Columbia Sportswear’s New Brand Campaign Is ‘Tested Tough’

Columbia Sportswear
A Columbia jacket being "Tested Tough" in the wilderness.
Courtesy of brand.

Last night at an event in New York for journalists and bloggers, Columbia Sportswear unveiled its new global brand platform, dubbed “Tested Tough.”

As in seasons past, the campaign highlights the extreme durability of the brand’s outdoor apparel and footwear, which it boasts are built to endure the brutal weather in Columbia’s native Pacific Northwest.

But one thing is different this time around: Gert is back.

Columbia’s 91-year-old chairman, Gert Boyle, will reprise her cameo role in the brand’s marketing.

Starting in the 1980s, Boyle became a nationally recognized figure when Columbia’s witty “Tough Mother” ads depicted her as a hard-as-nails, exacting executive. She often used her son, CEO Tim Boyle, to test product in unusual and grueling situations, even sending him through a car wash (sans car) to prove a rain jacket met her high standards:

In the new series of humorous TV spots, which will debut Oct. 9 in 63 countries, the now-91-year-old Boyle continues her drive for perfection, but is now involving the entire Columbia workforce. In one commercial, a worker is shown making photocopies in a snowdrift, and in another, new employees have their first-day orientation atop an empty ski lift.

Watch a couple of the short videos here:

Stu Redsun, Columbia’s chief marketing officer, who joined the firm a year ago by way of Under Armour, Sony and Nike, said the “Tested Tough” marketing concept developed in an non-traditional fashion.

He explained that Columbia began by placing Gert Boyle’s seal of approval on products at retail, to establish the “Tested Tough” idea among fans of the brand. “The commercials and print ads are the last part of the rollout,” said Redsun. “And as most of you who are familiar with advertising know, that’s not how things are usually done.”

In addition to airing TV commercials and placing print ads in publications such as Outside magazine, Columbia also will stage a takeover of the Portland and Seattle airports in the coming weeks.

And on social media, brand employees have created videos sharing their personal adventures and how the “test” Columbia’s products in their everyday lives. “The next step for us is to invite consumers to submit their own videos,” said Redsun.