Bear Archery’s marketing gurus invite bowhunters to “Walk Among Legends” in the company’s latest advertising campaign, which seizes the allure of Mom, Dad, Fred Bear and everyone’s first buck.
Bear’s 2015 catalog, for example, shows a modern bowhunter crossing a field as Fred Bear’s “ghost” draws a bow from gray clouds above, both focused in the same direction. Meanwhile, on Page 33, a young boy crosses the field with his mother; he's toting a hunting bow, and Mom a well-used 3-D deer target. A question hangs in the air: “Ever wonder how guys end up with tattoos … that say Mom?”
Then there's the Bear Archery ad for its Cruzer bow. The ad shows a happy youth with his first buck, a basket-racked 6-pointer. Again, Bear’s ghost hovers above. An accompanying phrase captures a bowhunting ethic: “There are still parents who believe kids should earn their trophies.”
These creations and others like it are the work of a two-man team: Jason Pickerill, Bear Archery’s marketing manager; and Lee Thomas Kjos, a creative branding strategist. How do they create such memorable ads?
“It can be as simple as talking while drinking coffee and eating a grilled hamburger,” Kjos said. “You have to reach a position that makes sense, something we can both live in, because this has to work for a lot of people. If it doesn’t move your customers, it’s just a picture.”
Kjos said he strives to create ads that aren’t “company-centric.” Which means what?
“When you look at most graphics, it’s one person or just graphics,” Kjos said. “Or it’s just head shots of people. It just claims ‘We’re the best,’ or ‘We’re this or we’re that.’ That doesn’t do anything for consumers. But Pick (Jason) comes up with these brain-childs where people see the ad and say: ‘That was me! I’ve been there.’ That’s the response we want. We want Bear Archery to be the brand for the people.”
Or as the ads say, Bear Archery – a company with an 80-year-old heritage – wants its customers to “walk among legends.”
“That legend could be Fred Bear, it could be your dad or uncle, or your mother,” Kjos said. “The legend could even be a buck you’re hunting. You’re in that world. You’re one of them. You belong.”
Pickerill said a crucial part of the Cruzer ad was finding the right buck to put on the tailgate with the young hunter. “It took us four weeks to get one like that,” Pickerill said. “No one would shoot a fork-horn for us. I kept getting text message after text message with photos, and I’d look and say, ‘No, it’s too big. Too big. Too big.’
“We wanted a small buck; something that makes people say: ‘See that picture? That was me in 1996.’ If we don’t get that response, it’s not right, because we’ve all been there. We’ve all had that small buck in the back end of Dad’s pickup truck. It pulls your emotional heart strings. When you put emotion into that magical buying experience, it’s good marketing. That’s when you have people in your grasp.”