Less marketing. How does that sound for a New Year’s marketing resolution?
Well, at CamelBak, the California-based global hydration leader, keeping marketing to a minimum is standard operating procedure. As CMO Chris Strain says, “I don’t think consumers want more marketing.” The deluge of marketing messages coursing through multiple channels has become “white noise” to consumers, he says. So, Strain and his team sidestep this flood by connecting with consumers in a way that’s relevant to them.
In some cases, connecting with consumers means inviting mountain bikers, rock climbers, runners, and hikers into the office for some lunch and new products in exchange for sharing their time and insights. In (many) other cases, it means giving customers new hydration packs, water bottles, filtration pitchers, and other products so they can use them and spread the word.
“The more I tell people about how great CamelBak is, the less they’re going to believe it,” Strain notes. “I’m paid to tell them that.” But the more a brand advocate talks about what the company is doing (e.g., “Hey, CamelBak is about to come out with a dog bowl mountain bikers can use when they’re riding with their pups!”), the more the brand grows. “That word of mouth is invaluable,” Strain says.
Brand advocates don’t have to be customers, either. In 2010 Austin native Strain attended the Austin City Limits (ACL) Festival before stepping into his new marketing executive role at CamelBak. At the festival, he saw dozens of garbage cans overflowing with empty bottles of water that vendors were selling for $5 a pop. Strain hit upon an idea: In 2011 ACL festival-goers filled up on free filtered water from CamelBak-branded water stations throughout Zilker Park—even if the containers they filled weren’t CamelBak products. The program has since expanded to other music festivals, and it continues to generate major hydration and environmental gains in Austin. In fact, CamelBak replaced an estimated 609,000 bottles of water while keeping ACL attendees hydrated at this year’s festival.
“We’ve really been able to connect with consumers who appreciate the fact that we’re out there and giving them a premium service that helps them have a better time at the music festival,” Strain says.
These valuable connections were enabled less by traditional marketing messages and more by relevant—and innovative—marketing thoughts and actions. May your own marketing be filled with less of the former and more of the latter in 2015.
Freelance journalist Eric Krell writes
the DMN column “CMO Confidential.”