From the Natural Wilderness to the Digital Wilds: JACK WOLFSKIN at 40
Founded by adventurer and entrepreneur ULRICH DAUSIEN in 1981, JACK WOLFSKIN made a name for itself with specialized outerwear and sports equipment catering to hiking enthusiasts and mountaineers. Since its paw-print logo first hit the forest trails and ski slopes in its home country, Germany, it has become a familiar sight in the international outdoors – try climbing the temples of Bagan or walking the Pacific Crest Trail without seeing its rucksacks on the backs of fellow tourists. More recently, though, the insignia has found its way onto city streets, via the wardrobes of consumers less concerned with “extreme” travel and more interested in effective, versatile designs for adventures in lifestyle. According to Mokhtar Benbouazza, who heads up Jack Wolfskin’s marketing and digital, their apparel and kit has always had pretty much “everyone” in mind: “adventurers of various magnitudes, people who are looking to hear the call of the wild, and everyone who loves to feel the heartbeat of nature,” he says, remain the target audience. “We strive to stay true to our core principles of inclusivity and democratizing outdoor access to everyone.” But the customer’s evolution is something the brand has actively trailed – and cultivated – as well.
While maintaining their reputation in a few core areas – hiking, cycling, skiing, and related activities – expanding their audience has been “very close to our marrow as a brand,” he explains. True to its roots in nature, Jack Wolfskin has invested in best practices in sustainability throughout its production line, promoting environmental awareness and community from its choice of materials to its work conditions, and in youth and other outreach programs with an international scope. This, it turns out, is just one facet of the outerwear provider’s latest adventure in expansion, in which Jack Wolfskin has begun to accompany its users not just into the wild, but onto digital content platforms – and onto the fashion radar as well. The essential ingredient in a 21st century brand philosophy that is as relevant to extreme conditions as it is to general lifestyle, according to Benbouazza, isn’t pure adrenaline: it’s serotonin. “Balance is key,” he says of Jack Wolfskin’s reorientation – a statement that holds true whether you’re hanging from the face of a mountain or posting an adventure pic on Facebook.
032c: How is Jack Wolfskin speaking to young consumers specifically, and what new strategies has the brand undertaken to engage a consumer group that is streetwear oriented?
Mokhtar Benbouazza: We migrated from a conventional, classical media approach to one with a focus on digital channels, where we intensively push our communication. By developing our #GoBackPack campaign further into the GoBackPack VanLife series, for example, we were able to have an ongoing conversation with younger adventurers. GoBackPack has been very well received, so it’s been pivotal to our approach to a younger community. Another major effort was the expansion of our community strategy – as was developing collaborations. Working with exciting brands turned out to be a fantastic fit for Jack Wolfskin and its heritage.
In the repositioning of the brand, has there been an attempt to engage the social issues that a new generation of consumers hold dear, for example sustainability and equality of representation? How is this addressed in campaigns, messaging, strategy?
As we reposition the brand, we want to progress committed advocacy and really take a stand on issues that matter to us a company, and to our community. Our recent planetary and humanitarian engagement includes preservation initiatives such as our ongoing cooperation with the European wildlife preserve Carpathia, and something we call the “3W” strategy – to save woods, water, and wolves. And these initiatives are something we look forward to further expanding in the future.
“Born to be Wild”: a Steppenwolf tribute of Easy Rider fame, Jack Wolfskin’s original slogan is as durable as its outerwear.
How is Jack Wolfskin embracing new technologies, in the garments and in how they are communicated?
We are permanently developing new technologies, in alignment with our DNA. From using a 100% recycled membrane such as Texapore to our non-chemical water repellent Super DWR technology, we always aspire to engineer new materials that are enormously practical, and at the same time mindful to the planet. For communications, we put the educational factor at the center and focus on digital platforms and their practicality as well.
Is it important that the campaign and strategy – not just the things you do wearing the clothing – have an element of fun/humor in addition to performance and function?
We believe in a good balance of enjoying ourselves while discovering the wild, and in advocating for serious matters when it’s time to step in. In our community-driven campaigns like #GoBackPack, or in our Wolftrail program, fun is the most important aspect besides our performance approach. We search for serotonin, not just pure adrenaline – balance is key. Do we have to place urgency on matters that require it, such as environmental issues? Yes, we do! But we are also here to empower adventurers and enable the creation of amazing memories.
What is your favorite thing about that heritage, and what are you excited about for the brand’s near future?
One of our favorite achievements is the consistency of our engagements. We have been supporting explorers and adventurers for 40 years now and will continue to do so. We are deeply connected to sustainability-driven products and collections with initiatives attached – say, making clothing and accessories that are 100 % PFC free, working with Seaqual Initiative standards against plastic pollution. Our content platform, THE OUTDOORS, is a hub where we showcase different ongoing initiatives as well as brand new ones, and the place where we aim to share educational content with our consumers.
Jack Wolfskin is a German brand, but not everyone knows this. What is the brand’s position in terms of messaging in a global language?
Our heritage is an aspect we will definitely communicate even more of in the future. We will also give more insights on the accuracy that we apply to engineer our technologies, for example, and encourage our global community to put our brand promises to the test in the wild – regardless of the location.