‘We are moving from decades of consumerism focused on acquiring stuff to an age of seeking out more meaningful experiences and connections.’ — Carla Murphy
It’s a new year, a time to look back but also ahead. The outdoors industry is changing, and 2017 promises innovations and design catered toward an ever-evolving consumer. We caught up with Carla Murphy, Icebreaker’s Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, for a lens on the coming year, trends, and a peek at how the New Zealand business strives to stay ahead.
Interview: Carla Murphy
A former VP at Amer Sports, where she oversaw women’s apparel and hard-goods business for Salomon, Arc’teryx, Atomic and Mavic, Carla Murphy currently serves as Icebreaker’s chief marketing and strategy officer.
GearJunkie: What trends do you see in the outdoors industry now?
Carla Murphy: There are a few interesting things happening globally that are cascading into the outdoor industry and providing a surge of interest in getting outside. Most notable is the desire to totally unplug and reconnect to nature because of an always-on digital world.
The contradiction to this trend is that more than ever digital platforms are used to share and connect moments of meaning, beauty, or nature to friends and family. This confirms our innate human need for connections and community. We are moving from decades of consumerism focused on acquiring stuff to an age of seeking out more meaningful experiences and connections. Personally, that really excites me.
What trends are you seeing in the active-apparel space?
Peoples’ lifestyles have evolved because as a species we are constantly evolving and adapting to our environments. So, it makes sense that apparel is now more suited to what consumers use it for, be it a workout, to travel, to work, or to commute. Multi-functional, premium quality performance apparel is now highly sought after as it offers greater versatility across multiple activities, lasts longer, wears better and reduces the size of your wardrobe, which is ultimately better for the planet too.
How will 2017 be different from 2016 in the outdoors industry?
My prediction for the next couple of years is that consumers will migrate from the big brands to seek out brands with more entrepreneurial, purpose-driven values. So, all brands need to up their game to make sure they are relevant, useful, and add value.
What are some goals with Icebreaker as a brand in 2017?
We are a big believer in the constant pursuit of better, daily improvements in everything we do. 2017 will see us focus our efforts and attention back into the areas we are most passionate, our provenance, our relationships with people, and our natural performance product development.
Talk about your personal passions in the outdoors.
I am a big believer in the wild nature within all of us and believe we are each connected to something much bigger than us. Running for me is a journey of discovery, it takes me a long time to wind down or relax, so heading out for long runs in the hills, the trails, or the mountains helps; it’s like a good medicine. Ridgeline running never fails to make me smile. I feel very privileged to have run amongst some of nature’s most impressive places.
What is your favorite piece from Icebreaker? What are you wearing now?
I love our underwear more than anything! I can’t live without it. Right now I am wearing Icebreaker Cool-Lite Spark Shorts and the Icebreaker Aero Tank — yep, just been running.
Please list some pros and cons being in the merino business.
Pros: We work with what nature provided everyday, that is quite humbling and awesome. Merino is simply awe-inspiring. Its natural performance properties are unrivalled because it’s got everything; beauty, intelligence, intuition and most importantly, it’s sustainable.
Cons: Working with nature means we have to be patient, but as humans we are not always blessed in that virtue and a desire to move fast is imposed by the world we live in. I actually think this is a pro not a con, as working to nature’s cycle means our product has much greater relevance and purpose.
Who is an ideal Icebreaker customer? What customers do you have difficulty reaching?
Our core consumer is adventure-minded and an active lover of nature and just being outside. I believe if you know your consumer, then reaching them is about being relevant, valuable, and visible.
How is Icebreaker evolving as a brand?
We are building on our DNA of “provenance, people and product” to stay true to our roots and to our consumers. We love the power of nature and love connecting with people who share our mindsets.
What is the most effective way to market merino? What does not work?
That’s simple, you just need to try it to believe it. Wool conjures up itchy, scratchy, not-so-great experiences for consumers, but the moment you feel the softness of merino on the skin that notion quickly dissipates.
From your former jobs and positions what have you learned to bring to Icebreaker?
A mix of industry know-how, brand strategy, commercial and consumer insight, and outdoor apparel and gear knowledge. As Global VP of Women’s for Amer Sports, I worked with Salomon, Arc’teryx, Mavic, and Atomic to strengthen their women’s business proposition. This is a topic I still have great passion for especially because Icebreaker has a 50:50 gender split. It has been that way since our inception because our founder was raised by strong women figures so that has naturally transcended into who we are and is something we are incredibly proud of.
In a few words, what does the Icebreaker brand mean to people?
Sustainable, adventure-driven, natural comfort. Our products are designed to transcend the basic need for warmth and relate to the customer on a broader level of values-based wants. For example, aspiration is important; having adventure at the heart of the brand talks to the yearning for adventure and excitement that is latent within many people.
The Icebreaker story is simple, it’s about connections between humans and nature. People connect with the brand knowing it’s connected to nature and so it’s the most natural of partners for them in their own outdoor adventures.
This article was sponsored by Icebreaker. Check out their line of merino wool products here.