How Yeti became the Nike of adventurers and outdoorsmen.

Nouman A.
7 min readDec 21, 2020
Photo by Jordan Nix on Unsplash

Yeti is a success. Celebrities like Matt Damon use their products, podcasters like Joe Rogan talk about it and adventurers like Cole Kramer, live it. Yeti’s Instagram page is followed by more than 1.5 million badass adventurers and moms. As of 2019 alone, yeti made a fortune of 913.7 million dollars.

From hardcore adventurers to pretty single moms to billion-dollar valuations- they have it all.

Let’s slow down a bit and flashback to 2006 when yeti was yet to be born. It’s about-to-be parents Roy and Ryan — blood brothers who loved to go fishing, hunting, and be out in the wilderness.

The only problem they (and every other adventurer) faced on these trips was that the water cooler they used would not last and gave up.

Frustrated, they decided to give birth to their own, 10x better water coolers. They built these grizzly-proof waters coolers for hardcore adventurers and hunting enthusiasts like themselves — for the wild, and named the company after a mythical, Himalayan creature, Yeti.

Fast forward to 2014, Hunting enthusiast and podcaster, Joe Rogan praised Yeti like this:

“You can put ice in these coolers and go to the desert, and 5 days later, you still have ice in them”.

Joe Rogan praised the quality of yeti coolers but I’d argue that it is not the product quality that made yeti sell like hell. No seriously, Yeti does not make the best coolers in the world, their products are heavy and pricy yet that did not stop people to make it a billion-dollar company.

So how did yeti go from good to great while there were so many other older and better companies in the market?

Something else is at play here.

In the world of marketing, the best products do not always win. For instance, when iPod first came out in 2001, it wasn’t the first nor the best mp3 player out there. However, it quickly dominated the market and became a global sensation.

Bombas does not make the best socks in the world but it still sold more socks than its competition with one simple marketing strategy. Similarly, Casper does not make the most comfortable mattress there is, yet more and more people sleep on it, making it millions.

So, what exactly is at play here?

Rock-solid branding. Monica, a Yeti fan explained it like this.

“ I keep my yeti bottle on my work desk. This reminds me that just sitting on an office desk and working is not my life, being outdoors and having fun is her life “

Just like iPod, Bombas, and Casper, YETI did not market the features of its product as much as they worked on the feeling it made their customers feel.

The human desire to seek adventure is already there, Yeti successfully associates it with the desire to create strong emotional connections with the customers.

For instance, Yeti fulfills Monica’s desire to be outdoors and spend quality time with nature and her family.

When a company helps customers fulfil their unspoken desires, the customers go from satisfied to emotionally connected. Emotionally connected customers are 52% more valuable than satisfied ones. Moreover, they care less about the price, buy more often and tell everyone about you.

Harvard Business Review.

Monica further explained, “ It not only reminds me that who I am but it tells other people as well that who I am”

Perceptions. Owning a yeti perceives her as an adventurer just like owning an apple perceives you as, different. Yes, Yeti is overpriced, it's heavy and the ice-retention isn’t the best in the world and it’s the same with iPhone. However, all these rationalities go away when a brand makes you feel what you want to feel.

All that exists in the world of marketing are perceptions in the mind of customer or prospect. The perception is the reality, everything else is an illusion”.

Al Ries and Jack Trout in 22 immutable laws of marketing

Let that sink in.

Bat shit crazy ads:

The author of the best-selling book, how to make ideas stick, Jonah Berger, blew my mind last week. I was taking his lecture on how to make your ideas stick, which by the way, I highly recommend every marketer should enroll in.

Jonah Berger is typing now.

When people close their eyes, will they be able to imagine, see a picture of what you’re saying?

Boeri makes ski helmets, they wanted to prove to people that their helmets are real good and safe. So instead of chest-pumping about the features of their product, they showed this ad.

screenshot

It’s a chicken on a conveyor belt. As you can see, about 6 chickens passed through the chicken processing plant and turned into chicken parts. However, there is this one chicken standing all perfect and pretty with a Boeri Helmet on.

It’s jaw-dropping, I mean look at that poor woman. So what does all this shows about the Boeri Helmets?

That a Boeri helmet is powerful, safe, and unlikely to break in case you crash. The chicken didn’t die so you know.

Advertisers and marketers at Yeti were well aware of this show, don’t tell principle. They wanted to show how unbreakable their coolers are. So they went crazy with it.

No literally, from grizzly attacking the coolers to setting ‘em on fire and even throwing them out of the planes.

I think there is no need to elaborate it further, you’re pretty smart yourself. However, for your inspiration(we all need it), here is how big companies “show, don’t tell” :

iPod:

1000 songs in your pocket.

David Ogilvy for Rolls Royce:

At 60 miles per hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock

Lion Matches Vintage Ad:

I light cigarettes, cigars, pipes, candles, lamps, fires, stoves, fridges, geysers, Christmas puddings and distress flares and I cost three hundredths of a cent. It’s easy to see im not in it for money

Customer Stories

Photo by Felipe Giacometti on Unsplash

Tell customer stories to humanize your brand. For instance, in their recent ad, Yeti shares a snowboarding champion’s story.

So this girl is confident in snowboarding but sailing on one-foot waves intimidates her even more and humbles her. We have the same story, we are comfortable in our day-to-day lives but the idea of taking a trip to the mountains or even taking a different route back home intimidates us a little- that idea is more like a one-foot wave for us.

In that ad, YETI product was not highlighted at all, yet just wanted it to be part of the toolkit these adventurers use. In fact, YETI made us feel something, that sometimes, we should pursue our one-foot waves and do things that we are not comfortable with.

If that isn’t the most beautiful branding ever, I don’t know what is.

Brand ambassadors.

Screenshot. Yeti’s Instagram

A lot of companies, do not put much thought into it while searching for influencers or brand ambassadors. The maximum attention is given to how many followers an influencer has.

However, yeti specifically found influencers whose passions were in line with what yeti stands for — made for the wild. The influencers include fishermen, hunters, and adventurers who further solidified the branding of Yeti.

Lessons learned from Yeti.

1. Sell one thing first and then sell whatever the hell you want.

Co-founder of Paypal, Peter Thiel, in his book, Zero to One explains that amazon first dominated the book industry and dominated it well. Afterward, it sold every damn thing.

Similarly, Yeti first made some good water coolers first. Hell, they did it from 2006 to 2014. 8 Years of selling just one product. Once they sold a boatload of them they started selling, bags, drinkware, hats, and you name it.

2. Do it for one audience.

Make a product for just one specific audience. For instance, yeti made it for the wild, for hunters and adventure enthusiasts.

Moreover, Yeti made such enthusiasts the hero of their story. Gradually, the idea was adopted by city moms. Monica further said,

“ Having a yeti and being outdoors and taking that photo for social media gives you the illusion that you are somehow (laughs) athletic or at the same level as these expert fishermen and hunters”

3. Do your influencer marketing right.

Your brand ambassadors should further solidify your branding. When choosing an influencer, ask yourself that does this person’s story blends with the story of your brand?

Let’s say you made a brand for the hustlers. Your brand ambassadors or influencers should be someone who hustled his way to a million dollars or a 40-year-old mom-of-two running a successful business. Find people who have a story that resonates with your brand.

It’s funny how small problems turn out to be the best things that ever happened. Just like Roy and Ryan, tons of people out there faced similar small issues, found a solution, and decided to sell it. Well, there is no short of little problems, I’ll tell you that. So, think of what is one small problem that you can fix and sell the solution. Keep this idea in your head and keep feeding it. You never know, when the light bulb will go off.

That’s all the juice I had for now. For more OG marketing strategies that made brands millions, seek and ye shall find.

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Nouman A.

I write about the marketing strategies that made brands millions