Communication and Central vs. Peripheral Persuasion

Columbia Sportswear - An example of effective and diverse marketing communication

There are many ways to connect with and communicate with consumers and potential customers. Columbia Sportwear is a great example of how to effectively leverage a variety of communication strategies to reach different types of consumers.

Columbia employs a wide range of advertisements to target a variety of individuals at all levels of outdoor sports and activities. This makes sense when you consider individuals that partake in outdoor activities range from serious athletes to casual vacationers.

As someone who used to ski competitively and in backwoods terrain, there were certain features I wanted in my gear, especially when it came to outwear and hiking books. Ads that dig into the features, functionality and testing are more engaging and more likely to persuade me to purchase new gear I may or may not truly need. For instances like this, the central route to persuasion is going to be much more effective than a pretty picture of the outdoors with a brand logo slapped on it. An ad that features details about how and where gear is tested plus key features that make it effective are going to be more persuasive for someone invested in the purchase and more deeply aware of what they need in quality gear.

Columbia: Tested Tough advertisement

In contrast, for a casual skier, snowboarder, or hiker who may be influenced to purchase gear before going on a weekend trip, they may have fewer preferences and specifics they are looking for in outwear. They are likely not as invested in the decision and it might not feel like as much of an important purchase that warrants scrutiny and extensive research. A simple ad and minimal text that communicates an impression, or an ad using the peripheral route to persuasion, may be the most effective option. An ad like this may be most effective to quickly community Columbia is an outdoor brand with rugged gear.

Columbia: Tested Tough advertisement

In both of these ads, along with the header image and hero graphics on the Columbia website, the brand makes use of quality photographs of outdoor spaces where their gear is used. The quality images draw the viewer in and the setting is appropriate for the brand and message being communicated. This is seen across most Columbia ads and helps to consistently and effectively create a connection between the brand and being outdoors.

One element that is possibly negative about the peripheral ad shown here is the conditions are not ideal for what most people would consider an enjoyable hike. While it does help to communicate that the gear can withstand these conditions, it may not be as appealing of an image and could be less likely to draw the attention of potential customers. It is also possible that some people could view the ad and think they don’t need gear that intense for their causal hiking and skip past it. There are probably significantly more casual outdoor explorers than there are extreme, dedicated mountaineers and outdoor athletes. If ads like this miss the mark, it could lose a considerable portion of potential sales and customers.

Overall, Columbia does an effective job of producing ads that create a clear tie between outdoor sports and the Columbia brand. They also produce a diverse collection of ads, ranging from quick impressions to detailed and text-heavy, to connect with various market segments. They have also used a variety of unique approaches, ranging from their Tough Mother campaigns to their somewhat bizarre but eye-catching campaign for their omni-heat products. I’ve included a few below because I think it really highlights the diversity of their marketing, something they have been doing effectively for many years.

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