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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

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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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

Branded content coming to a theater near you?

(MARKETING) A solid attempt to find a new vein for branded content, this silver screen antic seems short lived.

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When firing up your laptop to watch branded content have you ever thought, “Man, I wish I could watch this short video on the big screen. I’d pay good money to see this in the theater!”?

Probably not, which is why Marriott’s narrowly distributed lifestyle series Storybooked should be a cautionary tale to other content creators. (It won’t be, but we tried.)

Marriott disrupted the branded content model by screening the entirety of Storybooked in theaters. Yep, you could’ve dropped around $20 to watch an extended branding experience in theaters and if you missed it, it airs on A&E. It also lives on their branded lifestyle blog Marriott Traveler and of course, YouTube.

Created by Marriott Content Studios, Storybooked is a series of short films aiming to “share with consumers around the world the benefits of loyalty to Marriott through the experiences and stories of real members.”

The members featured are international artists and musicians on personal journeys. Each episode is almost formulaic in nature – the artist offers a profound statement about their work or journey, then comes footage of a train, followed by footage of the artist touching buildings, sitting in doorways and enjoying local culture. Sometimes they return to the Marriott, sometimes they don’t.

I watched many of these (from the comfort of my couch) and I’m in no hurry to book Marriott any time soon. I get it, companies are trying to attract a younger and hipper demographic and they think branded content is the way to earn loyalty, but these are lukewarm advertorials at best. They lack the sincerity of originality and authenticity that appeals to a younger demographic. I didn’t even feel compelled to look up these artists’ work to explore more. I didn’t feel compelled to do anything.

If anyone, they might appeal to already loyal Marriott fans, but I’m having a hard time imagining even the most rabid fan forking over the price of theater admission to watch these.

There are brands have been able to successfully dip their toes into more narrative-based ads. Both Kate Spade and H&M have previously created episodic series and short films to promote their lines and they’ve worked largely because even though they’re ads, their creativity and whimsy prevail. I wouldn’t rush to see them in the theaters, but I’d happily surrender a few minutes of screen time to watch.

Will this trend continue? Will other brands seek the same kind of distribution model for branded content? Think of it this way, when’s the last time you found yourself in a crowded movie theater?

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Business Marketing

Ten podcasts that every business owner should hear

(MARKETING) If you’re a business and want to learn something, give one of (or all of) these ten podcasts a listen.

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So many choices, so little time

As podcasts grow more and more popular, it has become increasingly difficult to sort through the sea of excellent options out there.

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From interviews with business leaders to industry specific advice from experts, podcasts are an incredible free and convenient way to get a small dose of inspiration and knowledge.

Business podcasts for your listening enojoyment

This short list offers just a taste of the myriad of business podcasts available. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur looking for some tips on breaking into a new industry or a seasoned vet hoping to get some new inspiration, we hope you’ll find something here worth listening to.

How I Built This, hosted by Guy Raz.

Podcast fans will recognize Guy Raz’s name (and voice) from TED Radio Hour. While that show can be a great source of inspiration for businesses, one of the most consistently inspiring shows is his new project that shares stories and insight from some of the biggest business leaders in the world. In just four months, Guy has talked to everyone from Richard Branson and Mark Cuban to L.A. Reid and Suroosh Alvi. While there are plenty of excellent interview-driven shows with entrepreneurs, if you want to hear about the world’s best known companies, this is your best bet.

The Art of Charm, hosted by Jordan and AJ Harbinger.

The Art of Charm is a business podcast by definition, but the advice it provides will definitely help you in other parts of your day-to-day life as well. With over three million listens a month, the incredibly populat show provides advice, strategies and insight into how to network effectively and advance your career and personal life.

StartUp, hosted by Alex Blumberg and Lisa Chow.

If you’re an entrepreneur, there is no excuse not to be listening to StartUp, the award-winning business podcast from Gimlet Media. The show’s talented hosts come from incredible radio shows like Planet Money and This American Life and bring a top-notch level of storytelling to the show, which provides behind the scenes looks at what it is actually like to start a company. Now on the fourth season, StartUp is one of those business podcasts that even people not interested in business will get a kick out of.

The Whole Whale Podcast, hosted by George Weiner.

One of the best things about podcasts is the wide variety of niche shows available that go in-depth into fascinating topics. One of those shows is the Whole Whale Podcast, which shares stories about data and technology in the non-profit sector. You’ll get detailed analysis, expert knowledge and can hear from a long list of social impact leaders from Greenpeace, Change.org, Kiva, Teach For America and more.

Social Pros Podcast, hosted by Jay Baer and Adam Brown.

Navigating the surplus of social media guides online can be a nightmare, so look no further thna Social Pros. Recent episodes talk about reaching college students on social media, the rise of messaging apps, and making better video content for Facebook. Plus, there are great case-studies with companies doing social right, like Kellogg’s, Coca Cola and Lenscrafters.

Entrepreneur on Fire, hosted by John Lee Dumas.

One of the original entrepreneurship shows, Entrepreneur on Fire has logged over 1,500 episodes with successful business leaders sharing tips, lessons and advice learned from their worst entrepreneurial moments. Sometimes humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always inspiring, this show is sure to have at least one interview with someone you can learn from.

The $100 MBA, hosted by Omar Zenhom.

Think of The $100 MBA as a full-fledged business program in snack-sized portions. The daily ten minute business lessons are based on real world applications and cover everything from marketing to techology and more. Cue this show up on your commute to or from work and watch your knowledge grow.

This Week in Startups, hosted by Jason Calacanis.

This is your audio version of TechCrunch, Gizmodo or dare we say The American Genius. Each week, a guest entrepreneur joins the show to talk about what is happening in tech right now. You’ll get news about companies with buzz, updates on big tech news and even some insider gossip.

The Side Hustle Show, hosted by Nick Loper.

This is the show if you want answers for the big question so many entrepreneurs face. How do I turn my part-time hustle into a real job? Featuring topics such as passive income ideas, niche sites, and self-publishing, host Nick Loper is upfront and honest about the tough world of side hustles. The show features actionable tips and an engaging energy, and may just be that final push you need to grow your gig.

Back To Work, hosted by Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin.
Focused on the basics that you don’t think about, Back To Work looks deep into our working lives by analyzing things like workflow, email habits and personal motivation. Somewhere between self-help and business advice, Back To Work takes on a new topic relating to productivity each week.

#LearnSomething

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