I am referring to traditional outdoor tourism, and adventure brands who are missing a trick when it comes to representing and appealing to families. When it comes to the outdoors families are rarely considered.
Writing from my own experience going on family adventures (childhood memories and now with my own family), I know first-hand our requirements. I’m acutely aware of the familiar emotions that can result from such activities – definitely opportunity to capture some of this – audiences can relate to it! Do the big players really do enough to cater to or inspire a family adventure?!
Is it because they’ve spent so long competing with each other to develop technically superior products? – Jeanine Pesce
Has traditional outdoor-product development and marketing focused on people who want to be at the peak of their sports? – Scott McGuire
Or, I wonder if adventure brands assume that once we have kids we’re less likely to embark on an outdoor experience? I consider myself an outdoors kinda bloke and it did occur to me that once kids arrived I’d loose out on the fun and adventure times. I wasn’t alone in this way of thinking.
The opposite happened! I have more motivation to show my kids the mountains, desert, camping excursions and share my love of being outside and the activities that come with it. And, myself or my wife can still take off for a week on a motorcycle excursion through the Himalayas, or an photography assignment to Indonesia.
I agree that nature has to be accessible – we live in Dubai with so much open space – sea, mountains and desert, neighbouring countries like Oman provide the lush forests. (check out this article from Outside Mag).
We routinely undertake camping trips, road trips with other friends that have kids also looking for the next adventure, and it’s a whole lot of fun. For Example: Kids wander freely with other kids, climb trees, climb mountains or explore caves. They learn to put up tents, start a fire, listen to campfire stories, witness the darkest nights and the brightest stars. It’s the sheer freedom that myself and my family take from these experiences that becomes addictive. If it sounds like I’m romanticising the whole outdoors thing, perhaps it’s because we live in a city, and regularly getting-away-from-it-all is important to us.
My wife and I are excited to show our kids new places and cultures and it has opened up alternative experiences which alone we might not have discovered – conservation being one of them! Having kids along for the journey has encouraged us to seek out those things that enrich our lives, and has reignited activities like skiing, camping and travel.
It’s not just families, outdoors brands are struggling to appeal to the millennials, who [apparently] couldn’t care less about lighter packs or more waterproof jackets (see article here). For a decade the outdoor industry has been unable to reach the youth (funding studies and paying consultants), but have failed to changed their ways, does the same apply to families?
Here are a few considerations:
1. Creating awareness with the youth early on by tapping into families/parent enthusiasm for the outdoors.
2. Documentary style photography: Real families, adventurous locations and active weather inspires great photography for a brand.
3. Inspire with online content, should feature ‘outdoor stories’ – Parents want to share adventures with their kids and create lasting memories and traditions.
4. Show families doing regular things – at a campsite, teaching their children, telling stories, putting up a tent, cooking…
5. Family product package incentive: We always buy in bulk – for us and the kids.
6. Select ‘family brand ambassadors’ to influence social media, or make a family at the centre of a campaign.
7. Outdoor brand experiences that appeal to parents and kids – i.e. if Merrell sponsors a 10k run they could also consider the family spectators and build an inspiring Merrell obstacle course for kids at the start/finish line to hang out in.
8. Brand Partnerships – i.e. Colemans (tents + camping equipment) partners with the Weather Channel.
Idea: Weather Station kit with every tent. Kids + parents build a weather station whilst out camping [in the mountains]. My wife and I are always looking for ways to combine activities for the kids with our adventures.
9. Outdoor brand playgrounds – i.e. Patagonia designs and build children’s ‘adventure’ themed playground with wooden mountain structures, climbing walls, ice cave, paddling stream [from waterfall feature] and wooden stilt forest…
If you’d like to hear more of my thoughts and stories about how outdoors brands can engage with families, drop me an email to email@example.com
Written by © Mark Woodward. Images and Photography by © Mark Woodward.
© 2017 Mark Woodward. All Rights Reserved.
Mark is a designer and illustrator, creating brands for planes, trains, automobiles, tall towers and ice cream. He consults for many international brands and lives with his family in Dubai where he owns a brand consultancy – AirSpace Studio.