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How YETI Made Coolers Cool

There’s something to be said for the companies that find ways to stand out from their competition. The ability to think outside of the box while understanding the target market is easier said than done. This is especially true when you’re looking to charge a premium for a product that most people don’t traditionally consider to be an investment.  

YETI is a company that understands how to take a pretty boring product, a cooler, and make it a coveted status symbol by using creative marketing to that turned their brand into a global leader.

Play to your strengths

YETI was created by Roy and Ryan Seiders, two brothers who just weren’t happy with cheaply made coolers. They wanted a cooler that was built for a serious outdoors person; something rugged that would keep the contents cold for days and last for years. With nothing available on the market, the Seiders got to work developing the product they had in mind. Years later, the company they founded, YETI, is known worldwide for its built-to-last coolers and outdoor products.

Roy and Ryan Seiders of YETI

Needless to say, YETI takes pride in its product’s durability. However, even one of their smaller coolers costs close to $300. So how did they decide to show off the strength of their product to the masses to prove that it’s worth the investment? By putting it up against a grizzly bear (watch video).

The message here is fairly simple: if a YETI cooler can survive a bear attack, it can (more than likely) survive your camping trip. At the time, coolers were pretty notorious for being a bit on the fragile side. With this ad, YETI made a statement that you weren’t buying a typical cooler when you invested in their product. Of course, this extreme durability is on top of YETI coolers’ ability to keep the items inside at their desired temperature for longer than the competition.

Let your customers do the talking

YETI’s high-end product quickly became more than a cooler. Instead, the brand became a status symbol. YETI created the #BuiltForTheWild hashtag to allow proud YETI customers to post their adventures with their YETI products.

Letting your fans show their followers your products is a great way to spread the word in a cost-efficient way. At the time of publishing this blog post, the #BuiltForTheWild hashtag has generated over 322,000 social media posts from people enjoying their YETI products while camping, hunting, fishing or just enjoying a nice fire in their backyard.

However, YETI’s successful social media hashtag campaign did not start out this way. It has taken years to get to this point. The people at YETI spent a lot of time showing off the brand with captivating pictures of the outdoor-oriented lifestyle to mirror that of their customers. YETI’s understanding of their target market helped them create images where their customers feel seen, driving them to not only purchase their products but to help spread the word about them.

According to YETI’s Head of Content, Scott Ballew, “People, in the long run, want to feel part of a tribe or feel like they’re contributing alongside like-minded people; and that’s how a brand becomes a brand. People put bumper stickers on their cars and wear hats because it starts to stand for something bigger than just a cooler. When there’s a soul or a purpose or some sort of philosophy, people begin to connect with things that give them purpose. So, if you’re a fly fisherman and wear a YETI hat, that means something. I don’t think people are wearing their YETI hats because they’re proud of their ice. I think content like ours gives a brand a soul.”

Establish exclusivity, but stay on brand

Every year, YETI releases new, limited edition colors for some of their products. Why do they limit the colors and number of products that have those colors? Because it increases the likelihood of someone purchasing a YETI product will act now, rather than putting it off. 

If they love the color, then they’ll treat themselves to a new cooler, and heck, maybe a matching mug and tumbler while they’re at it. By limiting the production numbers and creating an air of exclusivity, YETI entices loyal customers who have FOMO to make a purchase. 

However, the process of choosing the season’s shades is much more than just spinning a wheel and going with the color it lands on. Instead, they take inspiration from their brand ambassadors. They find stories from folks who share YETI and fit the YETI ideals, then match the color to the stories these people tell. 

In a blog post from frame.io, Arlo Rosner, Senior Producer at YETI, states, “It’s not just a color that hits a shelf, there’s an inspiration behind why we chose that color.” (Read the full article here.) Rosner creates additional content that stays on brand and uses this color to tell a story, which shows its customers why the color was chosen.

Limited YETI color

Giving the chosen color a backstory allows YETI to display new products while staying on brand with how each item and color on their product line tells a story – much like the storytelling their consumers use on social media. Then, to get the word out about these must-have hues, YETI often uses influencers and videos across their various marketing channels. It’s a full circle.

While exclusivity works, you should remember your branding and be sure what you’re doing fits your company’s mission. Doing so will ensure you aren’t drifting off your path and allow your marketing efforts to pay off in ways YETI has shown us is possible.

Let your product shine

YETI’s brand strategy to focus on showing why their products are worth the investment shows a deep understanding that their target market values rugged, built-to-last products that work. In turn, their customers reward the company by showing off YETI products to their friends. This word-of-mouth marketing helped turn YETI coolers into a status symbol.

Taking the previous ideas into consideration, you can find ways to work these strategies into your brand’s marketing plan. Show your customers why your product is a cut above your competition and give them a chance to show off some fresh content with your brand as a focal point. Whether you use a hashtag campaign (like YETI did) a photo contest or a giveaway, let your users tell their story with your product as a means of increasing brand awareness and integrating your product into your customers’ lives.

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