Client Spotlight: Mark Schermers, Fractional CMO, Marketing Strategy and Business Transformation at AETHER Apparel

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your role at AETHER?

I’m what I like to call a Fractional CMO. It’s an odd term but I think it’s actually a great thing — and a great resource for the current business environment. After years of working with big brands and startups alike, I came to realize almost every brand needs high-level marketing thinking to scale and transform their business but in addition, are not ready for it 100% full-time. So by me being fractional, I come in with a certain level of flexibility that allows me to really dig in and help a brand find their north star and then see through key points of execution — on a scale that’s right for the brand. At AETHER, I’ve been working closely with the team on getting the brand story out into the world — something I’ve been really enjoying as there is so much to tell, the product is so well designed and such good quality. I was actually a huge fan of the brand long before we started working together.

With an unprecedented year under our belts, how has AETHER had to evolve its marketing strategy?  What are some accomplishments you’re proud of in 2020 despite the sudden shift?

AETHER is a people-first business. Jonah and Palmer, the two founders, are salt of the earth humans who really understand the value of the team behind AETHER. The pandemic wasn’t easy for us — AETHER had been a brand that really treated our retail environments as marketing experiences and all of a sudden those were just ...gone. So we had to pivot — fast — into telling an interesting brand story online and really driving ecomm. It hasn't been easy but I think some great things have come out of it. I’m so impressed by how our teams have managed to create amazing work through different touchpoints that really speak to the personality of the brand, whether that’s our new brand campaign, which I love, the launch of the AETHER ‘Alpine Alfa’ restomod adventure vehicle or the drive-in movie experience we did mid-pandemic, allowing people to enjoy a safe but fun night out in style.

AETHER ‘Alpine Alfa’ restomod adventure vehicle outside with mountains in background

What’s been one of your favorite projects or campaigns that you’ve worked on with AETHER?

Our recent ‘You Only Get One Spin’ brand campaign is a personal favorite of mine because I think it’s so right for the brand but it also speaks to me as an individual too. I really believe that as humans, we’re restless at heart. But despite that, we can often end up in routines and monotony.

This campaign is a way of reminding people that life is short — make it count. Go out, explore, live, take the wrong turn — don’t let your clothes, or your dreams, become moth food.
Being able to have a human insight on that level but tie it back to a brand whose focus is outdoor and adventure gear is to me an amazing marriage of strategy and creativity. I’m also biased but I happen to think the execution is thumb-stoppingly beautiful. It just gets people thinking, “what is this?” and then pairs this beautiful imagery with really powerful messaging that resonates for the brand.

What are some brand ethos that you try to incorporate into each of your campaigns and what is the most rewarding part of that?

I love unlocking the potential in a brand and with AETHER the process of that has been great because there’s so much good there already. The product is amazing, from the purposeful and versatile design to the commitment to quality and longevity with our lifetime guarantee. The people are exceptional, smart, talented and community-focussed. The team really lives the product but beyond that, they are really passionate about their community and giving back so we try to include these pieces in our campaigns. This isn’t just some anonymous multinational company churning out gear and telling you a story — these are real individuals who really put their heart and soul into everything they do.

How do you think about media partnerships, and what are some reasons that you've partnered with Gear Patrol specifically?

We look at partnerships in terms of the synergies we can create with our audiences but also, from a human level too. Who are the people who have the same innate curiosity around design and adventure as we do?

For us, that’s been a big part of the relationship with Gear Patrol. We’re excited by what Gear Patrol is doing and think it’s a great place to tell our story while giving people a peek under the hood of AETHER. We also think our product is a great match for the Gear Patrol audience. I mean, if you’re going to talk about the best products to take on your adventure - well we think AETHER should be on those lists!

Do you have any gear that you can’t live or leave without?

I’ve been a fan of AETHER long before I started working at AETHER. I think the product travels so well. Right now I’m in rainy Amsterdam and have my Meridian Jacket with me which has been a lifesaver here. In LA, I’m a huge advocate of the Santo Pullover. For motorcycling, I love the Mojave Jacket and I snowboard in the Stealth Snow Jacket and pants. So it’s a little bit contingent on what I’m doing but I love the stuff. Oh, and the Down Poncho! We brought two of those on a trip recently and they were used as pillows in the car, windbreakers out on a boat and then as the best thing you could dream of putting on next to the fire pit. By the time we left I think everyone wanted one - they’re pretty cool.

Mark in AETHER snow jacket with googles outside in snow.

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Employee Spotlight: Matt Pastorius, Business Development Manager

Meet Matt Pastorius, Gear Patrol's New Business Development Manager

Join us in welcoming Gear Patrol's latest Partnership's team addition. With enthusiasm, a fresh perspective, and diverse background in marketing and creative strategy, Matt's here to develop and grow GP's Direct Response advertising business. We sat down with Matt to talk all things sales, strategy, and skateboarding.

Welcome to the team, Matt! Tell us a little about yourself.

I was born in Pittsburgh and raised in New Jersey. My two favorite things on earth are performing on-stage – whether in a theatrical role or as the lead singer of my band – as well as snowboarding. Human connection and creative self-expression are my lifeblood.

What's something that really excites you about joining the GP crew?

Being surrounded by people, brands and products that inspire me every single day.

This wouldn't be a proper introduction if you didn't share with us your favorite piece of gear and why you currently can't live without it.

My favorite piece of gear has got to be my record player. It sat in my father’s garage for probably thirty years and isn’t the highest quality, but it works like a dream. I love its simplicity and tactile nature, but the sound that comes from vinyl records...there’s something so warm and refreshingly rough about it that can’t be replicated. I try to listen to a new record every day – it helps me slow down and really listen to the story being told.

You mentioned being a Gear Patrol fan prior to joining the team. How do you plan to translate your knowledge of a GP consumer into a sales-driven role?

Being an avid fan of Gear Patrol for nearly a decade certainly helps to understand and be able to articulate what Gear Patrol is in a natural way. But beyond that, I genuinely believe in Gear Patrol as the authentic authority in product journalism. I hope that this passion and conviction comes through in every conversation I have with partners.

You're coming in here with a fresh, new perspective. What's your vision for the future of the Partnership's team as we continue to build relationships in a virtual world?

I don’t have a traditional sales background, so I plan on using my experience in marketing and creative strategy to try different things and approach conversations with an open mind. Despite the fact that we’re building partnerships on a mostly virtual level for now, my goal remains the same: build strong working relationships based on trust, empathy and efficacy.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you've been working on?

A bunch of stuff! I can’t sit still. Hiking, yoga, and skateboarding – even though I’d never skateboarded a day in my life until last year. Anything that gets me up and outdoors.

We're so happy you're here, Matt, and can't wait to see what you accomplish. Any last words?

To our partners: I’m not here to sell you anything. I’m here to welcome you to Gear Patrol and find the right solutions for you based on your goals and interests. I can’t wait to speak with you all! Go Steelers.

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Client Spotlight: Marco Prokop, Marketing, Events & PR Manager at Luminox

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your role at Luminox?

My name is Marco Prokop, I am the Marketing, PR and Events Manager for Luminox. I develop national marketing and communications strategy for our brand and products. I manage our partnerships and ambassador program. I coordinate with the sales team to develop promotions and point of sale opportunities for national retail and individual stores to drive sales and increase presence. I implement lead generation campaigns and report on the effectiveness of all marketing and communication efforts.

What’s the most rewarding part about what you do?

The most rewarding part of what I do is effectively communicating the Luminox brand ethos. This is proven when sales and awareness are a result of my marketing and communication activations. As a key contributor to a nimble and results-driven team, I am able to work closely with our production, design, sales and digital team to create products and release plans that are on brand, expressive and cohesive with our values and aspirations. The ultimate fulfillment is when this comes full circle and I see one of our new watches on the wrist of people I stumble across in daily life since it shows this individual believes in the product and what Luminox represents as a brand.

What’s been one of your favorite projects or campaigns that you’ve worked on with Luminox?

My favorite project has been increasing Luminox’s relationship with the Navy SEAL Foundation (NSF) and becoming official partners. The Navy SEALs have sacrificed more than one could imagine for this country and given credibility and importance to our brand. I am proud that through my work, I am able to return the favor and give back to this community that has provided so much for Luminox and our country.

I worked with the NSF and our product design team to create two collaborative timepieces which paid homage to the NSF. The results were tremendous in awareness and success for both parties. Today, Admiral William Mcraven, a retired United States Navy four-star admiral who oversaw the covert special operations team that led to the defeating of Osama bin Laden, proudly wears one of our Navy SEAL Foundation x Luminox timepieces. The relationship with the NSF is stronger than ever and I look forward to our continued growth.

What are your thoughts on how our new normal is shaping events? How has COVID affected the way you’re strategizing or messaging, especially with events?

COVID drastically changed my approach to event marketing with many of my plans and ideas being cancelled or postponed for safety and regulations. However, I realize that human interaction is critical for building the identity and trust of a brand and creating life-long relationships with consumers. It is crucial not to lose that human interaction. Moving forward, my approach to events will be to execute smaller, experience driven events that have a virtual presence which will allow participation from anywhere. I am working with the Navy SEAL Foundation to execute a Navy SEAL inspired team work out challenge that will raise donations for the NSF. There will be two physical events, one in Coronado and a second in Virginia Beach at the Navy SEAL bases. Simultaneously, we will host the events virtually so people can participate on social media throughout the country.

Why’d you choose to work with Gear Patrol? How do you approach working with media publications?

I choose to work with Gear Patrol for two main reasons: Credibility & reaching the core Luminox audience. Gear Patrol is a taste-maker that outdoor enthusiasts, gentlemen and gearheads alike trust and look to for the best gear. I understand the importance for our brand to be considered credible and therefore, the need to associate ourselves with Gear Patrol. Gear Patrol continues, time after time, to deliver results. The audience Gear Patrol attracts and reaches combined with their ability to curate content and introduce the newest and best gear, influences consumer’s purchasing. This proven combination has led to great success in credibility and reaching our core consumer.

What are the essential pieces of gear that you can’t live without?

Essential gear that I cannot live without are my Shane Stoneman Twin Du Jour surfboard, my Quiksilver 3/2 wetsuit and my Luminox Pacific Diver watch. I start each morning with those 3 items, run down to the beach for a quick surf and ensure I make it back home on time to start my meetings. Life is short, every second counts.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you’ve been working on?

The work from home mandate led me home to Minnesota for the remainder of 2020. During that time at home, I utilized my father’s workshop and furbished a sprinter van into a custom camper. I spent my evenings after work insulating, installing paneling, building a lofted bed and making the camper of my dreams that would allow me to explore our beautiful country. After completing the build, I drove cross-country and relocated to Santa Monica, California where I have been taking advantage of the endless summer. On the weekends, I have been camping in my van and surfing in places like Mexico, Big Sur and Northern California.

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black-and-white photo of Billy smiling, looking to the left of the camera.

Client Spotlight: Billy Garner, Senior Marketing Manager at Incase

We caught up with Billy Garner, Senior Marketing Manager at Incase, for the first Gear Patrol Debrief video to talk marketing partnerships, how the new normal is shaping marketing, and his essential gear. Check out the video below, and scroll down for the full interview.

Before we get into anything else, can you describe your role at Incase?

Sure. My main role is essentially implementing our overall go-to-market process and the stages of execution — for everything from new product introductions, to big brand moments and initiatives, to just really all of our campaigns and major communications that go out from the brand.

I'd love to hear about some of your favorite experiences at Incase, maybe a favorite marketing campaign?

This year has obviously been so crazy, but one moment that I would love to stop and highlight and have a feel-good moment about is our recent collaboration with a company called Bionic. Bionic is a sustainable and raw material innovation company that is addressing plastic and marine pollution, and essentially taking that pollution and creating a high-strength textile that we use through our different products solutions.

One thing that I loved about working with Bionic is that they are directly tied into the largest nonprofit for clean water called Waterkeepers Alliance. They actually go and set up foundational recycling infrastructure in third-world environments to help to collect all of the debris and plastic needed for the manufacturing process. In doing so, they really helped cultivate a community, create jobs, and really give back, versus us just going and buying fabric off the shelf. So, it's really tied into this overall feel-good, full-circle initiative.

That's awesome to hear. In a previous Debrief, we actually talked about Gen Z marketing trends and the confluence of social justice movements and sustainability, and how important it is to incorporate those trends into our marketing strategies. So, it's really cool to hear about the things Incase is doing.

Yeah. So, looking forward, since 2012, we've been introducing different sustainable initiatives every year. This is something that we were really excited to get behind and really grow, and we're looking into 2021 for more opportunities to not only make better product, but help incorporate more sustainable fabrics and textiles to make sure that, one, our products are living for a long time, and two, it's actually having a better impact on the end users. It's a massive, massive undertaking for a lot of brands and it's something that's really exciting and that we feel really good about.

Work from home has definitely posed as a really interesting challenge for marketers this year. So, I'm really interested to hear a little bit more about how COVID has changed the way you're thinking about strategy with regards to Incase. How has the pandemic shifted that for you?

Sure. In March, when everyone got hit pretty hard, one thing that we did, and I think one thing that we did really well, is we took a brief moment and just paused to really look around to see what was going on. Within that, we really started taking a look at our roadmaps and our different campaigns that were coming up. We wanted to make sure that we were amplifying things that really spoke to the moment and actually helped people transition into this time. Luckily for Incase, we naturally make products for mobile livelihoods and keeping creatives on the go. We feel that shifting things like concentrating into MacBook protection, versus travel, those types of moments for us really help. We felt really great being able to provide solutions for people that really didn't know what the next step was.

We continue to look at our overall roadmaps and really see, how can we continue to keep people in this very mobile lifestyle, very create anywhere, keep people creating and doing the things that they're great at. I think the tools that we offer, and that we're pushing, and that we reactively switched to focus on, are the things that actually help people get there. So, outside of that, I think from a creative standpoint, just messaging the moment and making sure that we are showcasing how our products are being able to be used from home, or on the go, or really focusing on those use cases that are relevant to today. So, going into 2021, again, focusing on organizational systems and protective solutions that really keep your essentials safe, and keep you creating is, without a doubt, what we're trying to go out there and do.

It sounds like you are really taking into consideration listening to the consumers when you're thinking about these models. Obviously, if the consumer is now at home, you're going to try to make their lives at home a little bit easier. It's awesome to hear that Incase is using that audience focus in their marketing strategy. I think that's also tying back to what you were talking about before with incorporating environmentalism into your marketing strategies and everything like that. It's very timely, and I think that's something that is really rare, I think, and really awesome to see.

Yeah, I think one thing, too, that working from home has really afforded me, is taking a moment now that I'm not directly in an office and now we have this new type of work schedule, is in such uncertain times, reconnecting with myself to find the inspiration in my day-to-day. Working from home has allowed me to do that, whether it's going for a run during lunch, or taking a little hike, or going swim in the ocean, to really reset myself, get back to work and really focus on different creative projects. That never really happened before.

I think it's really important that we take this time, try to focus on self betterment, and really take some time to yourself, to reconnect and rewire some of the things that maybe you weren't able to do before.

Again, for me, it's been great to just have some of my own time, on my own time, to do the things I love. It really has refreshed the whole reason why I like to tell brand stories, or connect with consumers. It starts here, and so it's been great to have that kind of time for myself, for sure.

I want to talk a little bit more about the storytelling aspect that you were discussing. How do you think about media partnerships, and what are some reasons that you've partnered with Gear Patrol specifically?

Two parts of this, I think it's really important these days as we do shift to more of the digital experience, for brands to really own and concentrate on their own channels. But two, really lean into these amazing media channels to act as an organic extension of the brand's arm and to help really amplify these stories. Personally, before I even started working at Incase, Gear Patrol, I checked it daily. I think a lot of people across all different industries really look towards Gear Patrol to find new things, recent happenings, new technology. These partnerships are so important for us to really attract and find new customers, and have those customers engage and find new audiences with our products. You guys have really helped us get there.

Obviously, we have a really robust, organic PR strategy as well, but our retailers also have really just loved these types of partnerships that we have, because as people aren't shopping more in the stores, people are going online. It really helps to be able to give those mentions of who the brands partnered with at the retail level and give those little mentions within different articles or activations with Gear Patrol. It really helps them out as well. So, again, we can't say enough about these partnerships, especially as we move into, everyday, more of a digital landscape.

Of course, Gear Patrol wouldn't be anything without the gear aspect, so we want to hear a little bit more about what's some of your favorite gear, what can't you live without?

Totally. As a quick brand plug, I'd say, for Incase, because I'm the same as the consumer, right? I've had to shift at home, and I'm moving around, and I'm finding any inch to work from, whether it's a park, coffee shop, home, I'm all over the place. So, definitely number one is my Bionic organizer, which helps with all things cable management. I'm constantly changing my load out with that.

Number two, my EO backpack, it's helped me, in the times that we're not locked down, go on little quick trips. So, maybe we're not traveling internationally right now, but if I want to hit a quick road trip or something like that, it's been a great tool for that.

Over the summer, like I said, getting in the ocean during lunch, Yucca fins helped me body surf or free swim in the ocean, have been essential. They're a local company here in Orange County, and I'm super stoked to support them. I would say, my daily EDC knife, the Benchmade 940 Osborne, if you go on to YouTube, it's just like, that's it. So, I would say that's a great tool. I only open boxes, I wish I was a lot tougher than that, but I just open sample boxes since I have everything coming to my work from home space. My Solomon Sense Ride 3 trail shoes, again, getting out there, running on lunch breaks. My Schott leather jacket, yeah, those are probably the things that I need. If you say, that's what you get, those would probably land on that list.

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Tips and Tricks from Gear Patrol’s Coordinating Producer

We caught up with Gear Patrol's Coordinating Producer, Nick Caruso, on what's ahead for video and podcasting at Gear Patrol this year. Read on to learn about Nick's industry experience, how he sees video and podcasting evolving at Gear Patrol, and his advice to any brands looking to start a video or podcasting program this year.

So tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you join the team, what roles have you held and what do you do at Gear Patrol?

I was lucky to be around in the *ahem* earlier days of GP as a part-time freelance writer–started at the end of 2012. As the site rapidly evolved, the newly formed Today In Gear column became my beat. I also did some automotive writing at that time.

After a couple-year hiatus, I returned in 2016 as Motoring Editor, and also oversaw Today In Gear, which by then was an absolute juggernaut in our daily content roster. I came back in the middle of production for GP Magazine Issue Two, which was spectacular and unlike anything I'd ever been part of. I also worked heavily on partnerships content and was involved in nascent video/social media stuff.

After staying in that Editor role for a few years, I made the shift to my current role, which hadn't really existed at GP previously. I'd worked in television production early in my career, so it was a question of combining all my skills and focusing on our new video strategy, which has been both very fun and very challenging (which is also fun). The team has evolved and shifted a lot since then, and now we're heading into Podcast territory – true to form, we haven't let much dust gather in the past couple years.

Screenshot of Nick Caruso speaking on camera

What is one of the most challenging or rewarding projects that you’ve worked on?

To say the pandemic has affected video production would be an understatement, but we figured it out. By last spring I was regularly hosting our This Week In Gear video series, normally shot in our amazing in-office studio with multiple cameras, a lighting grid, and a dedicated camera/sound operator. When the world changed in mid-March I didn't want to lose that momentum, partially to keep producing content for our equally displaced and disrupted viewers, and partially to keep myself on an even keel.

Within a couple weeks, I was up and running in my apartment as a one-person production team/circus: tripods on my bed, desk lamps for lighting, sound...issues. That process informed the next, much larger set of challenges: remote production involving the whole video team, other colleagues, and guest presenters.

We had several complex video projects to bring to life over the summer, so working remotely with everyone I essentially had to redesign our entire production process. In short, videos were produced in real-time via Google Hangouts and Slack. The whole crew–Video team folks, our Content team presenters, and beyond–really dove in to make it work, and to great success.

What’s a learning that you’ve taken with you from role to role?

Having exceptionally high standards isn't a bad thing. Treat those standards gently and with respect and you'll find creative and successful ways to achieve them. Be firm in your conviction but flexible in your approach.

We talk a lot about "quality" at Gear Patrol, and approach our ambition with a collaborative, joyful mindset and a willingness to compromise when appropriate. To achieve your best, there's no time to dwell; you've got to analyze what doesn't work and change those aspects moving forward. Be proud of your work, but not so precious you can't flex.

Of course, it also helps to surround yourself with incredibly talented people, and we're lucky at GP to have a uniquely capable and talented crew.

How do you see video evolving at Gear Patrol, and in the media industry? What’s next?

I feel like live streaming video still has huge potential for media brands in particular. It's been a popular medium for a long time, of course–Twitch, Facebook Live, Instagram Live, Discord etc.–but I think the rising popularity of Clubhouse in particular is really fascinating.

What's essentially an archaic call-in radio show format has been formalized and digitized for our current era, and I think brands and media outlets need to think about concentrating heavily into that space–not only streaming audio, but video too. Clubhouse is basically an interactive podcast; the potential for a formalized, recurring, interactive video podcast is really enticing.

What advice would you give to any brands looking to kick off their own video or podcast strategy this year?

At the risk of sounding trite, start small and keep it simple. It's possible to organize and produce complex, fully developed, large-scale stuff from scratch, but the ROI on totally swinging for the fences with a complicated, mega-high production value initial project is likely quite low. Most of the time, it's better to trust your own authenticity. A genuine, simple product is always better than anything forced.

For example, our thing at GP is products, and we are made up of people who really, really know product culture. So, our forthcoming podcast will essentially be "our staff discussing product culture." That's not the sexiest description, but if you know GP, you know it's going to be really great. When we develop a large following, we'll start adding to the mix–there's no reason to pack it all in right away.

By no means am I discouraging innovation or experimentation with new mediums, topics, or strategies–if a brand or outlet is 100% delivering on its core mission/purpose, it has the "content capital" to experiment. And it's possible that experimentation may lead to absolute gold! There's just no way to totally predict what people will love until they already love it.

With our new normal, what have you been up to outside of work? Any fun hobbies or projects that you’ve been working on?

My stress outlet involves four wheels and sharp corners. Over the summer, I picked up a 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport–the XJ's last year. 150K miles, original owner, zero rust, no abuse. I've been working pretty steadily to restore it myself, and have done a ton of work. There's always more to do, and it's hard wrenching on a car in Brooklyn! But I'm proud of my 4x4 brick and I could (do) talk about it incessantly.

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a large walnut table surrounded by black office chairs, with a whiteboard in the background

2021 Insights from Gear Patrol’s Director of Business Development

What do you do at Gear Patrol?

As the Director of Business Development, I oversee new business efforts across Gear Patrol’s commercial department. My primary focus is our advertising business, where I specialize in our new & emerging brand categories and manage our direct response efforts. As a destination for product discovery, Gear Patrol continues to grow in these areas, as we bring new partners into the fold and introduce their products to our audience.

Did you notice any trends in 2020 that you think will continue into 2021?

Maybe it was the constant distraction of the world around us, but whether it was Substacks, Twitter threads or podcasts, easy-to-consume content ruled 2020. Podcast consumption and newsletter subscriptions spiked during lockdown and provided consumers a steady flow of content in bite-size increments, and gave brands the ability to connect directly with them in a more intimate way. Both podcasts and newsletters don’t show any signs of slowing down as we move through 2021, and I’m excited to see how content creators differentiate themselves in an increasing competitive space and how advertisers immerse themselves in this medium.

What about any trends that will be different from last year?

Last year we saw shorter planning schedules, as brands were forced to be more reactionary to ensure their messaging timed up with the moment. The agility a publisher could provide became more important than ever. While I do see condensed timelines and the need for flexibility continuing this year, I expect to see brands more balanced in their approach, blending their planning to account for both reactionary moments and proactive initiatives.

If you could use one word to describe your mindset for this new year, what would it be?


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Behind Our Latest Issue: The GP100

An Exclusive Look at How We Pulled Off Our Latest Issue: The GP100

In a year like no other, product designers could have easily deferred, pushing new releases to 2021. They didn’t. Product innovation and refinement are alive and well, though they may have looked a little different this year. From hand sanitizer to face masks, many of the year’s best new products arrived refreshingly free of hype, solving problems without great fanfare. Then again, after years of waiting, we also received new flagship gaming systems, Rolexes, Land Rover Defenders and the fastest shoe to ever run a marathon.

Gear Patrol’s Issue 15, the GP100, is our annual list of the 100 best new releases of the year — capturing all the products that matter most in 2020. To produce it in the age of COVID was no easy feat. So we sat down with Joe Tornatzky, our Creative Director, for an inside scoop of how the cover photo was produced.

Hey Joe, so talk us through the issue. What inspired the cover?

For the past couple of years, we’ve been ramping up to having a physical “100” built out of raw materials to be better aligned with the idea that most of the products we cover are actual real things. Using raw materials adds permanence to the cover that establishes the issue as a timeless piece of journalism.

With a concept in mind, where did you start?

What came about this year is Sherry Wang (Senior Designer at Gear Patrol) and I started off exploring materials stories for the issue. We wanted to find a material that we could shoot across all categories from cars to watches. Also, we felt very strongly about creating unique pedestals and stands for each product in order to showcase each item in the best light.

One of the first products we focus on is the car because the location and set logistics are the most difficult for that product. This year we had a contact reach out about a modern home in Long Island that was recently built. The exterior was built with this beautiful black wood and metal, something that we could recreate in the studio with the smaller products. So we took that same texture of the house and built our set around that.

We worked with our set designer to craft these pedestals — similar to the feeling of elevating winners on a podium setting at the Olympics. We wanted to capture the notion that all these products were legendary.

The “100” itself was actually crafted and built by our set designer, who used our brand font to create these blocks. He sourced raw materials, crafted it, painted it — and then we brought them to the set and shot the whole cover.

And the result?

The result is a beautifully produced cover photo that really captures what the GP100 is — the round-up of the best products of the year. It drew from inspirations of physical tangible objects, celebrated the products that deserved a spotlight. The issue and the cover is really an accomplishment that speaks to the type of Product Journalism and the creativity that our team has.

Interested in the GP100? Check it out here on the Gear Patrol Store.

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Client Spotlight: Doug Thielen, Director of Marketing at Filson

Filson's Latest Collaboration, Connecting with Consumers in the age of COVID and Why Gear Patrol

We recently had the chance to connect with Doug Thielen, Director of Marketing at Filson, who is responsible for leading Filson's entire integrated brand and marketing strategy. Doug works across paid media, ecommerce, experiences, social media, content, catalog, digital, public relations, performance marketing and much more to really bring the Filson story to life. Over the past few years, Gear Patrol Studios has had the pleasure to work with Doug and the Filson team on some of our favorite partnerships. We sat down to talk about his favorite marketing campaign, his thoughts on how the Outdoors industry is shaping with the onset of COVID, and his favorite gear.

Hey Doug! So tell us what it’s like to work at Filson. As a legendary brand, Filson seems like a super exciting place to be at — what’s the most rewarding part about working there?

There’s a lot of great things about working at Filson! For me as someone who grew up in the Pacific Northwest, Filson is a brand that’s been a part of my life for as long as I can think of — from my granddad and dad having bags. For me to come on board was a dream job and it continues to be that.

Filson started off by outfitting the world’s toughest people in the most uncompromising situations, which was the Klondike Gold Rush. Now, we continue to outfit people who are finding themselves recreating or working in those uncompromising situations — which we really take to our core. From the folks who design the products to those wearing and using them, it’s about finding those ways to connect those people to unfailing goods and the unknown through product stories and experiences. Filson is really more than 120 years old, but at the same time, we're focused on meeting the needs of our customers. That’s one of the best parts of Filson. And the gear is phenomenal!

Filson‘s Brand Story

What’s been one of your favorite campaigns that you’ve worked on so far? How do you think about making it feel innovative and modern, especially with such a strong heritage brand?

I’ve been fortunate enough to work on a number of campaigns but one that we launched recently is absolutely one of my favorites, which is the partnership with Filson, Bronco, and the National Forest Foundation. It’s killer for a lot of different reasons.

First, my first car was a 1984 Bronco II (so the 16-year-old me is high-fiving current me for having a chance to work on a project like this!). But it’s been really incredible to work through this for over a year with the different partners. We knew there was interest from Filson fans and people who were into Bronco, and finding a way to create this campaign authentically and intentionally was really interesting.

It came back to finding a shared connection through the US Forest Service. So in the 1940s, Filson’s Cruiser became part of the Class A US forest service uniform, and then in the 60s and when the Bronco rolled out, that became the vehicle of choice. So when we sat down, we wanted to use our shared history as our base, but we also wanted to take a shared action.

Filson has worked with the National Forest Foundation for years now, where we are able to be a part of their 50 Million for Our Forests initiative. And Bronco with their Wild Fund will be able to help plant a million trees in 2021. Filson will be restoring, in partnership with them, three fire lookout towers. And then we just launched a product collab with limited-edition gear of Filson x Bronco T-shirts, water bottles and our iconic Small Rugged Twill Duffle we launched that as well. All three products’ proceeds will be going to the National Forest Foundation.

So this campaign for me means a lot. It wasn’t just a campaign where we just put a sticker on a car and off it rolls. It was a partnership through and through — there are multiple layers of action, partnership, product and doing good. In partnership, we're taking responsibility to protect the places that our employees and customers live, work and recreate — which is something that I think ties back to that outdoor industry core growth and change that we’ve seen in the last few years.

 The partnership with Filson, Bronco and the National Forest Foundation

What are your thoughts on how our new normal is shaping Outdoor bi-annual events? For example, is Outdoor Retailer going to be possible? How has COVID affected the way you’re strategizing or messaging, especially with events?

In hope, I don’t see physical events ever going away. We are definitely taking a pause from a health and safety perspective, which is the right thing to do. I do believe that at some point that the experience to have human connection in the same place —to talk product, initiative and how to make an impact in people’s lives — will always have a physical space.

The brands that are surviving and thriving are those that have the ability to be nimble, to be dynamic and pivot change to bring experiences and their brand to life. For us at Filson, we’re a relatively small brand and we have that muscle built into our DNA. In some ways, we are fortunate to operate in that manner to begin with. We’re a heavy experience brand — in 2019 we hosted over 300 high touch events. So when things started dramatically changing in March and April, we had to quickly go “that is not happening in 2020 or the foreseeable future”. So how do we bring that Filson experience, entertain people, give them something to enjoy and a way to connect?

Our Experience team came to the table saying “let's take this virtual” — we took experiences that we would have done in-person to Instagram. Instagram Live became super successful for us — we connect with our customers and reach new people, while really bringing that Filson lens of the outdoors to folks.

Why’d you choose to work with Gear Patrol? How do you approach working with media publications?

I’ve been a fan of Gear Patrol for a number of years. Issue 2 was the first one that I saw that stood out for filling this niche in terms of being one part outdoor magazine, one part gear, one part fashion, one part entertainment. It’s all things that I like in one spot.

It has opinions, it informs and there’s an aspiration to it. It speaks to a really unique consumer. A lot of times marketers and brands want to put their customers in boxes — "oh this is our outdoors enthusiast, this is our watch enthusiast, bike enthusiast" — and sometimes that can be the same person. I think what you guys have done really well is understand that and create content for that person.

From a Filson perspective, we love working with you guys for all those reasons. People who read your magazine and your online publication are dynamic, interesting, and multi-layered — and so is the Filson customer. So for us, we find it to be an interesting way to bridge that gap between Urban and the Outdoors.

From a digital perspective, it’s been exciting to see how you have pivoted and continue to engage with people. The ability to create meaningful content that both educates and entertains is super valuable.

Do you have any gear that you can’t live or leave without?

There’s a number of pieces. For one, I have the Filson 24-Hour Tin Cloth Briefcase — it is my favorite bag mainly because it’s technically a briefcase but I use it for so much more. The size is perfect — I’ll take it for a quick weekend trip where out comes the computer and in goes a light change of clothes to head out. I’ve had it for years even before I worked at Filson, and I feel like I carry that more than anything.

A couple of other pieces include my Smith Lowdown 2 sunglasses. I’ve got multiple pairs, and those go with me everywhere — plus a coffee cup and Hydroflask.

And then right now, we just launched our new Filson Field Flannel. It’s my go to-shirt. In a time where we are WFH, and with the ability to be casual and comfortable, the field flannel just nails it. It’s just the right weight to wear around the house but it also serves as a light jacket when I head out. You can’t go wrong with the Mackinaw Wool Cruiser — I’ve had multiple ones. It was patented in 1914 and continue to win awards in 2020. It’s the original performance material, and you can’t go wrong!

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Employee Spotlight: Meg Lappe, Creative Project Manager

How our Creative Project Manager, Meg Lappe, Creates Content in the Midst of COVID-19

Behind our site, magazine, videos, social, branded content and much more is our Creative team. They're the geniuses behind the hyper creativity that happens across our digital and print. So we sat down with our Creative Project Manager, Meg Lappe, to talk about how we produce content in the age of our new normal.

Hey Meg! So tell us about yourself. What do you do at Gear Patrol?

I’m currently the Creative Project Manager, where I oversee all the projects that the creative team touches — whether that’s video, photo, or design. I focus on building and optimizing workflows, and making sure that our team delivers great content while sticking to deadlines. Before that, I worked on our overall brand strategy and aimed to connect social, video, and editorial content. And prior to that, I was on the editorial team, as a Staff Writer on the Outdoors and Fitness desk. Gear Patrol has provided me with the opportunity to have a unique role roadmap where I'm constantly learning, which has led me to my current position.

How do you juggle staying on top of so many moving projects? How do you navigate between Branded Content and Editorial?

A lot of different ways, but writing it all down is crucial. Asana is a miracle worker — I live and breathe by the project management tool, so I can easily see what the team has going on this week and many weeks to come. The creative team also had long-standing weekly team check-ins, which became increasingly necessary when we adjusted to working from home. Instead of in-person, they're all on Google Hangouts. Despite the virtual presence, nothing quite beats face to face time, especially when collaborating with so many different departments all working towards the same goal.

What’s been your favorite project that you’ve worked on so far?

Too many to count! The first thing that comes to mind is our Gear Patrol Magazine. As someone who loves print, seeing Issues 14 and 15 come together remotely was very different, but inspiring. Both creative and editorial created a brand new set of rules to get this beauty from drafted to designed to press. That was a team effort.

On the GPS-side of things, I'd have to say the eBay Video about identifying fake watches and our seven Guide to Life videos in partnership with Lexus. While each one gave me the opp to flex different muscles — casting, propping, working with freelance videographers — it also meant the creative team had to figure out what shooting in a COVID-world looks like. With our new normal, it has been a challenge to project manage so many different moving pieces without being able to check-in with people in person. But, the flip side of that is the team is hyper-aware of the importance of over-communicating, stays on track with Asana task assignments, and has really stepped up to get projects across the finish line no matter what. It's been really rewarding to watch videos produced totally remotely go live, and I'm excited to see what more we can do in the future.

Any fun things you’ve been up to in quarantine?

Yes! I’ve recently rediscovered the West Side Highway in New York City and love walking by the water. With social distancing, it’s easy to get stuck indoors but I make it a point to physically leave my apartment at least once a day. The sunset pairs really well with to-go margaritas or negronis.

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Employee Spotlight: Nghi Ho, Sales Planner

Employee Spotlight: Nghi Ho, Sales Planner, on Gen Z Marketing

A vital member of our Partnerships team, Nghi Ho is a Sales Planner at Gear Patrol. We sat down with her to talk about her experience at Gear Patrol, best practices for Gen Z marketing and even her favorite meme.

Hey Nghi! So tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you do at Gear Patrol?

I’m an Advertising Sales Planner at Gear Patrol and I handle campaign management from pre-sale, through production, and post-sale. Basically, that means I wear a lot of different hats and get to flex a lot of different muscles! I love being able to build relationships with our clients, from putting a proposal in front of them, WOWing them with a story only GP can tell, iterating and working together on a product that aligns with our brand and supports theirs, and putting something of value in front of our audiences.

As the resident Gen-Z member of the team, how do you think your perspective influences your work at Gear Patrol?

Coming to Gear Patrol right after graduating from Boston College, I’ve learned a tremendous amount from my coworkers who’ve shown me the ropes of our industry. As a small-mid sized publisher, the trust and responsibilities that I have are unrivaled. I am able to take ownership of projects and am grateful for a team that continues to support me along the way.

But at the same time, as a young WOC, working at a men’s lifestyle publication, I bring a fresh pair of eyes and a new perspective! I’m heavily in tune with what it’s like to market to a younger audience and what it takes to captivate that audience.

Speaking of marketing trends, what have you seen that especially resonates with Gen Z?

There are a lot of methods for successful marketing and I’ve noticed the following resonates strongly with “kids my age”.

  • Engaging Marketing Campaigns with Real People — Gen-Zers want to see real, relatable people in marketing campaigns. An authentic story-telling approach is so important, which is something our branded content team, GPS, does so well. Paint a story with broad strokes, explore how products impact and inform our lifestyles and focus on how they can improve them.

  • Content That Captivates... And Quickly! — Another important marketing trend is content that immediately gets your attention. So many people are starting to talk about TikTok, but there’s still a lot of opportunities on different platforms — especially Instagram Stories and Facebook that call for engaging and beautiful storytelling.

  • Authentic Social Justice — Be a business we can look up to! Businesses and brands can seem like lofty structures that are so far removed from the people it is serving. Social justice is incredibly important to my generation and we carry this through all that we do. We want to positively change the world through our work, so we want to shop brands that can do the same. Using your platform to take a stance shows care and connection to your consumer base. I’m proud of the work we do at Gear Patrol and our stance with Going Beyond Products and our editorial shift to highlight more marginalized groups — it’s small steps we can do as a company to help push us forward.

  • Mobile-First Marketing — As the most hyper-connected generation, digital, online, and mobile-first marketing will be vital to your strategy! We purchase through apps, on social media and mainly on our phones. The majority of my purchases that I’ve made within the past week have been made through my mobile device. So, if you really want to attract attention from us Gen Z-ers you'll want to create mobile videos, mobile-first eCommerce sites, or other phone-based experiences that cater to them. Grow your social media presence and make sure it is prominent!

As our Gen Z expert, we like to end our weekly RevOps meetings with a fun word of the week. What's your favorite meme?

This is my favorite segment of our weekly Revenue Operations meetings. I introduce a new slang term that my generation use. STONKS is my favorite meme — but honestly, no one gets it. My generation loves taking phrases and adding some new energy to it!

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