13 / 05 / 2015

The Great Outdoors


Simon Allman




A lot of people in Britain think that this nation isn’t blessed with the weather and with only 70 days of sunshine a year they may have a good point. We love complaining about it and we are well know for doing so too. I sometimes find myself moaning about it, especially when I’ve come back from mountain biking and have to start the big clean-up operation on both myself and the bike. I even think the weather should be included in the national curriculum as a separate subject so the next generation can understand it more.

The thing is, we are actually blessed with the climate in this country. That is how we have ended up with this green and pleasant land: from the highlands of Scotland to the valleys of Wales; and the peaks of the Lake District to the nation’s rugged coastlines. We also have a pretty good mix of weather conditions with snow, rain and sunshine all on our doorstep. If we are really honest with ourselves, the climate isn’t nearly as severe or extreme as some countries around the world.

Obviously, these diverse weather conditions open up a good marketplace for brands who specialise in the great outdoors sector. Yes it may be a competitive market but this country offers enough weather change for different product options and, in terms of crossover, a lot of outdoor sports brands are now quite fashionable to wear even when not keeping active. How many TV presenters have you seen wearing a North Face jacket on location?

Now the competition is even tougher with outdoor megastores like Decathlon and Go Outdoors appearing everywhere and selling their own branded products. These companies have good high street presence while the traditional outdoor brands have always been sold through third party retailers and online. Traditional brands are going to have to up their game in order to compete rather than just relying on past reputation.

I would like to make a point at this stage by clearing up a common misconception about what a brand is to a consumer. A brand is NOT a logo or an identity and a brand is not a product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation. A brand is the personality, driven by characteristics, while the logo and identity are the face of a brand and help communicate that personality to the audience.

Back in 2013 I saw the launch of the new brand identity of Regatta, a well known family business founded in 1981 and now one of the UK’s best selling outdoor brands. Regatta is a good example of a brand with personality which lacked a cohesive brand face or system with its old identity. Now, with clear guidelines and visual direction, the brand can be communicated better to the consumer. The good stuff they have been doing for years is now more visible and just as recognisable as North Face. The identity in itself is a great idea, using the ‘R’ to represent the landscape the brand represents. They have also maintained the ‘Great Outdoors’ strap line which communicates what the brand is all about. A good one to own in a crowded sector and a job well done.

In my early years as a creative I often thought that most outdoors brands were quite dull, relying too much on traditional values, but I think this sector has really turned a corner. More and more consumers are buying into the great outdoors and, funnily enough, technology has played a big part in the change. Geolocation apps like Strava are making people want to get outside more to beat their running or cycling times and share stories with their friends. Many take to social media to tell others about their great hillclimbing walks or about competing in iron man competitions. This to me is a brilliant thing - not only for outdoor brands – because the more regularly that products are used, the more they will get worn out and need to be replaced while it also encourages followers to do the same meaning an increased opportunity for products to be sold.

It’s a win-win situation for everyone but only if your brand is strong enough to compete. The quality brands need to get onboard with this revolution before it is too late, and before they get pushed out of the sector by economy branded products. Take your cue from Regatta and give your brand the strength or change of direction it needs in this changing landscape.