Back to Gartner for Marketers Blog

How a Yeti Awakened This Reluctant Consumer

By Jake Sorofman | August 11, 2016 | 2 Comments

I’m no materialist and, honestly, really not much of a consumer. With the exception of things that float, I’m actively indifferent to stuff. My tendency is to shed, not acquire.

This fact should make me an unattractive target for most marketers, since I almost never want what they tell me I so need. But I’m also human. It’s rare, but, every once in a while, I will submit to the call.

Resistance is futile. I buckle. I cave. I develop an inexplicable yearning for some branded thing, some inanimate object that would otherwise leave me cold. Somehow, the right combination of product and message topples my considerable defenses and seizes my imagination.

These days, the object of this inexplicable yearning is one of the most prosaic and mundane things imaginable: a cooler. Not just a cooler, really, but the best cooler known to man. A cooler that, it would seem, is engineered (yes, engineered) for NASA or even to withstand this weekend warrior’s casual use.

It’s a cooler that promises to make me more adventurous, more pioneering, generally braver in my outdoor pursuits, while also keeping my beverages chilled in extreme conditions ranging from a seasonally appropriate uptick in ambient air temperature to a car fire or grizzly bear attack.

No, this cooler isn’t just a cooler. It’s a Yeti. And I must have one.

Yeti is a brand that came out of nowhere and is now, not unlike Waffle House or sweet tea, practically an icon of the American South. You can hardly walk into a hardware, camping or fishing store without a pyramid of bright plastic perfection tauntingly telegraphing: You probably can’t afford me.

Or, more likely, you’re just not accustomed to spending $400 on a product that you’d probably expect to cost 80% less. Yetis are better coolers; that almost goes without saying. You can see it in the fit and finish, in the quality of the hardware, in the satisfying thwack of the lid, in the weight of the object itself.

But we’re not talking about European automobiles here. This is a cooler.

What’s so remarkable is that Yeti has reignited interest in and reset the buying criteria for a moribund category that most consumers rarely considered, creating a need where it barely existed—all while asking for (and getting!) a small fortune for a product that used to trade at a commodity price point.

That, my friends, is really good marketing.

Better still is the fact that, while I rarely fish, barely camp and I’m certainly not transporting live organs, I must have a Yeti.

How did they pull this off?

First, they designed a great product. Probably much better than what you’d expect—or frankly, need. Then they nailed in-store merchandizing and, in the early days, created positive word of mouth by bundling a branded hat with every cooler, which struck up conversations that probably went like this:

Q: Hey, what’s a Yeti?

A: Only the best darn cooler known to man.

Then they created positive associations through sponsorships and endorsements and product placements to ensure the Yeti showed up in all the right places. Eventually, they developed lower price-point line and brand extensions to allowed aspirants to get in on the action. And, along the way, they told great stories that they amplified with social media, like the one about the fire that ravaged the Mercedes, but not the ice cubes in the insulated Yeti cup, and the Grizzly that couldn’t crack the Yeti.

Suddenly, coolers were cool again.

And suddenly I was in the market for one, despite my reluctance.

Oh, yes: the Yeti will be mine.

Comments are closed


  • kevin says:

    Great article! I have 2 coolers that work just fine, but I bought a Yetti because , well.. I wanted a cooler that “goes to 11”

  • kevin says:

    Great article! I have 2 coolers that work just fine, but I bought a Yeti because , well.. I wanted a cooler that “goes to 11”