How New School Coolers Embraced Old School Marketing

It’s still, and always has been, about great storytelling, to the right people.

by Maggie Cadigan

“They’re the best coolers on the market, Mag. They can withstand a grizzly attack!”

“Dad…when was the last time you saw a grizzly bear?”

“Yeti’s are just the best.”

My Dad. The smartest, most anti-advertising human in my life. He’s an engineer, with an undisclosed household income and an unmatched love for donuts and fishing on his boat. He was one of the first adopters of TiVo and watches ad-skipping re-runs of Ship Shape TV every day. He is not on social media, communicates with his family via text, and it’s this simplicity about his life that I love the most.

Regardless of how unexposed my Dad is to advertising, he still knows the only thing he wants for Christmas is a Yeti cooler.

How could the man who claims to be Mr. Anti-Ads think Yeti coolers are the best thing since clear fishing line…other than my mother, of course?

And, since when are coolers cool?!

Yeti has achieved cult-brand status, and they did this by doing the thing that many brands often forget: defining a highly-qualified, passionate audience, and putting in a long-term, sustained effort to reach them. Yeti embraced people who fish, hunt and love outdoor adventures — people just like the founders.

Based in Austin, Yeti was created by brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders in 2006, who realized they didn’t have a cooler that could withstand their wilderness adventures. Ten years later (with the Yeti Tundra and Yeti Hopper considered to be some of the most durable coolers around) they have captivated thieves, and my Dad, and are headed towards a $5 billion potential IPO.

How? They have targeted their most passionate audiences through classic marketing tactics, reinterpreted for a modern media culture:

  1. Storytelling: Yeti has made a considerable investment in crafting short films and other content built for digital platforms (check out Engler and Chasing Light). Their films are short on selling and long on telling visually engaging stories — exactly the type of content that outdoors, hunting and fishing fanatics want to watch. Additionally, half of their site is dedicated to true, in-the-thick-of-the-community original content.
  2. Distribution: Yeti has embraced the biggest digital marketing platforms on earth to distribute original content to hundreds of thousands of viewers. This content investment has helped them grow to half a million Facebook likes and 600,000 Instagram followers— significant audiences that can have a real impact on marketing efforts.
  3. Sponsorships: If modern media culture has shown us anything, it’s the power of influencers to reach audiences. Yeti sponsors up-and-coming sport ambassadors like Jako Lucas, as well as athletes and hunting and fishing tournaments including the Alabama Bass Trail, a perfect fit for the audiences Yeti knows is most open to its message.
  4. Tchotchkes: When the first coolers were shipped, each purchase also bought you a Yeti hat, converting new Yeti owners into brand champions within their small community tribes across the country — and on social media.
  5. Media: Yeti leverages select broadcast and print media, but only in niche, community-centric outlets (like Cowboy Country TV), putting their brand and message in front of passionate audiences who are more likely to amplify it online and #IRL.

Why does this matter?

Back in the day, the media mix was a selection of TV, print, out-of-home, radio, and direct mail. While media tactics have changed — and exponentially grown — Yeti has recognized that the principles remain the same: a great story for the right people, just reimagined for modern media. This includes original content distributed on digital platforms to those who choose to watch (in a world where viewers can block, skip, or avoid ads altogether — just like my Dad).

So, how did my Dad find out about Yeti? From that universal, old-and-new-school tactic: word of mouth. A great product will do that. And the passionate fanatic who told him all about Yeti was his buddy in the boat next to him. The advertising reached my Dad after all.

Maggie Cadigan is a Senior Brand Manager at Mistress.