Selling The Outdoor Experience… Or Just Selling Products?

Utter ridiculousness…that’s what I call it.   Unnecessary commercialism at the very least.

When a fellow outdoors communicator recently wrote the following piece it left me shaking my head.   Not in disbelief, but rather, in disgust that seemingly everything to the outdoors has to be tied to some product these days.   Here’s what I’m talking about:

7 Upland Essentials for Female Hunters

Honestly, there wasn’t one item in that list that was truly “essential” to being a hunter—whether male or female.   Now, I get it when you can afford to hunt with nice equipment that is a luxury to be thoroughly enjoyed.   Yet, when you create a laundry list of accessories and pawn them off as being critical equipment that is a completely different subject.

To be perfectly clear there is only one piece of equipment necessary to call yourself an uplands hunter and that would be a shotgun.   And technically speaking, even that is not “critical” as many falconers will tell you.

The point is articles like this one, in my opinion, do a big disservice to hunting.   It lists over $900 of equipment that some might perceive to be a barrier to taking up the sport.   Honestly, if your perspective was someone coming into the sport and you read that laundry list it would not inspire you to take up a sport…quite the opposite, it would discourage you.

Hell, if you were taking up the sport of upland bird hunting you could buy all this gear and you would still need to invest in a gun.   Hunting is not about equipment.   Oh, sure, when you have nice equipment it can make it easier and perhaps even inspire confidence for some individuals, but the truth is very little equipment in hunting is necessary.

It is not shameful to hunt upland birds in blue jeans and tennis shoes.   I’ve done it before.   Is it always practical or even most comfortable…no, but that isn’t the point.   A person should enjoy the sport of hunting not for the designer clothing they wear.   Certainly that can come down the road when your pockets are deeper and a hunter has some maturity under their belt.   Yet, to call out certain items as “essential” and promote them as such is just plain wrong.

Maybe I am hung up on the word “essential,” but that was the author’s word not mine.   I think it carries with it a very strong connotation that needs to be carefully considered when describing the outdoors experience.

In summation, outdoors communicators need to choose their words more carefully.   When I read articles like the one in question it conjures up one thing in my mind…and it’s not a very pleasant thing.   What I see is promotionalism that simply doesn’t need to be there.   Providing a list of specific clothing items speaks to me how the author is somehow indebted to those manufacturers and is trying to pay them back for a favor with a mention.   That may or may not be the case in reality, but that is my perception.

I’m certainly not saying it is wrong to like specific clothes or gear and to mention them as having great utility value in an article.   I have done that and will likely do it many more times to come in writing this blog.   What is wrong, however, is framing the entire article in such a manner as to set a high standard that truly is not necessary and then calling it “essential.”   Every hunter who takes to the fields or forest should feel good about what they are doing and not feel inadequate by what they perhaps can’t afford to wear during the experience.

Hunters What Does It Take For You To Become A Believer?

Let me preface this post by stating upfront that I do not intend for this post to be a product review.  Instead, the product I use as an example in this post is mostly just a prop to frame the question.   In fact, you could page through a hunting supplies catalog and pick one of thousands of similar products that this same question could apply.

That being said, I have never used an electronic scent eliminating product that uses ozone as its means of neutralizing human odor in the woods.   I have had an employee who distributed on her own these types of units for home use and, after listening to her sales pitch and seeing them in use, albeit for an entirely different use…well, let’s just say I am not sold and highly suspect of the product’s true value.

I believe these ozone devices have been available for hunter purchase now for several years.   I’ve heard both pros and cons.   I know I will certainly not run out to the store to purchase one at $400.   Hell, I would give one a try if someone gave one to me.   And therein lies my question.

When a new hunting aid comes along what does it take for you to become a believer?

Do you have to actually try it first hand?   Do you watch the product in use and highly promoted by celebs on TV?   Does a close personal friend need to be your guinea pig, so to speak?   Or does equipment like this just seem so far-fetched that you take one look at it and snicker?

The challenge of controlling human scent in the woods is a prime objective for lots of products touting their value.   And I get that.   I grew up and I still am a trapper and NOBODY is more keenly aware of human scent than trappers are.   Yet, I see successful trappers all over the board when it comes to human scent management.   Some go to extremes taking every painstaking precaution to leave no traces of human scent.   Others, well…they realize the importance of being careful, but they don’t go overboard when it comes to their practices.   Yet, both are still successful.

I often wonder if those of us who are hunters don’t often interpret our experiences the way we hope they exist.   By that I mean, if you just plopped $400 down for some electronic scent device or some scent reducing clothing, by default we all want them to work, right?   Hard to justify how something costing nearly as much as an inexpensive rifle or bow could possibly not live up to our expectations in every way.

Perhaps the best way to answer this question is this way.   Assume one of your hunting companions makes a new equipment purchase making big claims it can be a potential game changer in the outcome of the hunt.   Do you feel the pressure to buy because you don’t want them to have an advantage over you?   Or do you initially scoff at the notion that any newfangled equipment has such revolutionary value that it will likely change the outcome of the hunt?

As an aside, sometimes I fear those of us in the hunting community put too much credence in the next new gadget that comes along.   Oh, sure, many of them are fun to play with and the science behind them can make sense, but is it truly necessary?

It’s sort of like the deer whistles that people mounted on their truck bumpers several decades ago to scare deer away and to avoid collisions and damage.   Did they work?   Oh, you bet they did…but likely not for the reason you might imagine.   They worked because the people who invested in them watched the ditches more closely hoping to see the deer run away by hearing the whistles.   The psychology was people like to see their investments paying off.   This can be true even if the science behind the product being sold is never actually field-proven.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.

Be Careful As Blogger Outreach By Brands Can Influence Opinion

Let me be perfectly clear…I like FREE things just as much as the next person.   If someone offers me some new hunting gear to try…most times I say “heck yeah!”   When an outdoors company tries to reach out to me by inviting me to some sponsored event…they certainly grab my attention very quickly.

Point is, bloggers are becoming an increasingly important cog in the marketing mechanism and if you post words to a blog—no matter what the blog’s emphasis may be—sooner or later opportunity will come knocking.

In full disclosure, over the years I have attended my share of sponsored trips.   I’ve also received my fair share of nifty products to test and to evaluate (with sponsor hopes I would eventually write about it).   To be honest, I even had an opportunity next weekend to fly to New York for a sponsored event that would have been loaded with fun and activity.   I graciously turned them down.   Why?   Because as a blogger I believe you need to carefully pick and choose your activities or you fall victim to being a corporate puppet.

When you know a company is investing hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in trying to woo your positive opinion to their advantage it’s only human nature to feel somewhat indebted.   When testing a product you can give it a fair evaluation…and then return it.   Yet, with sponsored activities there is no way to return the airfare, the lodging, the food and all the other incidental expenses along the way.   It leaves a blogger feeling somewhat pressured to be an ambassador of the company whether or not deep down they really want to.

I feel it’s important for blog readers to understand when the blogger they are reading has strong marketing ties to a #sponsor.   Not only is such disclosure mandated by the Federal Trade Commission, but it’s also simple journalistic courtesy.  (Be sure to read my blog’s disclosure statement HERE)BloggerDreaming

The days when journalists self-pay for their own expenses while on assignment seem to be disappearing rather quickly.   And that’s okay, but readers need to understand the dynamics of reporting has changed over the past few decades.   Often times, what reads like pure journalism of days of old is now quite blurred with a gray line when a blogger is truly more akin to a pro-staffer representing a corporate entity.

So, why is all this important?   Honestly, I feel from time to time it’s critical for a blog’s readers to understand their blogger’s philosophy on the topic.   As you’ve learned, I don’t go on every trip that is offered to me nor do I accept every piece of hunting or fishing gear that could come my way.   I get several offers trying to get me involved with companies each week, but I feel it important to be selective about such relationships.

On the other hand, I do believe there are bloggers out there who will use their Internet platform to harvest every opportunity that comes their way.   They feel no shame in sacrificing unbiased content for the rewards reaped on them by a brand’s blogger outreach program.   That’s a choice they make.

The next time you scrutinize any blog post talking about a product or a brand ask yourself why it was written the way it was.   Did the blogger owe those kind words, or was it truly coming from the heart?   Moreover, ask questions.   If the blogger failed to disclose a sponsorship relationship don’t just assume that none exists.   Sadly, some bloggers still don’t understand the obligation they have to their readers to be honest and upfront about such things.

No, it is quite doubtful I have gone on my last sponsored outing or accepted a final product looking for my expert testing and evaluation.   Yet, I promise such opportunities are each carefully considered on its merits to see how the experience might add or detract from my blogging task.   I have too much integrity for the writing craft to accept some opportunity that holds future expectations of a positive endorsement when one isn’t rightfully deserved.

©2013 Jim Braaten. All Rights Reserved. No Reproduction without Prior Permission.