The brand experience genius of Cotopaxi

Where I eat cake off a friend's face — and have an aha professional moment.

I recently spent 24 straight hours on a quest through Seattle arm wrestling strangers, doing pushups in Pioneer Square, and decorating a friend’s face like a cake:

It was all a part of a 24-hour scavenger-hunt-like event called Questival, put on by a company named Cotopaxi.

Prior to the event, I had no idea who Cotopaxi was. I assumed it was a company that organized adventure outings across the country.

Cotopaxi is actually an outdoor gear brand (like The North Face). I didn’t find that out during Questival. Despite organizing it, Cotopaxi didn’t shove their branding or products down my throat.

I only discovered it afterward, when, following a much-needed nap, shower, and solid meal, I hopped online to learn more about the people who just gave me one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Unbeknownst to me, the entire event was one big clinic on kickass content marketing.

Bravo, Cotopaxi.

Here’s what I mean.

Questival: An Extension of the Cotopaxi Brand

Cotopaxi’s mission is:

Bold products. Big events. Better ways to help others.
Gear for Good.

They target adventurous folks who value the importance of being good to the Earth and others.

It’s no coincidence that Questival attracts these types of people, myself included. I like the outdoors. I like adventure. I try to do good by the Earth. As a result, I learned about Questival through the social circles (and social profiles) I spend my time with.

Questival wasn’t an e-book to download. It wasn’t a webinar to sign up for. It was a unique and potentially memorable experience. I didn’t care who or what Cotopaxi was.

I wanted to be a part of this Questival.

Most of the challenges my team and I had to complete involved meeting strangers (and doing something nice to them, for example) and doing something good for nature (like pick up 50 pieces of trash).

Both of these align with Cotopaxi’s mission:

Better ways to help others

For 24 hours Cotopaxi marketed their culture to me. But I sure didn’t feel like I was being marketed to.

That’s the goal, isn’t it? To market your business without alienating your prospects?

By the end of 24 hours, I’m certain some folks never gave Cotopaxi a second thought. Marketing in any form isn’t an absolute.

But for many people who never heard of Cotopaxi and love their experience at Questival, it was only natural to learn more about the brand behind that experience.

I did what most other people do when they want to know about a brand. I went to Cotopaxi’s social profiles — in this case, Instagram.

While their 69k followers impressed me, vanity metrics only go so far. I was far more affected by their bio and choice in images inside their feed.

My road to discovering Cotopaxi is not unusual.

Yet many brands continue to focus only on selling the benefits of their services or products. They completely disregard the experience of their audience.

Thanks to Questival, I knew more about Cotopaxi as a brand than I do most companies I’ve done business with for years.

And I like what I saw. So while I’m not in the market for any new gear at the moment, when I am, I’ll almost surely look to them first.

Can You Be Like Cotopaxi?

Brand-building strategies like Questival are resource-intensive — and don’t equate into conversions as quickly as, for example, a Facebook ad.

But brands who have the means should invest time and money toward something like this. Unique experiences like Questival turn strangers into brand devotees — rather than passive customers who’ll jump ship at the next best 10% off coupon.

It’s unlikely you can afford the time or money to host a 500+ team event that takes over a city but doesn’t create immediate sales.

But you can think beyond the e-book box most marketers are stuck inside.

  • What is your company mission? What do you stand for?
  • Build an experience for your audience around that mission — even if your service or product takes a backseat in the process.

Cotopaxi pulled it off with perfection and, in the process, very likely created a lifelong fan.

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The brand experience genius of Cotopaxi