“It’s working”: Kathmandu unveils next step in radical redesign
Last year New Zealand outdoor and lifestyle brand Kathmandu unveiled a revamp of its brand identity – moving from the achievement-focused image that many outdoor brands present to something more accessible and fun. The aim, according to former chief executive Reuben Casey, was to reach out to a newer generation of customers and help them to explore the outdoors. And, according to the business’ chief customer officer Eva Barrett, the rebrand is working. Kathmandu has enjoyed recor
record sales over the last three months, up 9.5 per cent to $536 million, as customers have reconnected with nature following the worst of the pandemic. Due to strong takeup across all of its brands in FY22, the wider group paid a $43 million dividend to shareholders.
“All of our brand metrics are up, as well as our revenue, so it’s working,” Barrett said.
“Part of our strategic process was to look at over 30 international brands, and we realised that outdoor is a very competitive market, but it’s not very differentiated. They all tended to be quite hyper-masculine [in their marketing], with people climbing mountains and such. But, one of our biggest consumer insights was that people go outdoors for how it makes them feel.”
Focusing on the physical and mental benefits of being outdoors, while changing up the brand messaging to be more fun and lighthearted, has made the business more approachable to its target market: the millennial outdoor enthusiast.
And, this week, the business has unveiled the next step of this new direction: its global ‘Summer Never Sleeps’ campaign.
The campaign, which showcases a group of friends exploring the outdoors in a more lighthearted and absurd way than Kathmandu has explored before, was created specifically to cut through the advertising chaff and stick in people’s minds.
“We’ve realised it’s important to cut through and drive home our repositioning,” Barrett said.
“It’s all about becoming more relevant to a younger customer. We’re all bombarded with messages and advertising and social media, so if you’re not standing out, you’re not cutting through, and people won’t see you.”
The new positioning is, perhaps, more important overseas, where Kathmandu is entering new territories and going up against new competitors.
Until recently, Kathmandu has only been available across Australia and New Zealand, as well as online in the UK. However, in December of 2021 the business made a number of appointments across Germany, France, the UK and Canada to help drive the business’ international expansion into each region.
Casey said last year that it was time for the business to “make sure we have the foundation to launch into other markets [than Australia and New Zealand].”
“We’ll start in Europe in the next season or two. The RipCurl brand is established there already, so we’ll use their infrastructure there to help us with that.”
Current chief executive Michael Daly, who took over from Casey last May, said the business will launch online in Europe and Canada during the next financial year. However, the group’s business in the US has been inconsistent.
“The US market is very competitive, as we know,” Casey said during a recent analyst call.
“Speaking openly, it’s been the graveyard of many Australian and Kiwi brands that have tried to expand there, so we’re being cautious. However, we have the advantage of owning the RipCurl and Obos businesses, which have existing infrastructure, knowledge and presence in North America.”
According to Casey, the business’ international expansion will start off soft, with Kathmandu mainly focusing on Europe and Canada for the time being, and testing out what works in markets other than Australia and New Zealand.
“I think in 12 months or so we’ll be ready for a bigger approach, where we look to broaden our distribution and look at launching the odd flagship store,” Casey said.
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