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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