Millennials Outside: Diversifying “The Look” of Outdoor Media

When: August 2016, Outdoor Retailer Summer Trade Show

Location: Downtown Marriott City Creek, Salt Lake City

The archetype of the rugged Northern European individualist journeying into the wild, experiencing a transcendent adventure, and returning to civilization impassioned, invigorated and transformed is the origin myth of the outdoor industry.

It’s also the Achilles heel of its future growth.

America is increasingly a minority majority country. The Northern European ideal is no longer the reality for a population that lives predominantly in urban areas. Why do brands continue to promote it when the customers of tomorrow look so different from the Caucasian models in their catalogues?

Presented by SHIFT and The Avarna Group, this one-hour panel discussion, featuring athletes of color, progressive marketing directors, and millennial CEOs, explores how authentic representations of millennials in the outdoors creates value for brands’ bottom lines while simultaneously developing a new constituency of stewards for the protection of our natural resources.

Additional information: SHIFT leverages outdoor recreation for conservation gains. Since the days of John Muir, active engagement with the outdoors has produced some of the country’s strongest and most inspiring conservation leaders. Today, with the constituencies of outdoor industry, conservation and land management aging, outdoor recreation offers a remarkable opportunity to reinvigorate our economy, public health and the protection of our public lands and waters—but only if the next generation of stewards is able to engage with them in the first place.

  • A constituency of stewards committed to the wellbeing of our public lands and waters begins with getting them outside. Young, urban people of color who don’t see themselves in the catalogs and social-media representations of the industry are not incentivized to climb/paddle/ski/hike/hunt/fish/camp. If they don’t get outside in the first place, they’ll never continue the Muir legacy.
  • Companies founded and run by millennials approach branding and marketing with a web mentality, not a catalogue mentality. The result—crowdsourced, user-generated images that develop customer engagement via dynamic, socially relevant media—offers authenticity, emotional engagement and cultural relevancy—keys to the customer bases of tomorrow.
  • A catalogue mentality continues to dominate the outdoor industry. Veteran marketing directors prioritize the single image that must work as hard as possible to sell as much as possible, and enlist A-List photographers to capture it, who in turn provide stunning photos of beautiful models in extraordinary settings. These models are predominantly Caucasian, because it’s an accurate reflection of the industry’s customer base.
  • Problematically, the cultural landscape is increasingly diverse. In order to be relevant to millennials, the representation of users by outdoor companies must mirror the customer base they seek to cultivate. In the outdoor industry today, this is not happening.
  • The same archetype that shaped the outdoor industry also influenced the conservation and land-management landscape, and it’s a similarly persistent reflection of their constituencies.
  • Without authentic representation of young people of color outside, (older) Caucasians will continue to comprise the industry’s customer base, as well as the base constituencies for land management and conservation efforts.
  • And then we all lose, because without a constituency of millennials, and in particular urban millennials, invested in the future wellbeing of our public lands, they lack the requisite champions in a time of unprecedented threat.

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