New Normal Consulting | Duluth Trading Keeps It Simple
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Duluth Trading Keeps It Simple

Duluth Trading Keeps It Simple

Throughout my years in the outdoor industry, whether in retail, brand management, e-commerce or editing product descriptions for advertisements, catalogs or websites, I have repeatedly seen myself and my colleagues twist ourselves into elaborate Gordian knots trying to explain technical features and their resulting benefits to consumers in compelling ways. We impress ourselves but often leave our customers asking, “So just how small are those teeny tiny holes, really?”, or, “You mean this fabric is actually ‘smart’ ?“. or, “So the lens in the eyepiece ‘reads’ my eyeball and makes micro adjustments to the focus of the binocular?”

Three and four decades ago, this was fun and our customers were impressed. We were all gear geeks and tech-heads. It was new to all of us, and there was a bit of one-upmanship involved. Who could “out-tech” the other? It seemed that the more technical and complicated we could make the description of a feature or a material, the more highly regarded we would be. We could put up a “moat” of tech-speak to bolster our credibility and differentiate ourselves from mass retail.

And, we consistently fell short of the simplest goal–the benefit to the user.

Fast forward to today, and our consumers don’t care as much as they used to (if at all). We won the “tiny holes that allow vapor to pass but not molecules of water” wars. Despite EN testing, consumers still ask, “Will I be warm if it’s freezing out?” Or “How cold is that in English?” Yet, many of us continue to trot out the lab reports and chemical compositions and thread count values for our products.

Duluth Trading Underwear AdThen along comes Duluth Trading Co. (NASDAQ DLTH), moving from its original focus on tool organizers and carriers for construction workers and other tradespeople into rugged apparel for anyone. They broadened their appeal to include women and weekenders alongside their traditional clientele. They went public late last year and their share price has gone from $13.65 to $21.95 in short order. Duluth sales volume approaches $240 million annually.

In their television campaign, Duluth has quickly cracked the code, eschewing tech-speak for simple, often-times cartoon-based graphic depictions of how their products work better for consumers who merely want to be warm or cool (depending on climate) dry and comfortable. The narrator’s voice is comically basso profondo and the script is funny, brief and to the point.

They got the message to keep it simple.

Hats off to Duluth Trading Co. We can all take a page from their playbook.

Many thanks to John Evans for the one-time use of his copyrighted image. Learn more about the photographers who graciously provide us with images to use on this website by going to Meet Our Photographers

Geoff O'Keeffe

Geoff O’Keeffe is an outdoor industry professional with over thirty years’ experience in every aspect of operations and management. Geoff has served as president of four companies, held executive roles in five others, been part of two start-up teams, and has operated in branded wholesale, brick-and-mortar retail, e-commerce, manufacturing and non-profit environments. Geoff’s unique areas of expertise include general management, strategic planning, project management, merchandising and inventory planning, sourcing, and supply chain. Geoff takes a particularly keen interest in the subtle dynamics of building, training and sustaining the “human engine” of creativity, teamwork and commitment within organizations. Geoff has served five non-profit boards, including ORCA (early Outdoor Industry Association), the Conservation Alliance and Paradox Sports. Geoff was a founding member of the organization that became the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance.

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