Woods Canada has become synonymous with outdoor exploration over its 130-year history, its products used and praised by everyone from Ernest Hemingway to the first Canadian expedition to climb Mount Everest.
The company has taken a decidedly low-key Canadian approach to marketing, however, eschewing big-budget media campaigns in favour of highly targeted efforts designed to appeal to its core customers – avid and active outdoors people.
“Woods has never been an in-your-face brand that is bragging about making its accomplishments widely known to huge audiences,” said James Prescott, associate vice-president of product development for Woods Canada. “We’ve done a lot of exceptional things in terms of the outdoor experience, but we’ve always considered ourselves an unsung hero.
“The outdoors is meant to be enjoyed for its own sake, and we want to provide products that give people the ability to do that with confidence.”
Woods found itself thrust into the spotlight earlier this year, however, when it launched a promotion called the “Dream Job,” – inviting customers to apply for a chance to become brand ambassadors and spend five months traversing the 17,000-kilometre Trans-Canada Trail.
The company received more than 3,800 video applications and ultimately decided to expand the promotion to include a second two-person team. One team, #MelbaAdam, is now crossing the Trans-Canada Trail from west to east, while the other, #CedricMagee, is crossing from east to west.
“We’ll have lots of opportunities for Canadians to interact with the Woods explorers,” said Prescott. “There will be comments around gear, historical landmarks and other things throughout their journey.”
The Dream Job promotion has garnered more than 25 million impressions since its late March debut, said Prescott.
Both Trans-Canada Trail crossings are being extensively documented via social media using the hashtag #WoodsExplorer. There will be a particular focus on Woods’ high-performance Expedition Series of tents, sleeping bags and apparel, said Prescott.
Woods has also undertaken what Prescott described as “a bit of a refresh” for the brand, highlighted by a recent video spot appearing on its Twitter feed that showcases the company’s heritage and product reliability.
“[Woods] has one of the richest histories in the outdoor recreation market in the world, let alone Canada,” said Prescott. “Because it’s got this heritage and a rich history of being connected with Canada through a variety of different explorations and explorers, what we needed to do was bring that into a contemporary context and bring what has made Woods so lasting into this new generation.”
Prescott said Woods’ modern-day marketing is almost 100% digitally driven, which appeals to its core customer. “They’re really active in digital communications, so mass media doesn’t really work well for us to reach that audience,” he said. “The campaigns are seeking to connect that target with other like-minded people on [channels like] Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Twitter.”
“It’s trying to be where our customers are, and being on that journey with them requires that we communicate on these platforms,” he said.
Outdoor retail has become a hot sector in recent years, with U.S. chains including Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops both adding to their Canadian operations and the Quebec chain Sail – which bills itself as the “outdoors superstore” – expanding to 10 stores in Quebec and Ontario.
Woods does not have a bricks-and-mortar presence, with its products sold exclusively through Canadian Tire. “We can think of no better retail partner, because like Woods, Canadian Tire has invested a lot in understanding the Canadian customer and really knows them better than anybody else we can think of,” said Prescott.