The rough tough brand voice of the customer: Duluth Trading Company

May 20, 2014

If you’re not in the construction trade and haven’t seen branding for workwear from Duluth Trading company, you’re missing one of the best examples of dead-on customer brand voice out there.

If you’re not in the construction trade, or if you haven’t been lucky enough to catch the advertising for the workwear brand of products made by the Duluth Trading Company, you’re missing one of the best examples of dead-on customer brand voice out there.

Founded in 1989 by two “wild and wooly” brothers from Duluth, Minnesota who were working in construction, their first brilliant and down-to-earth product was the Bucket Boss®, a rugged canvas tool organizer that fit on a drywall bucket designed to meet the real needs of guys on the job.

They went on to grow the company along a single brand promise: “Anything that will help guys in the trades work smarter, work more comfortably, we're out to develop.”

What that included was work wear that was honest, true, and did the job—whether shirts that kept workers cool in hot weather, work pants that kept them dry, or the product that really put them on the map, the Longtail T® Shirt. Its innovative three extra inches of shirt body length covered the infamous problem known as Plumber's Butt.

I became aware of Duluth Trading Company when I saw their TV commercials for their BuckNaked™ Underwear, performance briefs, boxers and undershirts that claim, “No pinch, no stink, no sweat…feels like you’re wearing nothing at all.”

The print and television ads were created by Planet Propaganda ad agency in Madison, Wisconsin. Using simple line drawings and a gravelly voiced, no BS announcer, the problem-solution framed ads include manly humor about everything from a dancing naked (but demurely covered) big dude delighted with his undies to wacky gophers ogling a working woman’s butt cleavage that gets covered by the Longtail shirt.

What makes the advertising so effective is the simplicity of the animated characters, like some Porta-Potty graffiti on a job site.

What makes the brand voice of Duluth Trading company ring true with their customers? Authenticity. Honesty. And talking to them in their own real voice. It’s about selling products that recognize what really happens on the worksite and offering innovative solutions that are tested, not on models, but on a panel of a “grizzly bunch of construction workers, dock hands, cycle riders, old hippies and other hard-as-nails characters,” according to Duluth’s website.

If a brand is truly going to speak to its customers, then it must do so across all its products, its advertising, its policies and practices, like Duluth’s No Bull product guarantee. When you create a connection with your customers—see them eye-to-eye and talk to them as equals, you’ll earn their loyalty. And their business. What brands do you know of that really speak to their customers in their own language?

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