In this blog, Brandwave Founder & CEO, Daniel Macaulay gives his take on the latest brand strategy trend.
As a lifelong student of marketing, psychology, and consumer behaviour, I can’t help but keep an eye out for new market trends, developments, and deviations from the norm.
Hindsight is 20/20 and retrospect, the key developmental changes, and benchmarks in the evolution of the outdoor market are clearly defined.
In my experience, it’s always a little more difficult to spot changes in dynamics and mechanics as they are happening and more importantly, accurately predict what will come next…
Right now, in terms of marketing, across the board, sports brands are all doubling down on sustainability and purpose driven messaging. With both the media and consumers being largely receptive to this, these narratives (authentic or otherwise) have gobbled up much of the industry conversation and limelight.
There is however, another fast-developing trend in the broader sports market that is receiving far less attention than it should… If outdoor brands haven’t jumped on the band wagon yet, they are certainly considering it. This trend is not new. What is new is the intensity with which it is happening.
‘This trend is not new. What is new is the intensity with which it is happening’.
The trend that is currently quietly spreading from one outdoor brand to the next is that old chestnut of line extension and market diversification. At OutDoor by ISPO show in Munich this year, you could have easily been forgiven for thinking you had arrived at the wrong show. The halls were all lined with gravel bikes, SUPs, activewear etc, etc… Don’t get me wrong, this was (and is) a good thing.
The message was clear, brands that had traditionally been focused on the outdoor and/ or climbing market are now reaching farther afield. Rather than angling for a larger slice of the outdoor cake, a market that is becoming ever more over saturated and undifferentiated, they are now looking at new fast-growing complementary markets.
The Pastures New
So, what are these complementary markets and just how complementary are they? Well, bike is definitely one towards the top of the list. Not a silky Lycra step too far into the road bike market nor muddy berm too many towards the mountain bike market.
Many outdoor brands are now re-focusing much of their efforts on the gravel bike market. Bike-packing is a thing now and its high level of accessibility and relatively low skill requirements makes it far more achievable than conquering an Alpine mountain peak.
Many attribute the swift emergence of this new ‘adventure market’ to the multiple lockdowns over the COVID pandemic, the trend away from international travel, with consumers needing to seek out local micro-adventures closer to home. Similarly, many outdoor brands are refocusing their efforts on the fast-growth athleisure/ fit-wear market; a market that has already been heavily eroded by fast fashion.
One of the biggest risks is permissibility or more accurately, lack of it. How efficiently and effectively an outdoor brand can move into a complementary market depends a lot on the brand and the respective market.
In the case of bike, your typical target audience are somewhat aficionados, often well educated, and always defensive of their space. They can sniff out disingenuity a mile down the trail and are typically sceptical of brands who are flash in the pan, looking to make a quick buck.
Brands entering complementary markets need to demonstrate their intent by supporting the market and/or showing they are genuinely receptive to listen and take note of shifting consumer requirements.
It’s easy to dilute your brand with line-extensions and even harder to strengthen your position in current and new markets synchronously.
When you spread your eggs across multiple baskets, there is of course, the potential for financial reward as well as mitigating business risk in VUCA times.
In short, If you’re able to effectively and correctly position your brand credibly across new complimentary markets, designing durable products that help consumers get outdoors in multiple ways for example, a shell jacket that is equally at home on two wheels as it is on two feet trail running, this can strengthen the equity of your brand when viewed through a conscious consumerism lens.