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Global Marketing

Customers’ Values Across Leading Outdoor Athletic Brands

Companies struggle to be authentic in their values and marketing tactics across different cultures. It is one thing to simply state corporate values, but it is another to actually implement such strategies in order to be genuine and build the strong bond with customers. Brands need to understand that they have a corporate responsibility and purpose to connect with the community in meaningful ways, aside from the obvious goals of high profitability. Interestingly enough, as a result of COVID, there has been an overall greater consumer values emphasis shift towards environmental concerns. Considering the political landscape and series of social unrest in the US especially, brands must vocalize the values they stand with and ideals they oppose in order to better connect with their customers. Here we will consider 4 companies, Nike and Under Armour, and Patagonia & Columbia, and look into the different cultural backgrounds and values each of their consumers prioritize. 

Even amongst various brands in the athletic apparel industry, different customers connect with different brands based on their personal values and cultural upbringings. For example, Nike and Under Armour appeal to the masses, but have specific consumer types they connect with on a much deeper, intimate level. 

  1. Nike: These athletic customers tend to be more influenced by social and professional status; therefore, Nike sponsors the most famous athletes across the globe. Since these customers value social status and recognition, they also tend to be more inclined to provide feedback and vocalize any concerns they have with the products or any athlete endorsement scandals. The top personal values reported through a survey of customers are as follows.
    1. Equality and social justice.
    2. Protect all people of different races, cultures and ethnicities. 
    3. Tolerance of different individuals.
    4. Acceptance of different beliefs and backgrounds.

Nike has been authentic to such personal values as seen with their support of Colin Kapernick and the multitude of women empowerment campaigns that emphasize diversity and inclusion, i.e. the #DreamCrazy campaign. Nike analyzed that their customers are approximately 65% more likely than customers of the Under Armour brand to shop products based on important global concerns/issues. 

  1. Under Armour: These athletic customers tend to be more driven by gaining recognition from their peers and values traditional beliefs. For example, these shoppers’ top personal values are as follows.
    1. Maintain traditional practices.
    2. Care for friends and family.
    3. Building community and meaningful connections.

Under Armour shoppers have gradually become more skewed towards the female populations, which strongly aligns with their personal values of caring for loved ones, and having a “motherly” sense of values. 

Now we will take a closer look at outdoor apparel brands, Columbia and Patagonia, and how their similar customers still vary across backgrounds and personal values. Both brands target the outdoor enthusiast, who values new adventures and creating memories in peaceful nature.

  1. Columbia: These shoppers tend to be more driven by a desire to be in a position of authority. They like to be in charge of activity planning and enjoy taking risks in hopes of gaining rewards in return. Top personal values include creative freedom in all areas of life, i.e learning new things, designing product features, and being imaginative. These values embody what Columbia’s shoppers view the definition of life as. In terms of marketing to such customers, Columbia communicates authority through product-centric advertisements and promotional programs. 
  2. Patagonia: These shoppers are much more self-reliant in comparison to Columbia’s target consumer market, and therefore are individual problem-solvers. Patagonia shoppers emphasize freedom and openness, and tend to prioritize environmental friendliness and concerns much greater than other outdoor apparel brand shoppers. Patagonia must focus their marketing techniques on creating value-centric messages that help attract and retain customers to shop based on important issues. 
Personal Values Wheel

Depending on the type of customer and their background beliefs, values will differ greatly. As mentioned in the above examples, brands need to understand their customers’ values in order to create more meaningful customer relationships. When customers feel a deeper connection to the brand and feel heard, the firm will reap in profits for the long term. Customer’s willingness to pay may increase as well as word of mouth advertising of the brand benefits to family and friends. However, it is important for brands to note not to just “jump on the bandwagon” of what may appear to be a worthy cause, because customers will see right through it and thus will only rather negatively impact the company for the long term. 

Source: Forbes