It’s a piping hot summer day, you’re out relaxing in the park, and you reach into the cooler to grab your fav drink (Diet Coke). You crack it open, ready to take that ever-so-refreshing first sip. The drink hits your lips and it’s…lukewarm. That feeling will have you reconsidering all of your prior life decisions.  Why did this happen to me? Do I even want this drink anymore? Can we go home?
Well Marketing Bestie student, today’s deep dive focuses on a brand that has become tribal amongst its users. A brand whose origins haven’t wavered in the face of massive growth. A brand that reinvented what it means to put your drinks on ice.
Yes, we’re breaking down the marketing success story that is Yeti Coolers. The Mercedes of Coolers, Yeti’s grassroots Marketing empire has catapulted the brand to a valuation of $1.7B. Let’s get into this cool story.
Brothers, Ryan and Roy Seiders were avid outdoorsmen who continued to stumble upon one similar issue, low-quality and untrustworthy coolers. So they put matters into their own hands and built the ultimate cooler brand that carved out an entire new market. While competitors were making $30 coolers and selling them in high quantities on the shelves at Walmart, Yeti introduced a cooler with a $300 price tag.  10x the price of their competition.
Not yet fit for the massive shelves of Walmart, Yeti honed in on small accounts across the country who traditionally avoided selling coolers, because of the small margins and large shelf space needed. The $300 coolers gave small hardware and tackle shops the ability to earn a convincing $100 in margin by carrying their coolers. Yeti understood the gaps in the market before diving in head first, saving them time and money. (Niches get riches!)
Continuing with the grassroots strategy, Yeti began to place an emphasis on the lifestyle, not the product. The same formula that Nike has perfected over the years.  They hired local guides and fishermen as brand ambassadors to perpetuate the outdoorsy and rugged brand identity. By leveraging ambassadors who were “real people”, product placement in ads was made extremely easy and authentic (like in the pic below). Yeti coolers were seamlessly woven into their lifestyles and respective audiences, drumming up massive local credibility.
Locals could spot a Yeti cooler from a mile away, they could tell if their drink was stored in a Yeti cooler or not, but the national brand presence was lacking. So the Seider brothers began making Yeti merch and including it for free with every cooler purchased. This channeled the human instinct of reciprocity. When someone goes out of their way to invest in us and give us something, we feel compelled to do something in return.
In Yeti’s case, when they gave free merch to customers, the likelihood that they stir up conversation around the brand increased massively.  And us Marketers know, staying top of mind is EVERYTHING. This catapulted the growth of Yeti.  Net sales increased from $90M in 2013 to $1.595B in 2022. That’s INSANE.  It would be hard for any company to see that growth and stay true to their humble beginnings, but not for Yeti.
In 2023 Yeti is everywhere, but their Marketing is as honed in as ever. Recently Kim Kardashian shared a photo of her $800 Yeti cooler to her 200M followers. A legendary brand collab on Yeti’s part, right? Nope. Yeti didn’t pay Kim or even send her free product. Ok no big deal, but after she posted the picture they definitely started a partnership, right? Nope.
Yeti has avoided nearly ALL big-time celebrities in their campaigns.  Their focus continues to be on approachable micro-influencers whose use of Yeti products seems natural. Their ads have maintained their minimalistic approach with an emphasis on the values and lifestyle of the brand. The product is just an added benefit.
Daniel Murray
Daniel Murray
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