Marketing, Podcast

Ep 120: How Hydro Flask’s founder created a cult-like following for the brand

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Ep 120: How Hydro Flask’s founder created a cult-like following for the brand

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Problem: How do you create a cult-like following for your brand?

Hydro Flask gear is globally known as the tumbler that can replace single-use plastics like plastic water bottles and to-go containers. Their rally cry #RefillForGood encouraged people to make the switch to reusable water bottles. But how did the brand become omnipresent? How did it become a global phenomenon? How do you create a cult-like following for your brand, like Hydro Flask did?

I want to caveat everything with having a really good product with really good intention. Having really good morals and values is always— I’d like to convey that as always being an underlying value.

Make Your Purpose, Values, and Intentions Clear

The core of your brand comes from why your product exists. Strengthening the core of your brand is important before you go out and market.  Your purpose will serve as the compass for all your marketing activities. Knowing your “why” adds value not just to the lives of customers, but to your community as well. Clear intentions help brands build a stronger relationship with consumers, which boosts sales as well as loyalty.

The branding was a little easier because I knew that we wanted to save plastic. We wanted to help protect the environment. We wanted to help save the world. We wanted to hydrate the masses. We want to hydrate everybody’s lives. So the branding was a little easier, but then the marketing was a little bit more of a challenge because it was so broad.

Tip # 1: Know Your Customers

Getting to know your customers’ hobbies, tastes, and interests, even what they watch, listen to, and read, can help you build relationships and engage them better. Knowing your customers’ buying behavior is also important. You need to visualize who would use and enjoy your product most likely. But don’t forget, a huge market isn’t necessarily a good market. Narrowing down to the ones who’ll enjoy your product will most likely help you create a stronger follower base. 

I do believe that knowing who your customer is, is huge. Who is this person? How old are they? Where do they shop? How do they dress? How do they vote?  And which car do they drive? You know, where do they work? And the more you can specifically hone in on an ideal but realistic customer. I think that you’re going to have a much better time getting in front of them.

Tip # 2: Create the Need for Your Product

Travis describes how his team created a need for the product by using guerilla marketing. Using a unique approach, families, and friends were asked to find out if the target stores carried Hydro Flask. The interest grew to the point that stores asked to carry Hydro Flask. 

What we would do is we’d find— it started out with family and friends. I mean, very small group. It started out with, we would have our friends and family contact their local, potential sales partners. And so if we knew there was a sporting goods store, some snowboarding store, or skateboard shop, or whatever kind of business we wanted to get into; we would just kind of set up like a calendar for our friends and family to call them and ask them if they carry Hydro Flask. Then they say, “You don’t. Oh, okay, well, I guess we’re going to have to go down the street to your competitor and get one, but hey man, thanks.” Anyway, well, five or six of those phone calls, and then pretty soon the owner is calling and going. Hey, can we get your bottles?

Tip # 3: Take Care of Your Customers and Let them Sell for You

From time to time, Travis, and his team would throw in what they call “swag” along with the product. Adding small gifts that your customers will love and would use helps them remember your brand. Doing this will let them know you care about them, and soon enough they’ll be the ones promoting your brand.

Swag though is stuff that we’re actually going to wear. If it’s a nice baseball cap or if it’s a nice t-shirt, and it’s good quality, it fits well, it’s printed nicely, and the brand spent some money on it, then people absolutely are going to represent your brand. And that was always part of our mission. Let’s get our customers to be our salespeople. So the shipping department was always constantly putting out extra stickers in boxes. Or every once in a while, they’d just throw in the hat. Or they’d throw in a t-shirt. Just randomly go back, and we’d put a hundred-dollar bill inside. Just random things that people wouldn’t necessarily anticipate getting with just ordering a water bottle. I think that that was always huge.

Tip # 4: Work with Brand Champions and Let Them Tell Your Stories and Share Their Experience

By working with brand ambassadors, you can reach your audience more effectively. Your brand champions already have a relationship with your potential audience. It doesn’t matter whether they’re early adopters, existing customers, or someone new, allowing them to experience your product and sharing it with their community ensures that you’ll be talking to audiences who share your values and intentions. 

It started with friends and family. People that we knew who had, we’re still living in Oahu, still living in the Virgin Islands. People who are out in tropical places. We were asking for photographs. A lot of the snowboarding friends of ours and the ice climbers. And had a lot of buddies who were from my rock climbing days. The airline pilots that would fly all over the world. And then, we get somebody who gets a picture of a Hydro Flask at Turkey. And it’s just like, Hey, now it kind of gives us this international feel that this bottle’s in Turkey. So it was mainly just like our own friends and family, to begin with. And then as Facebook started growing, and social media started growing.

Learn From Successful Brands (Those With Cult-Like Followings)

There are many classic examples of brands that have built loyal followings over time. Apply classics and best practices to interactive channels you have, especially on social media platforms. Create a message that reflects your brand’s mission. 

We just started looking at the marketing campaigns of the already achieved cult-like following brands. Coca-Cola, PepsiCo. all the fast-food restaurants, or anybody who had already achieved that status. Just looking at their propaganda and then putting it into our words and then putting it back out there.

Travis Rosbach Encourages Entrepreneurs to Check Out Tumalo

This interview is part of the How We Solve podcast. To hear more from industry experts who are solving everyday business problems, check us out on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and on our website.

About the guest

how to build a cult-like following for your brand

Travis Rosbach

Travis Rosbach (Capt. Rosbach) has spent the last thirty years studying and practicing all things business. In addition, he spent the past ten years as an advisor, consultant, and speaker to countless industries, celebrities, individuals, and even countries. He is the founder of Hydro Flask and other highly successful business endeavors. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Mr. Rosbach was a SCUBA dive Master/Instructor (PADI 158190), US Merchant Marine Boat Captain (50 Tons), Commercial Airline Pilot (ATP), and is a world explorer.

How people can people reach the guest:

Official Website of Tumalo and Hydro Flask: Tumalo Website | Hydro Flask

LinkedIn: Capt. Travis Rosbach


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