In a land of extremes where rain, snow, sun and ice discourage exploration, Portland based company, Columbia Sportswear confronts mother nature’s barriers to entry. Toughness defines the Pacific Northwest, yet it also embodies those who explore the region as an escape from routine. Regardless of the purpose, Pacific Northwesterners want to enjoy their passion without becoming drenched, burnt or covered by it. Luckily, Columbia is tough enough to take on the challenge of providing garments that can withstand all the extremities nature has to offer.
At the heart of this persona is Columbia’s chairman, Gert Boyle. She exemplifies the “tested tough” moniker that drives Columbia’s perseverance in designing garments that keep the elements at bay. Gert became the chairman of the company overnight after the death of her husband. The grit and and courage required to assume control of a growing company lives on in the products Columbia offers. This is exemplified in the OutDry Extreme ECO rain jacket, which was introduced in Columbia’s 2016 product line. The tested tough persona means more than designing garments that repel the elements. Tested tough is an identity that guides Columbia’s product innovation. The OutDry Extreme ECO rain jacket is free of PFCs (perfluorinated compounds) and chemical dyes.
Not a novice to no nonsense advertisements, Columbia Sportswear released the OutDry Extreme ECO jacket. On December 1st of 2016, the “Tested Tough” advertisement was released and the jackets hit the shelves that day. Columbia partnered up with Washington based Grammy award winning rapper and hip-hop artist, Macklemore (Ben Hammond Haggerty), to help raise of their new environmental friendly jackets.
In the video, Macklemore is shown in various places in his home state of Washington. The video starts with a picturesque photo of Macklemore’s home city of Seattle. Throughout the beginning of the video, it shows snapshots of various nature spots in the Pacific Northwest with a backdrop voice stating the beautiful landscapes the PNW has to offer. The video then cuts to video of Macklemore hiking through the woods. He prefaces the jacket by saying that in order to enjoy these destinations, we must be able to protect them by being “more thoughtful of the chemicals used in our clothing”. Macklemore educates the viewers on the dangers of PFCs, otherwise known as the chemicals used to make rain jackets water resistant and little do people know, these very chemicals are the ones polluting our environment. The rapper and hip-hop artists then wastes no time to promote Columbia’s rain jacket made from 100% recyclables and 21 plastic bottles. The rain jacket has uses no PFCs, uses dye-free fabric, and saves thirteen gallons of water in the making. The final scene shows Macklemore floating in the bed of a waterfall using his homemade floatation device made from 21 bottles that seems contrastingly unimpressive.
So… what can companies learn?
- Choose a brand ambassador whose personal image aligns with your brand image
The Macklemore – Columbia pairing is more strategic than it appears at first glance. They both have strong roots in the Pacific Northwest, and often express their fondness of the nature and history of the area. Both are also a little bit quirky and rugged.
- Celebrity endorsements don’t need to feel ingenuine
Columbia allows Macklemore to “do his own thing” while also dropping the perfect amount of promotional hints. Macklemore’s personality shines through, and he acts like a superfan and treehugger more than a celebrity endorsement.
The #TestedTough campaign is also able to bridge the toughness of the Columbia sportwear jacket with the toughness of Macklemore’s past experiences. It’s ironic and raw, and appeals to the brand’s individualistic, hard-working, and adventurous market.
- Scientific jargon doesn’t need to weigh a commercial down
The commercial focuses on the sustainability of the jacket, and discusses the impact of chemicals that are commonly used in apparel manufacturing. Columbia is able to effectively communicate how standard practices harm the environment, and how Columbia differentiates itself by leading with cutting-edge, environmentally-friendly practices. Columbia ditches the scientific jargon and authority figure (no white jacket scientists here). Instead, Macklemore opts for a conversational tone and effectively demonstrates the environmental impact.
(You won’t find this at a thrift shop)