By Sean Hickey
M3 Group’s team of creatives will be chiming in for a series of blogs on their favorite brands. Chief Marketing Strategist Sean Hickey provides his thoughts on the brand Filson in our first in the series, “My Favorite Brand.”
I’ve loved Filson products since my first exposure to the company’s nearly bulletproof waxed-cotton field coats a couple of decades ago. For me, the brand is a combination of exceptional products, an understanding of the buyers and a truly well-crafted brand. This balance is one I often see lacking in consumer fashion brands, where you’re often simply paying more for an over-hyped brand.
Filson gear is just better. My tin cloth field jacket is built like a tank, ridiculously waterproof and looks equally good with jeans or over a sport coat. When I want to stay dry, this is my go-to gear. With a couple of zip-in liners, it’s good at nearly any temperature — and it cleans up with just a damp cloth. But it’s not just their flagship jackets; I own several Filson collared shirts, all of which are easily the best-made, best-fitting shirts I own.
A true iconic brand, Filson’s been the choice of folks who spend time outside since 1897, when C.C. Filson’s Pioneer Alaska Clothing and Blanket Manufacturers in Seattle was established. The company was founded to serve Gold Rush pioneers, timber cruisers who estimated for lumber companies, engineers, hunters and anglers. For years, Filson gear was the gold standard if you wanted to stay warm, dry and comfortable in the most brutal conditions.
Yet what intrigues me most is what has happened since Filson was acquired by investment group Bedrock Manufacturing Co. (which also owns Detroit darling Shinola) in 2012. Filson was already making a broader push into consumer fashion at the time of the acquisition. Under Bedrock ownership, Filson has gotten stronger in this area; however, it has done it without alienating the traditional customer. For example, in 2013 Filson introduced Seattle Fit, a slimmer fit aimed at more urban users (aka hipsters). At the same time its traditional fit was renamed Alaska Fit. Brilliant — extend the brand to new audiences but keep the traditional user happy. Filson has also partnered with brands like Ducks Unlimited to appeal to the hunting user. It even did a short-lived collection of Filson-branded Shinola watches (I own two — they’re super cool).
Perhaps the best example of brand excellence are the company’s quarterly “magalogs” that take on a theme, such as featuring a commercial fishing company or a boat builder: rugged individuals who demand the best from their clothing in a challenging situation. This plays well for both the urban hipster who wants to be a lumberjack or the rural traditional customer who actually is one.
Finally, Filson has made it easy to buy. The company’s website uses e-commerce very effectively to make orders quick and easy. And it does e-mail “just right”— with enough frequency to intrigue but not enough to annoy.
But best of all, they are ALWAYS on-brand. The longtime company tagline, “Might as well have the best,” shows through in the products as well as the brand messaging and imagery. And I must agree: When I think of go-to clothing and a go-to brand, it’s Filson.