Outdoor marketers roundtable: Trends, themes and good vibes
Marketers from The North Face, Smith Optics and HydraPak share their thoughts on 2023
We know there are a ton of Trends for 2023 articles flooding your inbox, so rather than make the water even deeper, we thought it’d be interesting to do something a little different. That’s why we reached out directly to a handful of leading outdoor sports marketers to get their opinions on the year to come and hear what they’re looking forward to. We’re grateful for the participation of Carl Bissonnette, Sr. Marketing Manager at The North Face Canada, Sydney Kirby, Global Snow Marketing Manager at Smith Optics and Jennifer Krupey, Director, Marketing & Ecommerce at Hydrapak.
Origin: What do you see as an opportunity area for your brand in 2023?
CB: For 2023, in a post-pandemic time, but with a recession looming, I believe consumers will keep focusing on quality propositions with their spend. The opportunity will be around well-built, long lasting premium products, and sustainable offerings.
SK: There is an incredible opportunity to reach new consumers that are just getting into outdoor sports. During the pandemic, the industry experienced growth at an unprecedented rate, and that growth was largely made up of newcomers to the space. It’s undeniable that there’s still a vast opportunity to reach new people of all ages, skill levels, demographics, etc. and help them enjoy new sports and learn how to experience the outdoors in a new way.
JK: First, we're launching an entirely new line of hydration reservoirs, the Contour Series. Our product team worked on the Contour for some time, ensuring we got the design just right. It's beautifully equipped with features and functionalities hikers and backpackers need and expect. Second, we've developed our own line of filter systems that seamlessly integrate with our water storage, flexible bottles, soft flasks and reservoir lines. While we've worked on filters for OE partners in the past, entering into a new category presents an enormous opportunity for HydraPak to continue to lead in hydration.
Origin: What are you most excited about marketing-wise, both within your brand, and/or the industry as a whole?
CB: Reconnecting with our communities in real life! Although we got back in front of our consumers from an experiential marketing standpoint last year, we haven’t fully gotten back to the cadence we had pre-pandemic. We’re excited to reconnect face-to-face with the outdoors community, and offer more opportunities for newcomers to try something new and join in.
SK: I’m most excited about the resurgence of experiential marketing. After multiple years of health safety concerns, resort and retail closures, and reduced budgets throughout the pandemic, we are finally getting to a point where we can reconnect with consumers and make that a priority. More than anything, marketing is about creating human connections, and despite the rise in connecting with people through digital channels, the most rewarding and deepest connections are made in person – in stores, at events, and out on the mountain doing the things we love.
I’m also excited to see how Gen Z and Gen Alpha start to reshape the marketing landscape. So much of what we know about marketing to date is based on consumers over the age of 25 (millennials and older), but the younger generations are really challenging norms and traditional marketing strategy. With new and rising platforms like TikTok and BeReal, I’m curious to see how brands adapt and reach the much-needed younger market.
JK: From an industry standpoint, COVID elevated ecommerce in ways the industry could only imagine. 2022 brought recession concerns and increased industry-wide inventory levels. I'm looking forward to the dust settling. HydraPak, like so many other brands, saw big gains over the past couple of years. I truly believe there are more wins to be had online, specifically DTC, Amazon and online retail all present huge opportunities for brands to lean in, and reach consumers where they shop.
ORIGIN: What trend do you hope will get left behind?
CB: Personally I will automatically decline any Zoom Happy Hour coming my way in the future. Those were tough! In the same line, brand digital experiences will need to get far more creative to get the consumers attention going forward.
SK: I hope the trend of not wearing helmets while skiing or snowboarding gets left behind ASAP. There is far too much research and information grounded in concrete science to continue to allow and/or encourage people to participate in extreme sports without any head protection, or any sport for that matter. It’s up to both the brands and the professional athletes to lead by example, and I hope we’re on the precipice of that evolution.
JK: Abnormal retail ordering, industry layoffs, panic about the economy.
ORIGIN: Are there any trends/issues/themes that you’d love to see come to life in the new year?
SK: Sustainability and respect for the environment long term is crucial to the success of the outdoor industry, especially since the outdoors spaces in which we recreate will be few and far between if we keep going down this path of climate change. I’d love to see brands working together to address large-scale production changes or develop programs for the greater good and health of the planet. I’d also love to see the continued growth and prioritization of diversity, equity, and inclusion, as many places are just scratching the surface. Brands should be able to design and create space for BIPOC and adaptive athletes and advocates to bolster the successes of those already doing amazing work in the space, and leverage brand platforms to help make the outdoor industry more inclusive. The outdoors can be and should be for everyone, and I’m hopeful that we can move collectively in this direction.
JK: COVID introduced a lot of new, diverse audiences to the wonders of the outdoors for the first time. We saw an uptick in individuals taking their first hikes, bike rides, runs, and exploring the outdoors - it was super exciting... for all of us. While we see an increasing amount of outdoor companies changing their product strategy and marketing messages to attract these new audiences, more can certainly be done. I'd love to see the industry develop meaningful opportunities to keep those new-to-the-outdoors engaged and, more importantly, continue to bring in diverse communities.
ORIGIN: Do you see your brand as a force for good? If so, can you tell us about why and how that will continue in the new year, and how you intend to communicate it?
CB: The North Face’s commitments around making the best product on earth, while keeping Mother Nature, our communities, and our future always in focus, has led us making choices in the past years and will keep being our compass in the future. Whether it’s the expansion of our circularity program, RENEWED, or partnering with our suppliers to constantly reduce emissions around production and packaging, as well as our commitment to improving sustainable materialization ( 100% of our top materials - polyester, cotton and nylon - are expected to be recycled, responsibly-sourced renewable or regeneratively grown by 2025), tons of efforts are deployed for our brand to consistently improve.
Lastly, since 2010, driven by the belief that everyone deserves the right to explore, The North Face implemented its Explore Fund and evolved an approach to impact with a focus on cultural relevance and collaborative grant making as a way to further support equity in the outdoors, something we are extremely proud of.
SK: Inherently, I feel that Smith is a force for good simply by nature of the products we create. We design premium eyewear and helmets to offer consumers best-in-class protection and inspire the confidence to get people outside doing what they love. On a deeper level, the team at Smith cares greatly about community – both the people and the land - and has taken huge strides over the last few years to develop our new sustainable packaging initiative. As we move toward zero plastic waste in our packaging, we’re also exploring other ways to infuse sustainability into the line on a larger scale. In regards to how we communicate, it’s a fine line between saying you’re making a difference versus showing that you’re enacting change. While we hope to better communicate some of our efforts, we want to lead by example more than anything and embody what we hope others will naturally see and feel when they look at the brand. Whether it’s through our athlete roster, our imagery at retail, the stories we tell on our website, or our long-standing non-profit partners like High Fives Foundation, we hope consumers will feel this organically and resonate deeper with our brand.
JK: One of our core values at HydraPak is to strive to be EcoConscious. Essentially protecting, preserving, and providing access to the communities where we work and play. We also look for ways to reduce our environmental impact on the earth and its resources. That said, we're ALWAYS looking for ways to reduce our packaging footprint - with an increased ecomm business, that is hard. Amazon has goofy requirements that don't make being "green" very affordable, but we work on it... regularly. Honestly, we need to be better about communicating this with customers and industry.