Hunting and Outdoor Industry: What the Future Holds

The hunting and outdoor industries are seemingly atypical when it comes to business and the marketing strategies that are implemented by them. These industries have recently seen a monumental shift towards influencer marketing from the pop up of social medial platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and alike sources. Companies in this industry, such as Sitka, create some of the most brilliant and resonating content that I have personally seen throughout any industry. I wholeheartedly believe that marketing for such companies could be THE most intriguing and enlightening work out there. To succeed as a marketer in the industry, you must legitimately portray the brand in a manner that depicts it as a way of life, and deliver it to the consumer in a way that has them truly wanting that lifestyle.

In addition to creating content themselves, companies are now able to take advantage of these sharing platforms and reap the rewards in the form of product placement sponsorships as well as free influencer marketing.

Instagram, Facebook, and other platforms have made it fundamentally easier to share content and develop a following. These sites are the foundations for which influencers begin, and anyone that can consistently create good content now has an opportunity to grow and expand their following based entirely off of how good their content is, and how much of it they can produce. The enabler for this is the rapidly evolving technology, which makes content creation exponentially easier. Content has worked its ways through different realms. From extremely low resolution photography, all the way through the ranks to high resolution videos capable of frame captures, now into drones capturing footage and angles to create content that has never before been possible.

My personal favorite- Sitka.

Sitka is one of the most incredibly positioned brands that I have ever seen (in all of my 21 years). It is *almost* every avid hunter’s go to brand when thinking of quality gear. Why? Because they have positioned their brand in a way that encompasses the way of life that every hunter not only wished they could live, but should live. The rugged outdoorsman. The backcountry warrior. The race to first light. The weekend getaway. And the office in the woods. Fit for every climate, and any environment. From Decembers high mountain cold front, to the summer heat wave in the badlands. Not an article of clothing, but a barrier between the individual and the ever changing- unforeseen conditions, that protects and enables them to push through any type of terrain, weather, and circumstance.

Because of the complete and udder craze over the brand, social media has been going absolutely crazy. Instagram has over 135,000 #sickforit hashtags. The most recent photo contest Sitka held, #DIVERGE5 had almost 13,000 entries within just a few months. These kinds of contests attract some of the most prolific outdoor photography profiles that social media has to offer. All of these hashtags serve as marketing and brand awareness for Sitka while uniting a community of brand fanatics. Although, some of these major influencers are sponsored (typically the ones that are continuously producing the best content, with a large fan base), most individuals involve themselves because it associates them with the lifestyle of the hunting elitist that comes with owning Sitka gear. The impression of overall hunting superiority.

The hunting and outdoors industry has many companies within the field that fall under those same kind of guidelines. A few companies and brands that have created a major buzz on social media are KUIU, Vortex Optics, Yeti, and some Missoula local favorites Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mystery Ranch, OnXMaps, and Montana Wild.

*The book “The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future”, by Kevin Kelly, discusses how we have inevitably propelled ourselves into an age of technological advancement and how these advancements will change the ways in which we work, learn, and communicate. The key influencing force that has already dug its roots into marketing in the outdoor and hunting industries is the ideology of sharing, and everything that it incorporates. It incorporates platforms- social media as well as file sharing, decentralized collaboration, collaborative filters, and connectivity.

When individuals produce superior content, their following perpetually grows and they develop a major presence on that media platform. With a major presence, comes credibility throughout the industry that they are displaying their content in. These types of presences are the ones that attract the hunting and outdoor companies and serve as the ideal influencer for their brand. A few of my favorite individual accounts that I follow on Instagram that have created a major presence for themselves, specifically grabbing the attention of Sitka, are @Bradschristian, @jordangillphotography, @stevendrakephoto, and @jerrin_uecker. Although there are thousands of accounts on Instagram, these individuals have specifically caught my eye and risen to serve as some of the top content creators that have aligned themselves with the outdoors and hunting way of life. Their posts hit home with hunting lovers on a rudimentary level, and create and emotional appeal. Followers and industry lovers can see themselves living the kinds of lives that are portrayed through their content, and that is why they have created such a large presence and influence; because they appeal to the people.

Montana Wild, a local company that started as simply content creation by two brothers has grown into an industry leader, creating some of the most recognized films on the scene today. They had utilized the sharing marketplaces to get their content in front of businesses and viewers and have progressed into a well-known brand. Montana Wild now sells their own products, including shirts, hats, hoodies, stickers, knives, and more.

This all began because of the possibilities of sharing, as these social platforms have enabled individuals to present themselves as top influencers within an industry as they create content that people view as the best.

Let’s now back away from the hunting industry for a moment, and put a little different spin on things. Everyone now has the access and opportunity to develop their own personal brand through their own social platforms. Yes, it is now easier than ever before to create content and share it with the world. Yes, content is naturally being created at higher quality than ever before. And although this is enabling people to develop themselves as influencers within an industry, it is also creating an overload of competition within content creation because EVERYONE is striving for the same thing. In order for an individual to succeed in this new era of branding, they must create content that way better than the rest, as well as providing a unique experience that speaks to the viewer’s live values and life experiences.

The previously mentioned trends of influencer marketing and the social media presence that brands hold is described by the sharing force, as the social media platform enables individuals to share their content, and the followers to act as collaborative filters, in a sense voting on the best content provided and by giving top notch content more likes and shares than that of the mediocre posts. This naturally promotes the best content throughout the site at that moment, therefore the audience decides what content belongs at the top. These trends are already rerouting the way that marketing is taking place, and directly correlate with the outdoor and hunting industries by enabling top content creators to be noticed because they produce things that are far better than that of the general population, as well the free marketing that is being provided to the brands with social media craze… And there is only more to come.

Drone video of Kootenai Falls

Along with the ideology of sharing comes the betterment of technology, and how innovations have continuously been produced due to the collaboration of great minds to develop the work together to develop such innovations. One of these technological phenomenon’s is drone technology, and the possibility of recording quality video from an unmanned aircraft that is operated by someone on the ground. Drones are now becoming a common device everywhere in the marketplace. They range from devices that are as small as a phone just meant to take selfies, to large extremely advanced devices that deliver HD/4K video and gps coordinate tracking. With drone technology there is a major opportunity being overlooked in terms of business. Businesses now have the ability to capture and deliver completely new and unfamiliar content to their consumers, giving them a competitive advantage over the laggards, or those who wait to seize the opportunity until everyone else has already proved that it works.

One of the largest fields that drones could impact is the hunting and outdoor industry. The CEO and owner of Outdoor Edge stated “As the business owner of Outdoor Edge for 25 years I agree 100% when they say, ‘It’s all about the marketing’ ”. Whether the drone is being used to film video for an advertising campaign, capture a hunt, shoot pictures of the brand being used in the field, take pictures for their social platforms, or whatever else the creative mind can come up with, there can be a huge competitive advantage because of the versatility and low costs of drone usage.

Within these industries, there are many different companies and specifications that each focus on. However; one of the key marketing focuses industry wide is on the content, and having that content relating the brand to a way of life that the consumers resonate with, and deliver an emotional appeal. Consumers of hunting and outdoor products, just like any other, typically have many different options on what brand they commonly use and purchase. What initially makes the customer purchase a certain item is how they view, perceive, and relate with that brand. If the customer sees the brand as something that parallels their kind of lifestyle they are much more inclined to purchase and become an actual fan. Therefore, creating content that depicts the brand as a lifestyle is absolutely essential.

There are so many different lifestyles that brands appeal to within these industries, it can be hard to specify and deliver content to just one particular target market and demographic. Many times the target market that you are not intentionally trying to appeal to is ultimately the market that buys your product.

Drones are capable of creating incredible visual content that is simply unattainable by humans. They can capture shots from an aerial view, keep up with fast moving objects, enter terrain that people cannot get to on foot, and from angles that are limitless. As Garrison Everest, a marketing firm that specializes in the outdoor, hunting, and firearm fields, states “the perspectives are limited only by your imagination (and the skills of your camera crew)”. This is revolutionizing the content that is being produced, and it is only going to continue getting better as technology progresses.

Imagine an advertisement for Rocky Maintain Elk Foundation and Backcountry Hunters and Anglers. The advertisement is for the #KeepItPublic initiative, to secure our public lands. The initial scene is a stunning aerial view of a mountain range in the Bitterroot National Forest. It then moves closer and closer, zooming in on one specific snow covered face on a mountain top. As it continues advancing, a heard of elk appears. They’re running single file through a ravine, that opens back up to another open snow covered meadow, the whole time being followed from an aerial view. The video then comes to a standstill on a close up of a bull stopped on the open face, looking directly at the camera with steam rolling out of its nostrils. The camera then remains steady, at a close range, still recording, as the words pop on the screen. Keep Montana Wild. #KeepItPublic. This Kind of ad and videography would also be possible by helicopter, but with a MUCH higher expense. To reserve the helicopter alone is a large expense, and to continuously reschedule due to weather conditions, elk movement, or any other kind of extraneous variable would just add to it. Not to mention that if it were to happen just as planned, the elk would be spooked/ afraid of a helicopter following them and trying to fly in rather than some small bird looking silent drone. Using a drone for this kind of content creation is much more simplistic than anything that could have previously been captured.

For a brand like Sitka Gear, drones could be used to capture aerial views, and other intriguing shots of the products being used live in the field. Whether it is flying over a river that the athletes are hiking near, recording every step, or capturing the scenic landscape that they are about to enter and hunt, it could produce a very intense and depicting piece of content that exemplifies what the gear is made for and can withstand. A time lapse would be a very interesting way to present this. Sitka produces tons of content that exemplifies it as a lifestyle for the experienced hunters. Whether it is high mountain elk hunting amidst a blizzard, or in the marshes for waterfowl, drones could only add to the content. To go along with recording gear at use in the field, Drones could be very useful when recording hunts. Rather than increasing personnel in the field, at the same time increasing noise, and scent, while the camera man still struggles to get the right angle and positioning to record, a drone could follow closely and record everything. The operator could follow a couple hundred yards behind, eliminating compounding noise and scent within the general vicinity, while recording the shot he wants from any angle.

There are very specific restrictions in drone use. When it comes to hunting, the regulations vary from state to state on exactly how they can be used, and will more than likely dilute the possibilities of usage and the capabilities of creating content. There are very specific restrictions on scouting laws, however, if the drones are not used in scouting or in any way an advantage to the hunter, and only as a source for video recording, it could possibly be thought of as simply means of video and business production. In order to record such things for a purpose of business one must first acquire a commercial videography license. Other FAA implications for business include: The operator must have a remote pilor Airman Certificate, be 16 years old, and pass TSA vetting. If the drone is over .55 lbs it must be registered. It must fly under 400 feet, under 100 MPH, during the day, without flying over people or out of a moving vehicle, and adhere to Title 14.

The outdoor and hunting industry can greatly benefit from implementing drones as a means of content production. From the insane angles, the incredible shots, the scenic landscapes, and the low price, it serves as an opportunity to create better content at fractions of the price. To implement this kind of content creation will show the consumers that the brand is on the cutting edge with technology, and excite them about what is yet to come. This kind of excitement, along with lifestyle depiction of the brand, will in turn increase site visits as well as purchases.

These advancements in technology are going to revolutionize the hunting industry and the way marketing will be done in ways never though imaginable. Because the content is increasing in quality and becoming stronger it is going to appeal to a much larger audience, spreading awareness to demographics that had never before know about all the industry has to offer. Content will improve exponentially. Social platforms will continue to filter the best content and present it in front of viewers that are interested. These viewers are going to see brands placed within the content of influencers, and recognize it more, and the entire industry as a whole will gain traction with demographics that it never expected to.

Shelton Todd