When Adventure Turns to Boredom

I visited ISPO 2017 this year, together with my colleagues Carmen Dehmel Neves, Jan Greve and Sven Schlager. Our focus was on brands, products and taking the pulse of the industry.

Although impressions are always subjective, we all noticed one thing in particular in Hall A1 and Hall A2: The Outdoor Sports Industry really wants you to visit Adventureland.

The consulting group “Gruppe Nymphenburg” developed a model called Limbic Map®, which shows how consumers are stimulated by factors such as color, words and visual imagery. Based on extensive tests, the Limbic Map® represents a fundamental set of rules that ON ANY GIVEN MONDAY based his work on.

The search for adventure is hardwired into our brains. Defying convention and the hunger for risk-taking and new possibilities are key elements used by the Outdoor Industry to attract customers and uniquely position brands. But what happens when every brand promises the same adventure?

Our senses are over stimulated, resulting in boredom. For brand communicators, it means the message is lost or unheard. Customers no longer register communication at all, nor see it as meaningful. What we need to do is differentiate ourselves from each other. The word adventure has to have new meaning. We need to seek the motive and attitude behind it, so it highlights and strengthens the identity of a brand and allows it to rise above the rest, instead of drowning it out.

“When CI was invented, language was on vacation.”

— GERHART BUNGERT, 1994 translated from German


Here’s a brief example from the automotive world to illustrate this principle: Consider the word “Dynamic.” Both BMW and Opel use the term in their communication with customers. But it becomes instantly clear that BMW applies a different meaning to the word “Dynamic” than Opel.  Though the term is identical- the inherent promises are entirely different.

These major brands have put a lot of effort into ensuring there won’t be any confusion with each other.

For the Outdoor Sports Market, the nuances are more subtle. Brands have to be even more careful to communicate with a clear and defined position. The first step in this process is through individual perception. We at Brand Aesthete® call it “identity-based brand positioning.”

We subsequently translate the concept into language, where we call it the “tone of voice identity” of a brand. This is the pivotal concept that will put our ideas to the test: Will we succeed in helping our customer rediscover the thrill in adventure or will it be met with a bored sigh while they turn the page?



  • Currently, the brand communication used by the Outdoor Sports Industry can come across as very generic.

  • Nearly every brand speaks of: adventure, exploration, switching off and getting away from everyday routine, etc.

  • What makes a brand unique?

  • A Brand must be positioned by defining it from the inside out and from its core to its effect on the outside world.

  • Language and images are of equal importance.

  • Brand Aesthete® calls this concept "tone of voice identity" because it uses language in the service of brand positioning.

  • These concepts help develop differentiation and orientation simultaneously.