Last week, Columbia Sportswear launched its new global branding campaign, Tested Tough, at Cedar Lake in New York. It’s a massive initiative for the brand, which was founded in 1938 and surpassed $2 billion in sales in 2014, and the aim is to communicate how rigorously its products are developed by its outdoorsy staff in and around its base in Portland, Oregon. The campaign stars Columbia’s 91-year-old chairman of the board, Gert Boyle, who was famous for enlisting her son, Tim Boyle, to test out new offerings before they went to market. Now the brand’s CEO, Tim is capitalizing on the growing market for hard-core sportswear with a fashion component to own the category on a global scale. As Columbia Sportswear’s CMO Stuart Redsun is spearheading the project. He explains the campaign’s penetration of 63 markets in Asia, Europe, South America, and North America.
What is your history with Columbia, and how long have you been in your current role?
I have been with Columbia for a little over a year now, but I grew up in Oregon. The “Tough Mother” campaign opened my eyes to advertising and really drew me into the field.
Why is now the right time for Columbia to embark on this rebranding effort?
Tested Tough marks an important shift in Columbia’s marketing efforts pivoting from being product-focused to brand-centric. This brand platform celebrates Columbia’s unique culture and sense of humor, while maintaining our brand promise to build products people can trust to keep them warm, dry, cool, and protected. Plus, with social media so prevalent, now is the perfect time to reintroduce the Columbia brand and solicit consumers own stories.
What’s the concept behind the Tested Tough campaign?
Tested Tough isn’t just an ad campaign or tagline, it’s the defining element of our 77 year brand story. It’s what motivates every employee to build and deliver great products. Rooted in the Pacific Northwest, where ever-inclement weather is a way of life, we’ve built a workforce of active employees that test our products every day. We don’t do umbrellas and our lunch hour consists of outdoor volleyball games or a neighborhood run, no matter the weather. Tested Tough is a true reflection of our company and employees.
Gert Boyle, Columbia’s 91-year-old matriarch, plays a fun role in the campaign. Was it an easy sell to get Gert’s participation?
She was receptive from the start. She told us it was about time we brought some sexiness back into our advertising.
What are the various ways the Tested Tough campaign will live?
Tested Tough is Columbia’s largest campaign in the history of the brand, and will launch in 63 countries. We are taking a broad multi-channel approach with Tested Tough through global advertising, PR, social media, e-commerce, point of sale, on-product, and out-of-home. Additionally, we introduced our two new Directors of Toughness. These outdoor enthusiasts were selected from a pool of applicants and have embarked on a paid six-month adventure around the world to test the company’s apparel, documenting their adventures on social media with the #TestedTough hashtag. We are also rolling out a series of employee-testing videos, showcasing the integral roles they play in our product testing process.
What is your favorite product line for the fall/winter season?
I’d have to go with any of our TurboDown products, specifically the Men’s Heatzone 1000 TurboDown Jacket. This coat is part of the Titanium line and I’m really looking forward to testing it out once the snow starts falling this winter.
Are you an outdoorsman? If so, what are your favorite activities?
Of course! Right now, I’m really looking forward to getting my snowboard on Mt. Hood this winter. Gert promised that she’d take me down a few of the steepest runs on the mountain.