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Yakima Destination Hardware

In 2000, Yakima came to us with a challenge. They were a rack company. A very successful rack company, with $33 Million in sales. But when dealers and consumers said Yakima, the next word out of their mouths was "racks." With more than a 55% market share in racks in a category , dominated by two brands, Yakima knew they could never achieve their growth goals being just a rack company. They had many new products under development that took them in exciting new directions.


Yakima needed a new corporate identity. An identity that said to the industry, to the retail trade, to their consumers and to their employees that Yakima was a company going in new directions, but still very much committed to the products that made them famous.


Yakima’s CEO, Duncan Robins, stated the case plainly. "Our value as an outdoor brand, and as a company was being held back by our dominance in racks. We needed a new identity; a new strategic platform that would translate a new brand to our employees, our trade and enthusiast customers, as well as to our suppliers, business partners and to our parent company."


Duncan explained that they had utilized the services of three highly respected national consultants over 4 years. All were found wanting. They didn’t understand the brand, the category or the company.  Each was given 6-8 months for the initial report. Promising directions were given an additional month. None came up with a direction that management felt would effectively reposition the company. He came to us as a last resort. "We" were an ad agency (that my wife and I had just acquired) but, given my "New York" credentials, he hoped that perhaps we could “come up with something.” Then, Duncan gave us five weeks. He had an ownership meeting the following month that he wanted to present his new identity to.


In reading the reports of the other consultants, it was clear that they either hadn’t done research or had done the wrong kind of research. This wasn’t a new brand. This was a reorientation of an existing, successful brand.


So we talked to dealers. We talked to sales reps. We talked to consumers; both hard core outdoor enthusiasts and weekend warriors. We held a full day Brand Inventory™ session with key employees and management. They all loved the product. They loved the brand. Employees and sales staff loved the corporate culture, one that mirrored the mindset of both retailers and enthusiasts, who also loved the product and the brand.


Retailers loved that a Yakima rack purchase dovetailed beautifully with other gear purchases. Its leadership in the rack industry imparted a much larger share of retailers’ mind than many other categories because of its ability to build cross-category sales. Yakima sold racks, but also sold better sales in other categories. And its role as a leadership brand in the outdoor industry far outstripped its $30+MM in sales.

Yakima consumers loved the brand as well; its outdoor culture and what that culture said about them as people who 'wore' the product on their cars, and its utility. But the love of Yakima's utility was a different sort of love. Outdoor enthusiasts loved the ease and the convenience Yakima provided for getting their gear anywhere the fun was. They loved the bomber quality that guaranteed their gear a secure ride to whatever destination.


But love for a $500 rack system is different than the love of a $5000 mountain bike. Yakima sold results. Fun at any destination. So we looked at other enthusiast categories for parallels. We found a perfect parallel in an interesting place. A Home Depot store. There, enthusiasts of a different sort bought products they love because of the results they provided. A more beautiful home.  A more functional kitchen. Or a deck to enjoy the sunshine.


People love hardware for what it does. And, somehow, that love of function translates into a love of the hardware that exceeds the function. Like Yakima Racks.


Hardware. Yakima Destination Hardware.


And a new corporate identity for Yakima was born. And a new strategy, called the Yakima Manifesto, to celebrate the counter-culture mindset of Arcata, CA, which was Yakima’s home.


The result? Sales grew from $33MM and 3% growth in 1999 to $55MM and 23% growth in 2003. CEO Robins credits the Destination Hardware platform and strategy with much of that growth.


Destination Hardware did one more thing. It clearly communicated a vision for the company. A vision borne from its heritage, but heading in new directions. Duncan Robins states that this vision and the strategic platform that resulted were major influences not only in the company’s sale to Watermark, but also in its valuation. "There’s no question that the Destination Hardware identity and strategy helped triple the value of the company in three years,” according to Robbins.

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