Is your latest marketing campaign #TestedTough in the Social Media world?

Columbia Sportswear unveiled its latest marketing campaign on Wednesday, October 7th. The campaign efforts are focused entirely on reaching consumers via social media. North, a Portland based advertising agency, developed the $50 million campaign. It will be rolled out in 63 markets all across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia this week. Based on its global reach and sizable budget, this is the largest campaign in Columbia’s 77 years of history.


The campaign, headlined with the slogan “Tested Tough,” primarily encompasses video content to be shown on YouTube and regular television. The video ads feature appearances of 91-year-old Gert Boyle, the CEO of Columbia Sportswear. The content aims to educate consumers about the historically “Tested Tough” quality of Columbia Sportwear products, with a twist of humor. This down-to-earth and humorous take on advertising is all in an effort to create a stronger emotional connection between the brand and its consumers.

“The majority of them over the last six or seven years were about specific products or technology that had little to do with the emotional side of the Columbia brand,” — Columbia Sportswear Chief Marketing Officer Stuart Redsun

CEO Boyle will also be featured in social media posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. All digital ads will be targeted at specific geographical areas, marketing specific Columbia Sportswear products based on the area’s climate. The ads will still highlight the features of the products and the technology behind them, but will focus more heavily on creating a brand life style of “Tested Tough”. Employees of Columbia Sportswear will also be encouraged to post YouTube videos of their real life activities that put Columbia gear to the test. All posts will be branded and tagged with the #TestedTough slogan

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Perhaps the most innovative aspect of the “Tested Tough” campaign are the Directors of Toughness appointed by Columbia to promote their products and slogan. Over the next six months these Directors of Toughness will travel around the world, putting Columbia Sportwear clothing and footwear to the test. Their experiences will be documented and shared via blog posts.

Selected from among more than 3,000 applicants, Lauren Steele and Zach Doleac have an undeniable passion for outdoor adventure. More importantly, they have the experience with writing, photography, videography, and social media to put #TestedTough on the trending map.

“We’re pretty much in the dark. It’s going to be some cold places. It’s going to be some hot places. Other than that, any specifics are unknown to me at this time.” — Doleac


Name: Lauren Steele

Age: 22

Hometown: Kirksville, Missouri

Education: She graduated from University of Missouri School of Journalism.

Work Experience: She has freelanced for Outside, Men’s Journal, Men’s Fitness, Rolling Stone and New York Magazine.

Fun Fact: She has travelled the world including the Atacama Dessert and Mont Blanc Massif.


Name: Zach Doleac

Age: 25

Hometown: Seattle, Washington

Education: He played football and baseball at Middlebury College.

Work experience: He was the global team manager, marketing coordinator, and photographer for K2 Skis of K2 Sports USA.

Fun Fact: He became an Eagle Scout at age 15.


  1. Wow what a great campaign! Thank you for bringing it to our attention. I will definitely follow Columbia Sports to track this “Tested Tough” initiative – it will be interesting to see how much reach, attention, and involvement this campaign gets. Columbia appears to be doing a lot right with this new marketing campaign, and you highlighted these positives nicely. Three components that stuck out for me:
    •Columbia is creating a brand persona – rugged, humoristic, sarcastic, and outgoing
    •Columbia is encouraging UGC on youtube and other social platforms
    •Columbia is leveraging brand ambassadors
    One question I do have is how Columbia will use each of their social platforms. @geraldckane posted an article on the Twitter feed this week highlighting the importance of using social platforms for a unique purpose. Since Columbia plans to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, it will be important the brand does not just replicate their message on each, as this will lose traction online.

  2. Taylor I really like your post! Love seeing great social media marketing campaigns. It is really interesting how Columbia is creating their own positing as a tough, funny and adventurous. I think the brand is doing a great job keeping their product attributes in their advertisement, but apse linking it with an emotional benefit (the brand gives you the ability to be more adventurous), by creating a brand personality, that I don’t think it was clear before. I also really like how they are making employers part of the campaign, by making them post videos and also having the CEO as part of the advertisement (I think that is the most amazing and funny part).

  3. Great post. Columbia is really stepping up in their marketing game. These days I feel companies have to do this to stay relevant. The short attention spans of the audiences and the unrelenting barrage of ads and clever campaigns from other competitors make sure that every company needs to bring their best foot forward. I this haste they make some ‘not so smart’ decisions, such as the Call of duty campaign about the fake terrorist attack on a Singapore airport. But mostly they result in fun and good campaigns. Its really pushing the limits of creativity. I love what Zipcar did with their “I’d tap that campaign. . And also the Ford Fiesta movement – . I like that competition is making for some great entertainment and remarkable campaigns for us consumers.

  4. I love this blog post! One of my favorite this week. This is such a cool campaign. I love how they are using video in order to demonstrate the quality of their product. I am definitely more likely to buy something at a higher price if I am able to see that it is thoroughly tested and am very guilty of being easily affected by ads like this.

    I don’t know if you have heard about S’Well water bottles, but their CEO spoke to my company this summer about their water bottles that are able to effectively keep liquids hot or cold for 24 hours. She then showed us an in-action video which included people drinking hot chocolate out of the water bottle in the snow, and I was sold. The water bottles are approximately $40 but their marketing approach made me feel like I needed the product! This ad was really effective for S’well and I am interested to see if Columbia has just as much success.

  5. Hi Taylor, very cool post! It’s a funny coincidence, too, because over the past several weeks I’ve been conducting a social media audit for three outdoor brands (namely Columbia, North Face and Patagonia) for my Digital Marketing class, and I was intrigued when all of the sudden “Ma Boyle” started popping up all over their SM feeds across the three platforms I’ve been monitoring. The posts featuring her are really usually quite funny, and she plus the Directors of Toughness have really set the brand apart and set a very different tone compared with the competitors. I wasn’t aware that all this is part of a single, big new campaign until now (should have figured it out by now, I suppose), but the agency did a really great job, it looks like. North has found a great angle and I love the locally-focused aspects of their advertising. Thanks for this great blog post!

  6. This is freaking awesome! I could totally be a director of toughness. (Ok maybe just an aspiring director) This is probably the most innovative technique for branding I have ever seen. I am sure this is going to go a long way for the company as people can follow the directors of toughness as they embark on crazy adventures around the world via different social media platforms. If you have ever heard of Spartan Race, I know they are thinking of doing something similar to this. It is amazing to simply take everyday people and make them famous and also have a ton of brand awareness and beneficial marketing. I know Columbia Sports has been struggling to gain support of a younger audience and increase market share against competitors like Nike and the North Face. Hopefully this will help them out.

  7. I am a huge fan of campaigns that narrate an experience. Traditional marketing, as we know, is becoming less effective, and customers really aren’t very loyal and they don’t care what brands are saying. But if we associate brand messages with an event, a real life experience that relate to consumers, then they are much more likely to tune in and pay attention. In this case, I’m sure that these 2 directors of toughness will produce some great content, and if they’re funny/cute/inspirational, I can see people getting really into it. I’m excited to see what they will come up with as well as what impact they will actually make. On a side note, I wish I could get paid to travel around the world for 6 months and get free gear! That’s the dream.

  8. Its interesting how SM has enabled companies to hire these types of “brand ambassadors” to essentially live a life that highlights the product. Pretty interesting development.

  9. To go off Professor Kane’s point, I really like the idea of brands financing lifestyles. I have a friend who was a Jack Wills Seasonnaire (see here: Essentially, this meant he was an intern for the clothing brand whose primary job was to travel around, doing fun summer things on the beach and having it documented via social media and video. It certainly is a new take on model, and it totally wouldn’t have made sense economically for the brand before the days of social media.

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