners?

I’d like to recommend taking a look at Lindsey Pollak’s research, read or listen (thank you, Audible) to her latest book, The Remix, How to Lead and Succeed in the Multigenerational Workplace and even her new podcast, The Work Remix, for any limited on time or attention span. It is really powerful how she is able to easily translate lots of research in to actionable items (let’s bring back apprenticeships! Skip the ping pong table for more time in nature!). She is kind and provides refreshing ideas on how to adapt our work styles to others as well as what is important in the workforce. She is also really against generational shaming. ALL OF IT. And that’s beautiful.

So, before we roll our eyes and throw a generational comment at someone, can we get to know each other better and be flexible and adaptable in how we find and work toward our common goals? For one, I’m excited working with iGen and am always asking myself (as a loud and proud Gen Xer) how I can adapt or meet their learning styles. All in fun, I do wish they would read my emails but I might have to let that go and get more used to text.

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Business Marketing

Malomo helps online retailers keep up with retail giants

(BUSINESS MARKETING) With giant companies like amazon able to offer free shipping, and super fast arrival times, how can a smaller company keep up?

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When Amazon is out here offering two-day shipping on all kinds of products from televisions to toothbrushes, ordering something from a smaller online retailer can have an almost humbling effect.

When faced with a basic UPS tracking number and shipping email, you realize how accustomed you’ve gotten to receiving play-by-play shipping information and a little photograph of your package when it arrives at your front step.

People have come to expect a lot from their online shopping experience. Huge online retailers, like Amazon, are crafting these expectations as another strategy to edge out competition. It’s all by design. So, how are smaller companies supposed to keep up with this demand?

Online retailers need tools that allow them to compete with the big boys and Malomo is here to help. Malomo is a shipment tracking platform designed for ecommerce marketers who want to level up their customer experience. Their mission is to help brands build authentic relationships with customers. Their platform allows online retailers to keep their customers up-to-date with shipping information using a beautiful branded platform.

Malomo could be a game changer for online retailers looking to build a more faithful customer base. Malomo’s platform can do so much more than send tracking information. The platform adds another layer to the customer journey by letting you create a digital space where your business can continue to build that customer brand connection.

Online retailers can use the platform to inform customers if there are any issues with their order such as a late shipment or a problem with an item. The platform can also be used to advertise other products, educate customers about the brand, or send targeted coupons.

In addition to offering a beautiful platform, Malomo provides online retailers with valuable analytics on customer behavior such as click-through rates on tracking information. Malomo integrates with popular ecommerce platforms such as Shopify making it a smooth addition to your overall strategy.

By integrating these ecommerce tools online retailers can harness the power of data to improve their customer experience, drive future sales, and keep up with customer demands for a world-class shipping experience.

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