By Joel R. Johnson
What would you say the purpose of a fly is? The off-the-cuff answer might be to deceive a fish. If you had a few minutes on the way to the river, you might ponder the question further and say, to connect to a fish. At the end of a day catching rising trout or getting blanked but loving every minute of it, you might say the purpose of a fly is to connect us to ourselves.
Purpose, or finding one’s purpose isn’t just for determining our life’s journey though. Many things, places, organizations, even companies can have a purpose. The goal of having a purpose is to define the higher calling of the brand—it’s a reason for existing, and that reason is often described as a benefit to the world around you. When a company has a purpose, it’s to benefit the consumers and stakeholders of the company’s work. When a brand has a purpose, it’s to benefit consumers by staying true to itself.
The fly fishing industry has many storied brands but the best have unique and clear purposes, even if they’re not written down. Whether the trend is carbon or glass, synthetic or natural materials, offshore manufacturing or American-made, these brands stand out for living up to and promoting a higher purpose.
Here are three tips to help you articulate your fly brand’s purpose.
1. Design your good intentions. In the case of outfitter Soul River Runs Deep, Chad Brown is not only the founder but the talented designer behind the brand. Not just an outfitter, Soul River provides fly fishing access and education to urban youth from Portland, Oregon. From the artistic aesthetic of the apparel to youth fishing expeditions, Soul River wears its intentions on its sleeve.
Ask your founders or designers what you intend to achieve with your product and how you intend to change how it’s done. Then, ask why you have those intentions. The “why” is important and should illuminate your values. Then find some marketing help to make you famous for achieving those intentions.
2. Turn your purpose into an instrument of change. Joining The Everglades Foundation, Bull Sugar and other nonprofits, Orvis employees signed the #NowOrNeverglades declaration to pledge to protect the Everglades. Not only is it the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do for anglers. Using the popular platform of Orvis News, social media and dozens of retail stores, Orvis is helping other anglers discover the importance of this cause.
It’s not just conservation Orvis wants to change. The Orvis interactive learning center features more than 16 chapters and hundreds of hours of video lessons to help consumers become better anglers, all for free. Orvis doesn’t just want to protect the resource, their purpose is to ensure you get the most out of it too. Does your brand have an expertise that can make a change? Big or small, use it.
3. Make sure your purpose is fun. Pig Farm Ink is a collective and a lifestyle brand (sometimes), they’re tattoo artists and fly anglers too (sometimes). Their wildly popular Iron Fly events turned the traditional beer tie on its head attracting anglers who just want to have fun, but Get Trashed River Clean-up Battle events by Pig Farm channel the same energy and enthusiasm into conservation. Every good brand should have a community they can have fun with. Find yours and find the fun you can have together.
Bonus Tip. Tell your consumers purpose stories. YETI Coolers has a superior, uncompromising product, but it didn’t get famous by telling stories about itself. Instead it’s focused on telling stories of superior, uncompromising guides and outfitters. Rather than shine the light on themselves, YETI films has shined a light on the kind of people with work ethics they love and respect, that most anglers love and respect, and get props in turn. Have any consumers with great stories with similar values? Elevate them and stand back.
When you market your brand with purpose in mind, you give consumers a higher reason to be loyal to your brand. You help them achieve their own purpose, aligning with theirs. This creates positive expectations from consumers. In short, they will grow to trust your brand’s good intentions.
Joel R. Johnson is cofounder of Admirable Devil, a purpose-driven marketing agency. He is a former Chief Marketing Officer at Trout Unlimited and thinks his purpose is to stick big fish. He is also the newest editor-at-large for Angling Trade.