The Outdoor Industry is Wired and Ready to Go

After spending four hectic days at the Summer Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City, one thing that is certain is that the outdoor gear category appears to be booming.  More than 27,000 were in attendance with over 1,300 brands exhibiting their products to retailers and media/agency people from across the world.  The conference flooded the city beyond capacity.  I ended up staying over 30 miles away in Park City, commuting via shuttle bus as all hotels in the town were booked as were rental cars.   If other segments of the economy are somewhat slow to improve, they may want to pay attention to what is going on here as business is booming.

The first evening featured the premiere of the Outsider’s Ball, appropriately held under the stars in downtown Salt Lake City.  The event was attended by 900 people and raised more than $350,000 to benefit the Outdoor Nation initiative whose objective is to engage youth with the outdoors.  Youth participation in outdoor activities has been in steady decline for many years for a number of reasons and for both business and social reasons the Outdoor Industry Association is spear-heading this aggressive effort to get kids outdoors.

While it may be counter-intuitive, Outdoor Nation is now experiencing strong success due to a conscious effort to embrace technology vs. trying to peel youth away from their smart phones, tablets and other screens.  This generation is constantly connected and to successfully engage them and communicate the positive aspects of the outdoors requires a strategy that incorporates the latest in digital technology.

Google is calling this group “Generation C” (aka the “YouTube Generation”).  This group is a powerful driver of today’s consumer culture.  However, it is not an age group, it is an attitude and mindset that describes people who care deeply about Creation, Curation, Connection and Community.  Social interaction is key to Gen C – they are what they share.  Sharing your experiences via your social networks is of equal importance to the actual camping trip to the Tetons for the members of Gen C.

Google’s Eight Defining Characteristics of Generation C:

  • Gen C is a state of mind
  • Gen C strives for expression
  • Gen C is a taste-maker
  • Gen C defines the social network
  • YouTube is Gen C’s habitat for entertainment
  • Gen C is constantly connected
  • Gen C connects to YouTube on all screens
  • Gen C values relevance and originality

As Generation C is taking to the outdoors, possibly the fastest growing segment of the outdoor industry revolves around brands who are directly relating to Gen C’s need to be both constantly connected and sharing their experiences.  Being connected in the outdoors requires power and GoalZero solves this issue with a wide array of solar powered battery chargers.  These enable the outdoor enthusiast to be far off the grid yet having a power source to fuel their devices.

For those who wish to create compelling videos of their outdoor adventures, GoPro provides a variety of cameras to capture all the action.  GoPro had a massive presence at the show and their success clearly points to Gen C’s need for self-expression and creativity.  More than 67% of Gen C regularly uploads their own videos and photos to YouTube and other social networks.  Gen C is twice as likely to be a YouTube viewer than the general population and 40% more likely to be only a light TV viewer.

The Gen C segment is extremely powerful as they are the ones setting the trends that will determine what will be popular next.  It is estimated that Gen C’s influence will account for $500 billion in US spending in the coming year.  This is driven by the fact that 85% of Gen C relies on peer approvals for buying decisions.  So, my words to the wise – for those marketers looking to improve their chances of success, I recommend taking a look at the outdoor industry and paying close attention to Generation C.