Catching the Eye of the Active, Outdoor Customer

Nicole Spears, Social Media Strategist

Mindstream Interactive strategists and account managers attended the Summer season Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City, Utah. Along with conducting on-site consumer research, our team sought out a holistic view on marketing within the outdoor industry.

Trade show floors can be a wilderness all their own. Throw in several climbing walls, trendy Airstream RVs and booths built to look like log cabins, and you find yourself at the Outdoor Retailer Show.

The event - historically held twice a year, with a focus on warm- or cold-weather outdoor activities - has been held in jaw-dropping Salt Lake City, Utah for two decades. Even the most seasoned athletes are likely to discover a new product or exciting gear upgrade if given an hour to peruse the hundreds of displays. This is where retail buyers set trends and select SKUs for the seasons ahead, and where manufacturers, marketers, extreme enthusiasts and (perhaps more recently) micro-influencers, gather.

Grabbing eyes and earning attention on the trade show floor proves more challenging each year. Digital tactics help build anticipation before the show, and also keep leads engaged after the show. Social and owned digital channels that tell a story consistent with the brands’ trade show presence create a cohesive narrative that keep participants involved - whether this means ads targeting event participants, building on blog or email subscribers, hosting Live video events or more. While these integrated approaches are impactful, they can’t take the place of the unique and authentic effort many brands put into their face-to-face offerings at Outdoor Retailer.

Here are a few of the key brand or product benefits apparent at Outdoor Retailer, and examples of how they were communicated with both authenticity and purpose-driven branding.

Lifestyle-led | There’s no shortage of things to see at Outdoor Retailer, and the discount appeal of “pro deals” can tend to pull attendees toward the brands they’re already most fond of. Appealing to the greater outdoor lifestyle - the narrative surrounding your brand or product - draws more eyes and interest. A good portion of the photos shared on the #ORShow hashtag on Instagram aren’t sharing moments from within the convention center. Instead, attendees show off the amazing natural experiences that Salt Lake City’s surrounding areas have to offer as well. Brands can jump in by offering relevant samples (canteens, galore!) or even hosting expeditions.

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The Leatherman display took a color story, lifestyle-led approach. Post via @nicoleespears on Instagram

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Cozy RV and Airstream booths catered to the nomads in attendance. Post via @megansharrod on Instagram

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Brands collaborated on several outdoor events, such as this climbing challenge by Psicobloc. Post via @themistylister on Instagram

Sustainable products | Outdoor Retailer represents a massive gathering of environmentally-conscious consumers. Brands within the outdoor gear industry have led the pack for marketing activism in 2017 - with Patagonia and REI being top of mind for many. The technology and composition of sustainable products is put on display with unique graphics, such as the presentation of The North Face’s “Bottle Source Collection” or Marmot’s “From Ground to Good.” The popular approach that both of these examples hit on was an illustrated display of the ingredients’ journey from post-consumer recycled materials to products. Of course, not every brand at Outdoor Retailer is well-positioned to take a controversial stance. This year, the air of activism was largely driven by attendees, with much of the social and in-person chatter revolving around protection of national lands and monuments.

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Attendees walk the walk by taking advantage of local sustainable transportation. Post via @mcflandreau on Instagram

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The Vasque display invited participants to wax poetic on OR’s last Salt Lake City show. Post via @utahoutside on Instagram

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A march on the city’s capital coincided with the OR show, allowing participants to support the conservation of public lands and national monuments. Post via @blendedtable on Instagram

Inclusivity | The outdoors belong to everyone. While there are plenty of extreme athletes (and the gear to meet their needs) in attendance, brand displays at Outdoor Retailer also cater to beginners, kids and even pets. There’s awesome diversity in attendance, and for the most part, it’s paralleled with brand inclusivity. Four-legged friends, little ones and novice expeditioners mingle and shop alongside dedicated “dirtbags.” Catering to everyone helps brands make the most of their time at Outdoor Retailer.

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Several “Registered Dogs” wandered the show floor, with booths offering pet-specific gear, treats and water bowls. Post via @Izzythemountaindog on Instagram

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The show is a kid-friendly event, with several families attending and taking part in local outdoor activities. Post via @misadventuresmg on Instagram

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Influencers and extreme athletes attend alongside beginners, photographers, artists and more. Post via @ianatkinsond on Instagram

Digital and social media marketing are changing the way brands prepare to hit the trade show floor. However, this expanded approach makes it even more important to remember what’s remarkable within each industry’s niche. Building upon that approach for the outdoor customer means considering how your brand story can speak to sustainability, inclusivity and the modern explorer’s overall lifestyle.




Nicole Spears

Nicole Spears Social Media Strategist