A key way to enroll a consumer in a good or service is to establish emotional and intellectual relevancy of the product to the context of its use within the consumer's lifestyle. With that in mind, here are some ideas. This thread is, of course, addressing marketing as much as it is outreach and lifestyle, but this postulate still holds.
- The Web is still your best friend; almost everyone researches online before making a purchase, even if it's in a physical store.
- That said, nothing can top hands-on experience with a product. In-store demos, trailhead demos, speaking engagements, and friends sharing gear (all these have already been mentioned in this thread).
- Be sure to do demos, however, at events in adjacent or related areas. Kayak companies regularly have open paddlefests for users to try their toruing products; that's a great place for an UL/SUL manufacturer to show up. Ditto for hunting events, rock climbing events, endurance atheletic events...the list can be quite long.
- Consider other non-traditional channels of communication. Since many UL/SUL advocates talk about how much easier backpacking becomes on the body, what about speaking to those in physical therapy for injuries, or through sites or groups who support such recovery? Many who need PT live active lifestyles - that's why they got injured in the first place - so the appeal would be clear.
- Sponsorships can be expensive, but think beyond just individual or athlete sponsorships. How much would it be worth to have FuelTV on-air personalities wearing stuff with your logo on it, for the cost of a handful of products?
- Equipment rentals have a huge impact on future purchase patterns. UL/SUL may not hold up that well for rental usage, but certainly some kinds of gear could. Reaching out to local rental outdoor outfitters could be an interesting take on things.
- Mainstream outdoor retailers and manufacturers go to great lengths to justify the increasing price points of their products by extolling the technologies used in them. This is a big advantage that cottage manufacturers have; outdoor pro's are certainly aware that the most exciting innovations are coming from the small shops and gearmakers, but the mainstream needs to know this as well.
- Tell the story. This is where BPL is gaining ground: not just reviewing the gear, but telling the stories surrounding its use and inspiring others to buy in (literally) and test their own limits. Aspirational marketing 101. Compelling content, in this way, can absolutely help increase customer conversion, general interest in UL/SUL techniques, and get more people in the wilderness more often, hopefully "haloing" efforts like conservations and LNT ethics.
- Finally, I think it's fun and helpful to aim for nothing less than ubiquity; anywhere an outdoors enthusiast turns, there should be UL/SUL alternatives to their gear and techniques, in the mainstream or on the fringe. That's a lofty goal (down pun not intended!), but one that will help to set strategy and tactics to reach farther than if one's goals are more modest.
I've been running the creative department of the agency that runs thenorthface.com for seven years (tomorrow is my last day!), so I've been steeped in this kind of thing for a while. If Ron, or anyone, wants to dive deep into this kind of topic, I'm taking July off and therefore can spare a lot of time to chat more at backpacking(at)atomick(dot)net.