Oct 03

Tenzing's Take on Outdoor Retailer Part Deux

This is a guest post written by Dave Geada, Director of Marketing at Tenzing. It's part 2, of a 3 part series - read the first post here So what makes communities (not markets) special? I posed this question in my last post as I shared my reflections on the Outdoor Retailer Summer Market Event and the retailers that serve outdoor enthusiasts. In order to answer that question, I need to share a story with you about someone that I met at the show. His name is Dave LaSorte. [caption id="attachment_7535" align="aligncenter" width="225"]Dave LaSorte climbing Dave LaSorte climbing[/caption] I first met Dave on the show floor at Outdoor Retailer, and to say that that meeting was memorable is an understatement. Dave’s presence hits you like a force of nature. It’s like a fierce summer storm that you didn’t expect that pummels your senses and passes as quickly as it appeared. The evidence of its passing is all around you, though. You and the landscape are soaked, the afternoon light casts a strange hazy sheen, and life begins to stir anew. And in that quiet, stirring moment you feel intensely connected to everything around you. That’s the effect that Dave has on people. In the first 20 minutes of meeting him, Dave expressed his belief in our partnership and told the story of the rosy future both our companies had together. He shared a story about an impromptu sales meeting he had where he convinced a retailer to donate equipment to a charity he volunteers for called Outdoor Outreach. And then he asked if we were free for dinner and drinks, where he shared more stories about the restaurant, his sales deals, legends in the outdoor industry and more. [caption id="attachment_7536" align="aligncenter" width="300"]Dave LaSorte kicking back with the kids from Outdoor Outreach Dave LaSorte kicking back with the kids from Outdoor Outreach[/caption] My favorite story of all was the one Dave told about the impact that his volunteer work with Outdoor Outreach had on the kids that he worked with, and ultimately the impact these experiences had on him. He talked about teaching at risk and disadvantaged kids how to climb. He described how the kids would stand at the bottom of a 100 foot cliff face, the bottom third of which was smooth weathered rock save for a seam in the rock face. How the kids would stand dejected at the bottom, saying how the climb couldn’t be done. How Dave, slight of build and in his 50’s, showed them how its wasn’t impossible by climbing up that wall like he was climbing up a stairwell, waving to them 100 feet above the ground. The looks of amazement on the kids’ faces at what the old man had accomplished, and the steely determination in their eyes as the bravest of them marched up to the cliff face determined not to let this old man stand them up. And the sheer transformative look of joy on the face of the first kid to make it to the top. That moment when the child realizes that they can climb that wall. And the moment afterwards when the child first realizes that if he can climb that impossible wall, then he’s capable of overcoming many more seemingly impossible challenges. Most touching of all is the way that Dave describes the effect of that moment on him. “These kids ask for me. They ask if Dave is going to be coming along on the next trip, and when they tell them that I am they go nuts, man. Can you imagine that? These kids love to have me around, and that’s a real kick. Who’d have ever thought that? I’m just so grateful that I can share this with them. That I can help turn things around for them, because I know how hard that can be. To turn things around. And it’s beautiful when that happens. It’s a beautiful moment.” So what can Dave’s story teach us about the nature of communities and how best to market to them? Well, three things strike me about Dave:

  • Dave genuinely believes that climbing and the outdoors in general can have a transformative effect on the human spirit.
  • Dave tells a lot of stories, and those stories reinforce and amplify his core beliefs.
  • Dave can’t help but share these stories, because they fuel his resolve and energize those around him. In short, he’s viral.
  • Dave’s greatest joy is in sharing his passion with a younger generation. Nothing gives him greater pleasure and satisfaction.
These same characteristics apply to communities:
  • Communities arise out of a shared sense of purpose and beliefs. These beliefs are the glue that holds everything together, overcoming even powerful disruptors like self-interest.
  • Communities maintain themselves through storytelling. Stories are the vehicle by which members make connections to each other, and the more authentic the stories, the stronger that connection.
  • Communities are viral. They seek to spread out as far and wide as possible.
  • Communities are generational and evolve. Each preceding generation seeks to impart its experiences to subsequent generations. Subsequent generations invariably view things through their own unique lens, and the stories evolve to reflect these evolving views.
Given this, how do we as marketers successfully leverage these dynamics to accomplish our mission? I’ll be covering that in my next post.