Marketing a $400 Cooler

Corey Maynard discusses growing the Yeti brand

Headshot of James Cooper


Who Corey Maynard

New gig Vp, marketing, Yeti Coolers

Old gig Vp, marketing, Gerber Legendary Blades

Age 37

Your coolers have hard-core fans in the outdoor community. How do you take that base more mainstream?

The solution is to speak authentically to that core hunter, fisherman, outdoors consumer, and then look out to the next cultural ring.

Who are your current customers?

We have a rabid following, especially in the Gulf states, and mostly skewing male. The company was founded in Austin, Texas, six years ago, and most of the marketing and sales efforts were focused on the Southeastern market.

Is the plan to attract more female and urban consumers?

Well, no, frankly. Job one is to talk to hunters and fishermen outside the Gulf states and then the rest of the country who haven’t heard of us but would use our products to tailgate or go see Nascar or live music.

Who are your media and creative agencies, and what’s their mission for Yeti?

Our media agency is Spark and our primary creative partner is McGarrah Jessee, based in Austin. They are relatively new partners for us. The mission for Spark is to get us thinking a little more strategically and be more result-focused and expand our marketing to that next ring of consumers. For McGarrah Jessee, the challenge is to help us in easily digestible terms explain exactly what the Yeti brand is and what it stands for.

How do you stand out from the more established competition?

When the coolers were first introduced in 2006, the challenge was to convince people to not spend $50 on an essentially disposable cooler but rather $400 on one that they’ll have for the rest of their life. The original tagline was “Wildly stronger, keep ice longer,” which specifically names the primary benefits of the product. We want to stay true to that but expand our base.

How long will ice really last in a Yeti?

It’s variable, depending on the temperature and the prep owners do with their coolers. But we hear from people all the time that they still have ice in their coolers after a week of 100 degree-plus temperatures.

The YouTube videos that feature a 500-pound guy throwing around a Yeti have a cultish following. How important is YouTube for your outreach?

It’s incredibly important. One of the most powerful things about this brand is how authentic it is. There wasn’t a ton of formal, high-gloss marketing that went into building this brand. So projects like the YouTube videos—that happened to get a huge audience because they spoke to people we’re trying to reach—really helped build that story. My biggest challenge is not to screw that up.

Do you have a favorite customer testimonial?

We have one on our blog now in which a truck blows up and is literally engulfed in flames. Afterwards, the owner’s drinks were found in his cooler, still ice-cold.

What nontraditional marketing avenues will you use?

We do a lot of endorsements, from celebrity hunters to fishermen, and always try to engage them as ambassadors of the brand and then tell their stories in as many places as we can.

Who would be your dream Yeti Coolers spokesperson?

It would have to be a toss up between the Pope and Willie Nelson.

@jcoopernyc James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.