Ostensibly Best Made Company produces high-end tools and equipment for travel and the great outdoors, but the fact that their signature axe is displayed by the likes of the Saatchi Gallery in London gives an indication of just how high-end, verging on the realms of art, this equipment is.
Founder Peter Buchanan-Smith, a graphic designer by training, hit the big time around 2010 with the creation of his much-celebrated handmade axes and hatchets, spawning a line of beautiful yet manly and functional gear that includes a German-engineered compass ($168), a bone-handled hunting knife ($275) and a brass Davy lamp ($180). You get the idea.
You can almost let aspirational products like these market themselves – the image and price tag alone convey everything you want your customer to know. But Best Made Co. has gone several steps further and built an entire aspirational brand around their gear, fuelled by incredible digital content in their “Adventures” series.
The idea is simple: Buchanan-Smith and a photographer head out into the wilderness to visit revered outdoorsmen in their natural habitat. Destinations so far have included Alaska, remote Idaho and Patagonia, where they spend a few days living, working, eating and drinking with their wise and frequently weather-beaten hosts.
The fruits of these trips are a series of stunning large format photo essays, with a simple introduction to the characters followed by a dozen or so images from the trip. The photographs evoke the romanticism of life in the great outdoors, and many (but not all) feature subtle references to Best Made Co. products – axes, aprons, enamel cookware, or simply the brand’s distinctive red cross:
With these photo essays Best Made Co. is able to put a story behind its brand, magnifying the aspirational element and helping consumers connect with their products on an emotional level than would never be possible on a regular e-commerce page. Best Made Co. already knows you want their products, now they’re making you want the whole mountain-man lifestyle too.
And it works because it never seems contrived: these are just a bunch of guys doing what they love. Or as Jaime Soper, Best Made Co.’s director of communications, explained:
“Our Adventures series is less a “strategy” than a snapshot of what we’re already doing: adventuring. They are just the stories of our products, environments and the people we encounter along the way. For example, we’ve carried Cee Dub‘s book forever and are always talking with him about new camp recipes, but this year we finally had the opportunity to meet him in person & return to the Middlefork, a place he called home for over two decades. As Cee Dub would say, the trips are less about ‘R&D, research & development’ and more about ‘R&D, research & dinner.'”
At first glance it might be hard to see how any of this is transferrable to a “regular” travel brand. Not everyone’s products are quite so extraordinary and who else has time to do all that adventuring? But there are elements of Best Made Co.’s approach to branding and storytelling that you can emulate, even on smaller budgets and tighter schedules:
- Put your content to work, over and over again: This is critical if you’re spending time and money on content marketing – you need to ensure maximum value and extend the lifetime of your content by using it to drive email subscriptions and social follows, which allow ongoing relationships and future marketing opportunities with your prospects and clients.
- Find alternative sources of content: You might not be able to head for the hills yourselves, but your guests and pax are living your brand for you. Can you find ways of incentivising them to provide the content you need?
- Tell your brand’s story, don’t sell your products: This doesn’t work when you treat your content as simply another ad or sales pitch for your products and services. Your content ought to emphasise a deeper sense of your brand story and identity, connecting with the audience on an emotional level. In doing so you can create indirect exposure for your product or services, just as Best Made Co. do here.
- Use your content to connect with influencers: Think about who else might connect with your story and content. If the story is interesting enough there are bloggers and publishers in every lifestyle niche (not just travel) who may be interested in what you’re saying, and be willing to share it with their own audiences.
What’s your brand’s story? Isn’t it time it was told?