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Bauer Returns to Outdoor Roots

NEW YORK — Aiming to solve a seven-year case of mistaken marketing identities, Eddie Bauer is refocusing on its outdoor heritage with a campaign that ties together the 82-year-old company’s advertising, catalogs, Web sites and store...

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NEW YORK — Aiming to solve a seven-year case of mistaken marketing identities, Eddie Bauer is refocusing on its outdoor heritage with a campaign that ties together the 82-year-old company’s advertising, catalogs, Web sites and store design.

The new effort, introduced to consumers on Sept. 1, is zeroing-in on the great outdoors out of necessity, explained Fabian Mansson, who signed on as Eddie Bauer’s president and chief executive officer in July, and Engle E. Saez, who became Bauer’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer in March.

“You can’t run a business by catering only to trends existing today,” contended Mansson, 38, a former skateboarding champion who was chief executive officer of Sweden’s trendy Hennes & Mauritz department store chain from 1998 through 2000. “That’s partly why we’ve had problems in the past,” he admitted, alluding to a stretch, starting in 1995, when Eddie Bauer brand’s identity and merchandise veered to an emphasis on dress-casual styling, then to a young urban appeal and then to dressier takes, as recently as last year.

“We’re not only appealing to the mountain climber and survivalist,” Mansson emphasized. “We’re appealing to the weekenders in the pack. Eddie Bauer cannot be Eddie Bauer without a strong outdoor foundation. Eddie Bauer used to be an authority on outdoor.”

In an interview last week, along with Saez, at a Bauer store on the corner of Broadway and 67th Street, Mansson pointed to displays of plaid flannel shirts, fleece vests, and leather outerwear, and said they reflect the broad direction in which Bauer is moving. The retailer’s initial, month-long offer spotlighted the debut of Seattle Suede, Bauer’s latest version of the washable leather it introduced back in 1999. (The pig suede skin can be cleaned in the washing machine and dryer.) Pieces in the fall 2002 collection include women’s car coats and skirts, and suede jackets for men. From now through mid-November, leather looks will dominate the mix, and subsequently, Bauer will emphasize down-filled items for the winter months.

Also new to the mix are three CDs displayed at the cash registers, anthologies of pop, rock, and rhythm-and-blues sounds from the Sixties through today, in collections called “Soul,” “Get Funky” and, appropriately, “Down Time.” The CDs reflect the type of music now being played in Bauer’s stores. Those tunes have replaced the hip-hop and Top 40 hits previously played in the stores, a move prompted by feedback from customers who said those tunes didn’t jive with the apparel being sold. Though late to the game in selling CDs at point of purchase, Bauer executives, nonetheless, thought it was an important touch.

More challenging than revamping the product offered by the Seattle-based firm, Saez said, “was trying to show up on Sept. 1, after just four months of work, with an integrated brand.” Saez was referring to the re-creation of the brand’s identity; the development of a $12 million, multimedia ad campaign, created by Wenham, Mass.-based Mullen, an Interpublic Group company, and the redesign of Bauer’s stores — which number 590 worldwide — plus its 110 million catalogs, and its two e-tail Web sites, at eddiebauer.com and eddiebauerhome.com.

More than 50 percent, or $800 million, of the firm’s sales of $1.6 billion, in 2001, was produced in its stores, recounted Saez, who joined Bauer from another Seattle player, Starbucks, and has also had marketing roles at Timberland, G.H. Bass and Stride Rite. (Bauer’s annual sales peaked at $1.8 billion in 1999.) Four hundred of Eddie Bauer’s stores selling apparel, footwear, and outdoor gear are located in North America. Bauer also operates 44 Eddie Bauer Home stores, all of them in the U.S.

When asked about his statement, as reported in The New York Times, that Eddie Bauer is focusing primarily on the 35- to 55-year-old customer, Saez backtracked a bit. “It’s not about age, but a state of mind — an intellectually curious, physically active consumer. We are a more mature brand, aiming at 35- to 55-year-olds,” he acknowledged, but added, “we don’t want to get boxed into that age group.”

Similarly, Saez does not want to be too literal with the marketing campaign’s American Landscape and Look Homeward themes, although the initial rollout does feature representational imagery, from snow-capped mountains to rolling fields of grain. Future ads and point-of-purchase materials may feature a landscape of people, for instance, the chief marketing officer noted. “Past campaigns aimed to make heroes out of our models; our new ads portray landscapes, coupled with appropriate [complementary] products.”

The current campaign, which features sweeping landscapes intended to evoke Bauer’s outdoor heritage, is being conveyed via national radio, magazine, newspaper, and billboard placements, along with in-store treatments. Newspaper, radio and outdoor ads are running in major cities nationwide. Ads broke in the October editions of various national and regional magazines, including Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, and The New York Times Magazine. In addition, the effort incorporates Eddie Bauer’s sponsorship of the National Geographic film, “Lewis and Clark: Great Journey West,” which opened in April and is now being screened in eight markets, coast-to-coast, as well as the production of a series of radio vignettes about Lewis and Clark for “The Osgood File,” which began to air on CBS radio affiliates nationwide on Sept. 4 and is slated to run for 12 weeks.

By pairing relatively small product images in its ads with significantly larger photographs of the American landscape, Bauer is angling to drum up a sense of authenticity and quality, along with feelings of freedom and variety of the sort associated with the country’s wide range of topography. Beyond that, Saez said, the marketing campaign has three primary goals: To create an emotional connection with consumers after numerous identity changes; to reinforce the notion of Bauer’s outdoor heritage, and to reclaim a place as an authority on outerwear.

Previously, Bauer’s marketing efforts turned on its catalogs and print ads. The current campaign is significantly more comprehensive, with a broader, national reach, Saez stated. In affirming that approach, Mansson quickly added, “We need to bring our customer focus up a notch. We need to become even more aware of what the customer wants.”

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