I first heard the name Moosejaw when I was out in Michigan a few years ago visiting my friend Tim. Knowing that I was a mild gear junkie, he took me to this outdoor store with a strange name on our way to the airport. I’ve always loved “gear” stores; I like roaming around, I like reading about the performance specs on jackets that mean virtually nothing to me, and I like the unnecessary (fake) carabiner that I inevitably end up buying on my way out of the store. Being an Eastcoast-er, I had never heard of Moosejaw (as we only had the comparable EMS and REI chains), but it didn’t take long for me to turn into a full-fledged Moosejaw believer. I still have the Moosejaw carabiner that I bought on my first visit.
The thing that always struck me about Moosejaw was that they were unapologetically playful. As a company, they seemed to pride themselves on being full of one-liners and sarcasm, and I instantly found this “don’t take things so seriously” approach refreshing, especially in an industry that can mistake your weekend hike for a trip to the summit of K2. I’m just looking for a fleece, I don’t need it to be able to protect me should I be stranded in the arctic. Moosejaw seemed to know how to put the love back in gear-love, and they showed it in everything that they did, from writing “no knife, use teeth” on the bag that comes when you order online to putting together an entire catalog full of people wearing no pants. They claimed that since people are only buying half an outfit due to the recession, they would save the pants for a separate edition. The crazy, fun personality quickly emerged for me as Onething-able, but the more I thought about Moosejaw, the more I thought that they do something else even more impressive than just being unapologetically themselves.
One of the first things I noticed on the company’s website (a few years ago), was that there was an entire section devoted to photos of people wearing, holding, or using Moosejaw gear. This section has now been moved to Moosejaw’s Flickr page, but I love the fact that it began well before photo sharing was all the rage. The company knew that its strong personality was going to breed a bunch of Moosejaw nuts, and it knew that it needed to do something clever with that captive audience. What likely began as a few employees snapping photos on a weekend hike quickly turned into a massive collection of images that show Moosejawers (I made that word up) in action. They range from people underwater to this guy on the top of Kilimanjaro:<a href=”http://http//tiny.cc/h3b8b” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”> http://tiny.cc/h3b8b. It’s a relatively impressive collection, but even more impressive is that by doing this (and recognizing their community’s never-ending desire to one-up each other), Moosejaw has gone from having brand lovers to having brand disciples. Who else would plan to bring the Moosejaw logo to the top of Kilimanjaro? You have to respect the planning that goes into taking some of these shots, and Moosejaw has to love that their army is out there snapping away.
Onethings always tend to be simple ideas that deliver on an even simpler theme, and Moosejaw is certainly no exception. If I had to put their Onething into a nice, neat box, I would say that this company knows how to build a community. What’s even more appealing in Moosejaw’s example is that they were doing this long before anyone online was running around shouting the words “Web 2.0, user-generated, social networking, and online community.” To stick with the latter, we find that everywhere we turn these days, we’re confronted with someone who is looking to have an “online community component” built into their website. A prize to anyone who can tell me what that means. The point is that communities are real things, not buzz words, and when done right, they can be really exciting for everyone involved. The folks at Moosejaw must love seeing what their yahoo fans will come up with next, and I have no doubt that the Moosejaw skydiver (<a href=”http://tiny.cc/oRKcy” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>http://tiny.cc/oRKcy</a>) was psyched to conceive, execute, and post her photo.
To bundle this up (continuing with my packaging theme), I would say that companies are always looking for ways to better engage their audience (or at least they should be), and Moosejaw’s simple “send us photos of you and our stuff” example is a reminder that the idea itself doesn’t have to be complicated, it just needs to fit your user.