Duluth Trading Company: A Damn Great Brand Voice

Things that inspire us. A series.

Because great branding and marketing are things to celebrate.

If anyone wants to understand what a brand voice is and why it can be so powerful, look no further than Duluth Trading Company. They aren’t one of our clients, but that doesn’t mean we can’t admire what they’re doing.

Low key. Practical. No BS. Honest to an almost uncomfortable level with some of the benefits of the clothes they talk about, which is funny, since most of what they talk about is comfort. Briefs that don’t pinch below the belt. Pants that prevent plumber’s butt. That sort of thing. These are the things other brands say in creative brainstorm meetings that eventually get watered down to an acceptable level of genericness (if that’s a word). Only to later wonder why nothing about their brand messaging stands out.

Duluth says what other brands won’t, even though it’s what people are thinking. They get points from their audience because they relate so easily to the straight-forward nature of the message. Their delivery makes their target laugh, and indeed, get comfortable with the brand. Some is the voice over. Some is the illustration style. But mostly, it’s just Duluth.

In keeping with their tradition of excellence, the most recent example is a Holiday spot. It starts with the pronouncement that it’s going to be an ‘Uncomfy’ season. A universal truth that no one really wants to say out loud. And it gets better from there. “If anyone can get 2020 onto the nice list, it’s Duluth.” That’s certainly an obnoxiously bold and most likely false statement from just about any brand. But, it’s oddly comforting coming from these guys. It’s got the feeling of the heating guy pulling into your driveway when the furnace is broken and it’s damn cold out. The reason this messaging rings true? Years of crafting a brand voice a company believes in – adjusting for today and extending into 2021 and beyond.

In the end, the ad exclaims, “Salvage the Season.” If there is anyone who doesn’t feel like this season needs to be salvaged, they’ve been living under a rock. There are tons of euphemisms you could use, and that will be used, this Holiday season by countless brands that will forgettably blend together. But salvage is the perfect word. Delivered by the one brand who could say it where it feels positive in that practical kind of way.

Of course, the Duluth voice and messaging wouldn’t work for everyone in every situation. But that’s the point. They created a voice that speaks to the people they want to talk to with an attitude that resonates. That’s what a brand voice is supposed to do.

It takes a bold determination from a hungry-for-success company to embrace creative messaging like this. The reasons to not have a defined brand voice are myriad. As are excuses. But you won’t hear them from us. Great work Duluth. Super smart work.

Check out our other thoughts on marketing here.