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Columbia Sportswear – A Brand Gone Cold


Columbia Sportswear Company has been in existence since 1938, but by 2008, execs at the company were afraid that growth had stagnated. Columbia fueled much of its growth starting in the late 90’s by expanding its retail distribution from specialty outdoor retailers to chains like Kohl’s. Remember the Bugaboo Jacket? Recently there’s been a fear that Columbia wasn’t a brand that tapped into young consumers. Columbia asked itself, can a brand be “middle-aged”?

It’s possible the brand is actually old-aged and suffering from occasional memory loss.

According to SVP of Marketing, Mick McCormick consumers viewed Columbia’s namesake brand as a value brand. Which is code for “price point driven”. McCormick says that is a perception the brand has changed by embracing technology in its products as well as via digital means. In less than ten years, Columbia’s number of patents grew from one to 157, allowing the brand to tout its high-tech products.

To market their Omni-Heat products Columbia has enlisted Wim Hof, who has trained his body to withstand extreme cold temperatures. (And we’re not talking about running out to pick up a newspaper from your driveway in the middle of the winter. This guy ran a marathon in the Arctic Circle with no shirt and no shoes.)

Hof’s persona is kind of creepy. Let’s put it this way – Hof doesn’t hold a candle to “The Most Interesting Man In The World” made famous by Dos Equis. I’d say Columbia still has some work to do.

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