Camo Goes Mainstream

Camouflage isn’t just for the woods these days. It’s become synonymous with the outdoors lifestyle, and mainstream brands are appealing to outdoorsmen by putting camo on everything from cans to phone cases.
Camo Goes Mainstream

Camouflage isn’t just for the woods these days. It’s become synonymous with the outdoors lifestyle, and mainstream brands are appealing to outdoorsmen by putting camo on everything from cans to phone cases.

When hunters think about things that camouflage accents well, they often think of a bow, a gun or hunting clothes. However, during the last decade, things have changed. Now you can find camouflage on almost everything from bathing suits to soda cans, and everything in between. Companies outside the hunting industry are teaming up with camo companies because they are realizing that hunters, anglers and others who live the outdoor lifestyle are loyal to brands that are loyal to their lifestyle.

Shoe Republic, Irisa Camouflage Stiletto

Do the Dew

A few years ago, Mountain Dew started doing research on who drinks Mountain Dew. They discovered that many outdoorsmen are into Mountain Dew. As a result, they decided to partner with a camouflage company and partnered with Lost Camo, the camo of Mathews Archery.

Al Dorn from North America Branding helped roll out the program. The first thing Mountain Dew did was put Lost Camo on their soda cans.

“We started small by testing the market regionally,” Dorn said. “We put the Lost Camo can in the Upper Midwest where we knew there were many deer hunters. The cans were a hit. Our bottlers loved the cans, and consumers loved the cans. Mountain Dew drinkers relate to camo cans. Moms were buying cases of Lost Camo Mountain Dew for their husbands to take to deer camp. People who don’t even hunt were buying them because of their love of the outdoors.”

From Niche To Mainstream

What started out as something as simple as putting Lost Camo on a beverage can grew quickly. Before long, cases of Lost Camo Mountain Dew were being shipped across America. The program has continued to explode in popularity.

“I knew the Lost Camo cans were becoming extremely popular when I pulled into a gas station and an entire semi-truck trailer was decked out in Lost Camo,” said Mike Ziebell of Mathews. “The program has really resonated with the public.”

Lost Camo/Mountain Dew

And the program continues to grow. “What started as Lost Camo cans has branched into many other categories,” Dorn added. “We started doing sweepstakes and product giveaways that included clothes, coolers and other merchandise. We started having consumers and retailers ask us if these products were going to be for sale, which led us to develop a line of products that retailers can carry that consumers will want to use.”

When large brands do giveaways and sweepstakes, most of the prizes tend to be things like cheesy flashlights or camo key rings. That’s not the case with this new line of products.

“We are working hard to develop products that outdoorsmen will want to use,” Dorn explained. “We are talking about clothes that were designed and manufactured with the hunter in mind, and coolers that are very functional that hunters and anglers will want to use.

“The Lost Camo pattern is powerful and the Mountain Dew brand is powerful, so it is easy to see why consumers want these types of products.”

A Truck Built For Outdoorsmen

Mountain Dew isn’t the only mainstream brand that has experienced success by teaming up with a camouflage company. Many other brands are realizing that there are many outdoorsmen out there, and catering to their wants and needs makes business sense. One well-known company that has gone after outdoorsmen is RAM Trucks. I recently interviewed Bob Hegbloom, the CEO of RAM Trucks and a passionate hunter, about why the company started going after the outdoor market.

“Our research shows that over half of all truck owners are outdoorsmen,” Hegbloom said. “Many truck owners hunt, fish or camp. As a result, we thought it was time to go after that market.”

To do so, RAM teamed up with Mossy Oak. According to Hegbloom, Mossy Oak edition RAM Truck is very popular.

Herschel Supply Co. Settlement Backpack, Woodland Camo/Navy/Red

“People love the truck,” he said. “They love the RAM Mossy Oak hat. Our dealers sell many of the hats. It shows us that truck owners are very passionate about both brands.”

RAM has gone one step further than most in the automotive world. They now offer a truck called the Outdoorsman that is built with those who live the outdoor lifestyle in mind. To help market that truck, RAM teamed up with the Drury brothers. The Drurys quickly fell in love with the truck and have been amazed at how well RAM designed it.

“When our friends at Mossy Oak first came to us and introduced us to the team at RAM Trucks, we couldn’t believe how heavily invested in our lifestyle they were,” Mark and Terry Drury from Drury Outdoors said. “Not from a monetary standpoint, but from a culture standpoint. The folks at RAM hunt. They ‘get it,’ and the final products they put out – by the hunter, for the hunter – show how much time and energy they are willing to spend in making the product right. We couldn’t be prouder to be teamed up with both brands.”

The RAM Outdoorsman comes with the Popular RAMBOX cargo-management system that can be used to store all kinds of outdoor gear. The truck has underfloor storage where additional gear can be stored and many other key features that were designed with the outdoorsman in mind –proof that although outdoorsmen aren’t the largest group in America, we have a voice, and large brands are starting to take notice.

Boosting Sales

One of the largest camouflage companies out there is Realtree. They have been partnering with mainstream brands for years, but Dodd Clifton from Realtree said it is still a growing market.

Otterbox Defender Series Realtree Camo case

“It has been amazing to watch this market grow,” Clifton said. “It wasn’t long ago that only hunting companies put camouflage on their products. Now, huge companies are doing it because they realize it can help them sell more product. People are very passionate about the outdoors and the Realtree brand, so when hunters and outdoorsmen see our patterns on products that they want to buy versus the same product in black or white, they often grab the Realtree version.”

One example is the OtterBox phone case. OtterBox is a relatively mature company. It has been around since the late 1990s and is best known for making protective cases for smartphones and other devices. As the popularity of smartphones has grown, so has the demand for Otterbox cases. Because the company owns so much of the market share, no one ever thought that offering a camouflage OtterBox would create as much buzz as it did. But the first year that OtterBox offered a phone case decked out in Realtree, the case accounted for 20 percent of OtterBox annual revenue. You read that right – 20 percent!

The Realtree OtterBox has been available for several years and is still one of the company’s top-selling SKUs.

“There is no question that many hunters love using the Realtree OtterBox, but I think one of the reasons this partnership has been so successful is because non-hunters like the Realtree OtterBox,” Clifton said. “Wearing camouflage has become cool with many people who don’t even hunt or fish. Now people like being associated with it.

“Another positive thing is, as more people look into harvesting their own food and get involved in outdoor sports, people who never cared about camo are starting to think it is cool. The OtterBox partnership is a great one because many of their customers are people who are active and enjoy the outdoors. A case that comes in Realtree makes perfect sense for many of those people.”

Realtree and OtterBox go together like milk and cookies.

New Balance camo print mesh walking shoe (right), Chinti and Parker cashmere camo print sweater (left)

Should You Go Camo?

For manufacturers in the outdoor space, the question they must ask themselves as is, is it worth partnering with a camouflage company to help sell your product? Some companies say it isn’t worth paying the royalties; others say it is worth every dime spent because you can’t put a price tag on the cross promotion and branding that is created as a result of the partnership between a manufacturer and a camo company. Retailers can also take advantage of the power of camo by choosing to stock products offered in popular camo patterns.

Over the last several years, I have noticed more manufacturers getting away from offering mainstream camouflage patterns on their products. This article is proof that partnering with a well-recognized camouflage company is probably worth the investment. By offering a camouflage version of a product – whether it is a bow, gun or phone case – you are telling the consumer that you are proud to be a part of the outdoor industry and the hunting/fishing lifestyle.

History has shown that people support companies that support their passions by opening their camouflage wallets and purses and spending money.


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