Eddie Bauer is getting back to its roots – essentially the initial brand strategy. They are a great example of what happens when you expand and do not stick with your core reason for being. Not that expansion is bad – you just need to ensure it remains consistent with your brand.
According to the WSJ, the company spent the last decade or so branching out into women’s casual wear. But the company began as an outdoor wear company and is introducing its first line of “high performance mountaineering wear and gear” in more than a decade – and selling it in a “store within a store” setting. They will now be competing directly once again with the likes of North Face and Columbia. Their CEO, Neil Fiske came from Limited Brands and said he followed the Eddie Bauer brand for over 15 years before joining in 2007. He says, “I had been watching the brand….and I was always thinking, ‘Someone is going to get a hold of that brand and bring it back to its roots, and it’s going to be a great comeback story.” And now he is the one steering the ship in that direction.
The company has put together an impressive team of product advisors and spokespeople – famous mountaineers who have climbed Everest, Mt. Rainier and even one who is the first American to have climbed all the of world’s 8,000 meter peaks. They provide input and strategic direction on the products – they even tested fabrics on Rainier, Aconcagua in Argentina, and Cotopaxi in Ecuador. The company wanted to keep the product simple and eliminate any extra uneccesary features that might add wright.
One really interesting note: Fiske hired a “brand historian” to put together an archive of the company’s past – and this was used in product design nd marketing. This acknowledgment of brand is a testament to how important it can drive all sorts of business decisions. I guess when you want to get back to your roots, you have to know what they look like.