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YETI: Built for the Outdoors. By Outdoorsmen.
The YETI story starts where most cult brand stories begin.

A customer frustrated with an unmet need, vows there must be a better way. The YETI story starts where most cult brand stories begin.

For Roy and Ryan Seiders, they needed a cooler that could keep up with their active outdoor lifestyle. The coolers they lugged around didn’t keep fish cold, didn’t keep beer cold, and weren’t built to be a seat around the campfire. In 2006, annoyed and frustrated, the Seiders brothers constructed a cooler they would use every day.

The brothers learned right away: they weren’t the only ones looking for a better cooler, and they weren’t the only ones willing to pay more for it. The Tundra 65 retails for $350, compared to a Coleman cooler of similar size retailing for $50 or a semi-disposable Styrofoam cooler that will set you back $15. And yet despite the price their sales growth has been amazing, and Wall Street recently rewarded them for raised guidance.

If you’re going to drop a new product into an established category and charge five to 10 times the price – that product better be truly remarkable. And customers quickly told YETI they were.

YETI coolers are vastly superior to those in the market and have, in fact, increased the category’s price point with many YETI-like new entries. YETI has done what they can to preserve their remarkable product superiority (via patent-protecting lawsuits) but, by establishing themselves as a true cult brand, may have already won the race.

Product superiority aside, YETI has evolved into a successful lifestyle brand. In addition to coolers and tumblers, Dick’s Sporting Goods now carries a YETI t-shirt in eleven colors. What’s more, YETI has developed their own flagship stores. A true customer experience, the stores come complete with a bar, a stage for live music, a fish tank full of tarpon and an eight-foot stuffed brown bear shot by a YETI employee.

They achieve cult-like engagement through their YETI Tundra Tour, a series of events designed exclusively for the YETI enthusiast. These loyal brand advocates come together to have fun, celebrate the brand and enjoy YETI products.

Even athletes are helping to solidify YETI’s place amongst cult-like lifestyle brands. For Christmas, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz gifted his entire offensive line with YETI coolers. Often, NFL QBs are known for gifting their o-line with high-end watches, suits, gaming system and other status items as gifts for the protection provided during games. The fact that YETI is considered among other status brands and products is a great example of how far they’ve come in 12 years.

To truly understand the vision of the YETI brand as the Seiders brothers envisioned it, this YETI video about another set of brothers – the Malloys – tells a great story.

As this video (which has 740,000+ views and counting) illustrates, the YETI brand is about enabling a sense of adventure, exploration and connecting to the outdoors. YETI’s “My Old Man” video series shines a light on the bond between father and son, and what it means to hand down the knowledge and passion of outdoor adventure from one generation to the next.

As inspirational as their YouTube videos are, the team at YETI don’t take themselves too seriously. This April Fools video featuring retired NFL wide receiver Jordan Shipley has a good laugh at his post-football passion project – milking wild elk. Although April Fools stunts by brands can sometimes be seen as groan worthy, navel gazing or worse, “MELK” seems perfect for the YETI core customer and a great way to have fun with the brand.

YETI continues to excel at connecting their products to the once-unmet need that drove their creation – the need to have products that keep up with the wanderlust and engagement with the outdoors that drives people like the Seiders.

The great news is, there’s still time to register to join us at The Gathering, an annual coming together of the world’s best brands, slated to take place in Banff, Alberta, Feb. 20-22. There, you’ll learn from Cult Brand Honourees – like YETI – and get a behind the scenes look at how they built and remain a cult brand. Join the world’s most coveted brands and leaders and learn from trailblazers who are reaping the rewards of brand loyalty.

 

Further Reading
Why We Exist
The North Face: Weathering the Competitive Storm for Over 50 Years
M&M’s: Heat Wave, K-Rations and Van Halen.
 
FIX: Break the addictions that are killing brands
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