Wanted: Directors Of Toughness For Columbia Sportswear

Fancy yourself a cross between a mountain goat, an Army Ranger and social-media sweetheart? If so, you might just have a shot at being Columbia Sportswear’s next director of toughness—or at least a part of its new ad campaign.

The idea stems from the company’s commitment to extreme product testing. “We’re based in Portland, which is beautiful but has a lot of inclement weather, and our employees test our products,” says Scott Trepanier, a spokesperson for the company. “We also have more than 600 beta testers around the globe, and we felt that the amount of product testing we do just didn't get as much love as it should in our marketing.”
The new effort is a more elaborate version of its first stab at toughness directors last year. And while those two hires were definitely rugged, “we took it a bit too easy on them,” he tells Marketing Daily. “This year, we wanted to formalize the process. We wanted to put a bigger investment in it.”



So there will be four recruiting pushes, with Canadians and Brits encouraged to apply, too. The first took place in Oregon and got 1,000 or so applicants in 48 hours. The company winnowed that down to 20. After an interview, applicants were then handed a pack and told to trek 2,000 feet or so up a glacier, where they were then subjected to not a little razzing from a comedian. Still to come are interviews in New York, Canada and Scotland. Each will involve some undisclosed, outdoorsy, and difficult challenge, as well as minor comic abuse. 

The company is promoting the hiring competition, which will also include some sort of final involvement with Gert Boyle, the company’s formidable 92-year-old chairman, on social media, with a faux cover of Outside, as well as upcoming tie-ins with Manchester United. (It supplies the team’s outdoor apparel.)

And while the content created along the way is expected to culminate in a new ad campaign in time for the holidays, the company hopes the real power will come from social media. Since documenting and sharing the product-tough-testing is part of the job, “we are closely monitoring those people in social media to see how influential they are telling their own stories.”

Columbia’s ad agency is North, also based in Portland.

In July, the company reported record sales for the second quarter, with a gain of 2% to $388.8 million. That includes an increase of 8% in the U.S., 20% in Canada, and a gain in direct-to-consumer sales of in the low 20% range, offset by a small decline in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and 10% drop in Latin America and the Asia Pacific region.

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