The term „outdoor“ weakens your brand positioning
“Outdoor” is apparently an English term that has been a successful export into other languages. From a German perspective, this might cause some confusion on the customers´ end. Yet, also in anglophone marketing the term became so contourless that the question arises: what exactly does “outdoor” mean and what does it entail? We all have a rough idea, but can we be more specific?
In my experience, outdoor means everything and nothing when we talk about activities and being in nature. Mountain climbing is an outdoor activity, so is climbing, hiking, riding your bikes, slacklining but also buying camping gear for your next backpacking trip. From the perspective of brand positioning or retail business branding, this term – be it as a loan word or in an anglophone context – weakens your positioning. The basic reason is that your target group cannot identify with this term. Do they understand what you are getting at? Certainly. But they do not connect anything personal with this and hence, especially when used as a loan word, they cannot identify themselves with that concept. That is an important distinction.
Do a non-representative small study. Ask your friends on a Monday how they spend their weekend. I bet that no-one would say, “I was outdoors,” or “I engaged in outdoor activities.” They would tell you about how fun it was to hike with their family, how they showed their son how to fish, how they took their bikes around the lake, how fun camping or barbecuing in the park was, etc. Your target group identifies with specific activities that they can experience personally, not with meaningless abstract phrases.
Dear outdoor sector, if this term works for you as a shorthand, that´s fine. But please stop hiding behind empty phrases, especially loan words, and start showing your true colors. What does your business stand for exactly? What do you offer and what do you believe in? Communicate this to your target group – they will be thanking you for it!
Julius Geis is a renowned expert in identity-based brand positioning for retailers and manufacturers. As CEO of ON ANY GIVEN MONDAY he consults globally successful brands in the sports, fashion and outdoor industry.