There’s no magic formula for creating a wildly successful brand.
But if you look at YETI, it’s obvious that brothers Roy and Ryan Seiders have unlocked the way to carve out a special place in the hearts of their loyal customers.
Of course, their products—rugged coolers, beverage containers, backpacks, and more—were developed by outdoorsmen who inherently understood how to make something that people like them would want to use. But beyond the products themselves, YETI has formed a community of customer ambassadors who share their stories and experiences in a range of content from social media to documentary films.
In this installment of Made in Frame, we had the opportunity to dive into YETI’s intrepid content team. Their authentic and inspirational work has helped YETI grow from a couple of brothers making coolers in Austin, TX, to a massive international brand.
Hitting the road
In 2006, the Seiders were frustrated with the mass-produced coolers that would break after a single season of fishing and hunting, so they formed YETI with the stated mission to build the cooler they’d use every day—if it existed.
Relying on personal experience to inform the design and fabrication process, they initially sold their “Grizzly-proof” coolers by taking their products on the road to fishing and tackle trade shows, and selling through hardware stores and outdoor retailers like Bass Pro Shops.
The coolers were comparatively expensive, but they also lived up to what the brothers had set out to achieve. By 2015, YETI had amassed almost $450 million in sales.
Today, the brothers’ commitment to authenticity still permeates the now publicly-traded company, and remains a constant in their marketing and messaging. From rodeo cowboys to BBQ pitmasters, the compelling content is always about people over product, equal parts inspirational and aspirational.
Arlo Rosner, Executive Producer and Senior Manager of Content at YETI, heads up the ongoing task of creating a video production pipeline that can accommodate both the scale and the quality of what has evolved into a global endeavor.
As a deeply experienced filmmaker and entrepreneur, Arlo approaches telling YETI stories from both the artistic and business angles.
Tapping into the feedback from their community and the insights that come from them about their desires and what sells well, the creatives at YETI are able to strategize campaigns and products that resonate deeply with their customers. In fact, they do it so well that a recent Forbes article ranked them as one of nine entities with top-notch branding strategies.
“We’re not focused solely on the product. We’re telling stories and documenting the lives of our customers,” Arlo says.
“For the past ten years, we’ve had a series called YETI Presents. We’ve done about a dozen films a year, and have won awards at film festivals. We also have a series called YETI Dispatch, which tells customer stories that we incorporate into our catalogues as video essays.”
These immersive films garner hundreds of thousands of views with their cinematic quality and sometimes high-profile talent, like Finding Ground featuring skater Geoff Rowley. But there are also stories featuring lesser-known people and pursuits, like the Maui rodeo cowboys (and girls).
Twice yearly (in spring and fall), YETI rolls out four new, limited-edition colors. They identify ambassadors or friends of the brand with compelling stories and match the color to the story.
Their recent spring campaign, for example, featured legendary rock climber Beth Rodden to represent Granite Gray with her affinity for the granite of Yosemite, and a Bering Sea crab-fishing couple to represent King Crab Orange.
“My challenge is to take a simple color like that and find a real piece of connective tissue to tell a story. We always want to be connected to our foundations and our origins in that way,” Arlo says. “It’s not just a color that hits a shelf, there’s an inspiration behind why we chose that color.”
YETI and their ambassadors have serious two-way conversations before proceeding.
“We want to genuinely make sure that the fit is right in both directions,” he says. As a documentary filmmaker, Arlo then does a written brief, but it’s not a storyboard. “Overall, it’s more story-driven than storyboard driven.”
One of the “color story” campaigns might involve two or three shoot days over the course of a week. But with the longer YETI Presents films, they might follow athletes over the course of an entire season or even an entire year, necessitating multiple trips.
Functioning as an in-house agency and production company, their content team is currently about 10 people, including a two-person camera team that travels the world capturing these stories in far-flung locations from the U.S. to the U.K. and Europe, to Australia and New Zealand.
“When you’re talking about travel and working on a global scale, we can get around the world with five cases,” Arlo says. “Anyone reading this who’s traveled with cinema packages knows that you can get up to 25 cases. Over the years, we’ve found a package that’s small but packs a big punch. There’s no limit to what we can accomplish with it.”
They also tap into their brand ambassadors for content, some of whom are expert-level photographers and videographers like Oscar-winning director, rock climber, and all-around badass, Jimmy Chin.
YETI’s growing international market makes it necessary for them to generate numerous deliverables in different languages. And Frame.io is central for how all assets are organized and routed to their various destinations for everything from TV to social media, as well as to their e-commerce and web-development teams.
A durable workflow
From anglers and hunters to chefs and brewers, anyone who needs seriously sturdy gear relies on YETI.
Similarly, to accommodate the scale and scope of the content they produce, YETI’s workflow needs to be as functional and durable as one of their own products.
With tentpole campaigns scheduled around seasons and holidays, the team is always on the go. “We’re planning our shoots in October and November for what the world will see in March and April,” Arlo says.
Currently, they’re promoting their Fall Colors campaign, for which they traveled to northern Scotland to shoot the spot for Highland Olive green, to Montana to shoot Sharptail Taupe, and to Central California For Harvest Red.
The Scotland shoot took place during the pandemic, which meant that they worked remotely with the crew. But just by adding a seat to their existing Frame.io account for the production company point person, they were able to easily collaborate from the Highlands to the U.S.
Frame.io functions as the hub for all of the myriad assets that are created throughout post-production. “Frame.io is where all the rough cuts are—the revisions, the iterations, the different versions. And from that project, the final deliverable pops out in the form of many assets. The project is then archived with all of its additional graphics, titles, audio files—whatever was added along the way,” Arlo says.
Designed to use—and reuse
Because YETI shoots documentary style, they often have a lot of footage that doesn’t necessarily make it into a short ad or film, but can be repurposed for other projects by their creative and web development teams.
It was a heavy lift, because we had to go through 30 or 40 films with the creative team working with the content team.
A recent example is the ad campaign titled, Take Back Travel. “Our creative department did a great job of having fun with the traditional resort travel commercial and giving it a YETI skew,” Arlo says.
“What is a complimentary buffet in the YETI world? What’s a penthouse suite? And that entire spot was built from the raw footage that wasn’t used in the YETI Presents films. It was a heavy lift, because we had to go through 30 or 40 films with the creative team working with the content team and asking where they could find a certain thing.”
It’s why Arlo is interested in new technologies that help centralize and automate their processes.
The Frame.io project is the bucket where we store everything.
“Frame.io is a big part of solving our workflow bottlenecks by centralizing all of our assets for every project so that it remains both organized and accessible. It’s how we build a project,” Arlo says.
“We get interviews transcribed or translated, and then we’ll put that into the project and create a Frame.io link, which I can give to a copywriter, for example. We have to build a website and a landing page. And we might want to quote a brand ambassador. So giving the writer a transcript as quickly as possible is very useful. And then the Frame.io project is the bucket where we store everything.”
As far as final distribution goes, they use a DAM. All the deliverables will be categorized in Frame.io, and they’ll send one final downloadable link to their asset librarians, along with the project managers, to allow all the various channels to access what they need.
“Everything they need is in one place and it’s clear that it’s the correct final version,” Arlo says. “Imagine someone from the web department in Australia is looking for something and they find an old link. Well, now it’s disabled, so they can’t download the wrong thing. We can control a far-reaching asset management solution in a really clean way.
The right gear
YETI gear, while certainly popular with pro-level outdoorsy types, is no less appealing to people who just want a cooler that’s easy to use and adaptable to many applications.
Whether you need a great ice chest for a backyard party or you’re traveling deep into the wilderness, YETI has you covered.
It’s part of what Arlo appreciates about Frame.io. The ease of use for all different types of cases is clear and intuitive. “There’s a subtle advantage to using different kinds of links,” Arlo says.
“The difference between sending a Review link for work-in-progress versus a Presentation link is almost psychological. When we send a branded Presentation link with our logo, it’s clear that this is just for circulation. There’s nowhere to put a note, so it’s really helpful to have different aesthetic views for different purposes.”
It’s all in Frame.io. And the place where it’s really optimized the workflow is in time.
In terms of the overall impact Frame.io has on YETI’s workflow, Arlo is clear. “I can’t really put it into numbers,” he says.
“But when an editor’s working on a rough assembly for a 10-minute film and it’s still 17 minutes, there’s no need for exporting. There are no back and forth emails to answer. All the old things are gone because we can look at it where it’s living, it’s all in Frame.io. And the place where it’s really optimized the workflow is in time. Our internal leadership is used to seeing reviews and presentations in a unified way that we didn’t have even a few years ago. As a team, we love it.”
An ongoing story
As YETI grows globally, the demand for content continues to increase across multiple channels from in-store installations, social media, and YouTube to their expanding website.
For example, YETI has recently introduced a new product line for luggage.
“We’re putting our products on our website and we have 3D and AR capabilities so you can view, for example, a piece of luggage from all angles or see it in a room at scale,” he says.
It’s why, as Arlo looks into the future, he anticipates working more closely with the Frame.io API to customize their workflow by creating more automated processes to expand their cloud workflow, including storage.
“We’re still relatively new to Frame.io, but the plan is to create some kind of integration right from Frame.io into our cloud storage so that you could have our massive content library living in deep, cold storage in the cloud,” he says.
Arlo describes YETI as an “entrepreneurial rocket ship” of a company. “It’s a retail hard goods company, but it really is a startup dream. We’re building global systems to manage these massive content libraries that need to be widely accessible.”
In a way, YETI and Frame.io have traveled parallel paths as a company. Starting with a solid idea and a couple of guys with a can-do approach, we’ve both reached the next pinnacle in the company’s development.
And, in the way that YETI appreciates the adventures of their ambassadors, we appreciate being part of YETI’s ongoing adventure.