Five Key Lessons That Have Shaped Gear Patrol’s Marketing & Branded Content Strategy In Our New Normal

To say that we’re living in a new normal is an understatement. It’s no doubt that our daily routines have fundamentally shifted, the timeline of our economy’s recovery is constantly in flux and it’s near impossible to say that things are “business as usual.”

At Gear Patrol — like many businesses around the world — we’re going through one of the steepest learning curves in our history. We’re figuring out how to adapt to new realities, constantly asking ourselves: “What does our audience truly care about and how can we continue to serve them best? How do we champion marketers to talk about their products? How do we go about continuing to produce great branded content?”

In light of those questions, our team has had to up our game, learning a tremendous amount along the way. Here are five key lessons and insights that have shaped our approach to media, marketing and our audience.


1. Our Mission of Product Journalism Is As Important As Ever

Products are at the heart of everything that we do at Gear Patrol. We not only talk about what a product is and why it's important, but we also talk about product culture — the stories about the people and the products that matter.

At a time like this, talking about products might feel insignificant, and at worst, it feels out of touch. But we’ve realized that we can’t ignore our role as a champion for great products, brands and the people behind them. Our Co-Founder & CCO Ben Bowers puts it best:

“The simple truth is this. The plans and goals we’ve established in a time of calm are not all suddenly meaningless because of a virus. Our mission has always been to help people make the most of their time and money through editorially-driven product recommendations, reviews and buying guides. We call this effort Product Journalism, and right now, amid viral videos of toilet paper hoarding and bogus hand sanitizer recipes, this kind of guidance feels more crucial than ever.”


2. Our Readers Crave Timely Content and Their Consumer Spending Habits and Interests Have Shifted

It’s no surprise that we’ve seen a surging interest in products that help tackle our new at-home lifestyles — kitchen products, cleaning supplies, masks and home goods thrive. But what’s interesting is that our audience is just as interested in watches, the outdoors, cars and more. They read Gear Patrol as a form of entertainment, looking to consume content that feels inspirational and aspirational.

So no matter what product or category we’re diving into, we always think about why a product is important in our new landscape. We focus on how we title our stories, how to craft timely branded content and what medium is best suited to reach our readers. For instance, REI’s Deal of Note did particularly well because we positioned its outdoor sale as a way to achieve close-to-home adventures that feel attainable today.


3. Our Readers Are Consuming Content Differently

The concept of time has changed — what used to feel like a short supply commodity, now feels much more fluid. The hours that were spent commuting in a packed subway or on traffic-jammed roads have been replaced with time spent indoors. And because it’s common for boredom, anxiety and uncertainty to set in, we all turn to devices and spend time online.

As a result, we’ve seen our traffic grow and our readers’ consumption habits change. Our unique users and page views have grown by 15%-20% MoM since stay-at-home orders have been put in place. Our data also now skews more towards desktop use and the times when our audience engages with our content have slightly shifted.


4. Our Typical Playbook For Producing Branded Content Has Been Reimagined

Gear Patrol Studios is renowned for its tried-and-true on-location and in-studio photography and video abilities. To name a few destinations, we’ve been lucky enough to travel to Iceland, Hawaii and the Channel Islands to help tell brand stories. We’re also proud of our state-of-the-art in-house photography studio at GPHQ. But with travel shut down and the office closed, we've had to think creatively on how to execute compelling high-touch branded content.

Our team has had to evolve and become more nimble — our processes are redefined, more time and effort is dedicated to pre-production coordination, and our team has even turned their homes into mini content-studios. Most recently, we published a branded content piece for Casio that was completely shot from our Head of Photography’s Brooklyn apartment that maintains Gear Patrol Studios' high standard for photography. Because our goal has still remained the same: we’re driven to create compelling campaigns at the intersection of product and culture.


5. Our Team’s Sense of Community While Working From Home Is A Priority

Working from home can be hard. The socializing that we do with our coworkers helps make days more fun, pleasant and productive. But now, it’s easy for us to avoid organic in-office conversations and get sucked into our day-to-day tasks.

So instead, teams make it a point to host daily or weekly check-ins. We kick off the day catching up about a non-work related topic — talking about bucket list destinations, sharing funny memes we’ve seen, and taking mindless online quizzes together. We throw virtual happy hours and schedule mid-day coffee chats to stay in touch. Because the truth is, we spend a lot of time at work and, especially in a pandemic, what makes Gear Patrol great and our work worthwhile are the people behind it.

We know that in the near future these key insights and lessons will continue to evolve and we’d love to hear how you and your business have been adapting too. Please feel free to email us at advertising@gearpatrol.com to share. And if there’s any support that our team can provide, know that we’re always here to help!


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