Post By: Jay Highland
Jealousy. That was the first emotion I experienced when I walked into the new Yeti flagship in Austin. Totally green with envy. How did this store come to be? Who created this place? This brand makes coolers, ferchrissakes. A box to keep ice icy and cold drinks cold. Who had the vision to turn something that basic into something so, well… COOL?
Full disclosure: Our firm bid on this store project. Back in 2015, Yeti invited us to participate and provide a proposal of how we would approach their flagship experience. We didn’t win, and moved onto the next thing. You win some, you lose some, right? And then, two years later, I found myself in Austin with a few colleagues for a meeting. We had a little bit of time on our hands, and had heard that Yeti had opened its flagship. So we decided to check it out. And damn. It’s amazing.
It’s the purest expression of a brand that I’ve seen in a long time. Entirely authentic, true to its core essence, and a great example of storytelling and experiential retailing. Witty, sharp, clever, and real. Best of all, it’s more than a store. Yeti products are available in every retail channel from Walmart to Amazon. They’re a manufacturer at heart, with a clear and compelling vision for the product line.
True To Its Austin Heritage
Does anyone really need a cooler emblazoned with their favorite college team’s logo? If you’re a Yeti loyalist, and live in Austin, you’re likely a UT fan as well. In their custom shop, pick from a collection of pre-selected choices to show your team spirit at the next tailgate. Hook ‘em, ‘Horns, and grab me a beer.
Physical + Digital Integration
How do you select the perfect size cooler, in the perfect color, and get the skinny on the product details? In the Yeti store, there’s an awesome display of every cooler the brand makes, built into a wall. And in front of that wall, you can engage with a perfectly scaled horizontal digital display, on which you can select each product, get the product specs, color choices, and most importantly? Learn how many cans of beer each one holds. Decision-making content, indeed.
Not pushy, but present. Funny, not corny. Helpful, not salesy. The store associates we encountered were there to help with the cool experiences, to guide you to interesting areas, and to generally be a brand ambassador. They were comfortable in conversation and exactly the feeling of the store itself: chill.
Many brands throw some random tchotchkes in their store and claim “curation!” Yeti does it right. All of the ancillary merchandise in the store supports the brand promise, and makes you want to buy more. I’m no brand loyalist, but had to buy the perfectly designed tshirt. My friend found a perfect cooler cup for his wife, in the perfect shade of robin’s egg blue.
In-store Only Experience
More and more we know that a retail space isn’t just about buying product. Yeti is jam packed with fun experiences that keep you entertained and in the store for long periods of time. I mean, who doesn’t want to get comfortable on a Yeti cooler seat and cozy up to the BARRR for a cold beer and cool vibe? I’m not going to say no, and I didn’t. The store also features a stage for local music acts and entertainment only amplifies the “hang out” feel the store is going for. They know their customers are not going to buy a new cooler every day, so getting them through the door for more than product is a huge win!
Location, Location, Location
A key tourist area next to the South Congress bridge, the real estate chosen is part of the South Central Waterfront project which in the throes of redevelopment. All to make Austin a more walkable and bike friendly place. The store is also located next to a hiking and bike trail that connects the downtown areas. Who doesn’t need a pit stop at the Yeti store for a rest, a drink, and a new rambler to keep everything cold?
Back to the jealousy I mentioned earlier. Whenever I experience a brand with a real story find a way to dimensionalize themselves in a new environment, I go green with envy. Not every brand is brave enough to put themselves out there and use a physical flagship in such a truly authentic way. And not every design consultant nails it the way these guys did. A tip of my (new Yeti trucker) hat to the creative team at Yeti and their design partners, for taking a stand and making a store feel unapologetically and truly COOL. (As in, cooler.)