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Getting the full benefit: Columbia focuses on communicating the Omni-Heat message

While Columbia did not launch any brand-new Omni technology for the Fall 2013 season, the company will add several items with its Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective technology to further communicate the message

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Over the past few seasons, Columbia has held big launch events in New York, San Francisco and Sedona. Dozens of journalists were invited to see the launch of new Omni technologies from Omni Heat Thermal Reflective to Omni-Freeze Zero.

But recently, a small group of six journalists were given the opportunity to visit Columbia’s hometown of Portland, Ore., where company officials unveiled something a little different: Their new marketing strategy of focusing on communicating the Omni-Heat message to consumers before unleashing the new technological beasts Chief Innovator Woody Blackford has in store.

Members of the media toured Blackford’s Innovation Lab and shared lunch with Gert Boyle, who hasn’t spoken to media in nearly two years since three criminals attempted to kidnap her; and even flipped through some Columbia catalogs from the 1970s.

Same technology, new stuff

Columbia marketing officials did some consumer research and found out a lot of people didn’t understand Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective, so the staff decided to launch some new products featuring the technology.

Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective technology is not new, but the company is focusing on marketing it so more consumers understand how it works. The point, said Dan Hanson, the company’s vice president of global marketing, is to continue to offer products with and promote the technology.

“We want to get from a lack of awareness to the point where [consumers] don’t shut up about it,” Hanson said at a presentation at the company’s flagship store. 

As a result, Columbia’s fall 2013 line is full of new products featuring the old technology.

“This is our fourth season with Omni-Heat,” explained Adrienne Moser, vice president of global apparel and accessories. “We are focusing on how we can maximize what we have.”

To reiterate: Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective technology, according to Columbia’s website “helps regulate your temperature by reflecting and retaining the warmth your body generates, while dissipating moisture and excess heat to keep you comfortable.” Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective dots (which work like a space blanket) are featured on a variety of items, and coupled with down insulation or Columbia’s proprietary synthetic insulation makes up Omni Heat Thermal Reflective and Insulated items.

Moser said the Fall 2013 offerings provide items for athletes in three categories: Static (they’re mostly standing still, as in at a bus stop); stop-and-go (skiers or boarders who are going down the mountain and staying still for the ride back up the chairlift); and high-exertion (athletes who are working and generating heat and sweat the whole time they’re outdoors).

In the static category, the company offers its Shimmer Flash, an insulated piece featuring Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective and Omni-Shield advanced repellency technologies. The 18.3-ounce item has three color blocks, an attached adjustable storm hood, interior security pocket, zippered hand pockets and an adjustable hem. The three color blocks are presented a bit differently in the men’s (photo above right) versus the women’s items (photo left).

The new Millennium collection features all the bells and whistles, Moser said. The insulated pieces all have Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective and Omni-Tech waterproof/breathable seam seals. Plus the Millennium Flash Jacket (MSRP $330) has internal stretch panels, four-way comfort stretch, a removable, adjustable helmet compatible storm hood, two-way underarm venting plus a draw cord adjustable hem. Also part of this family is the Millennium Blur Pant (MSRP $200).

The Millennium collection targets the stop-and-go athlete.

For the high-exertion athlete, the Triple Trail III Shell for men and women (MSRP $325), which features zoning for comfort and performance (with Omni-Heat for warm zones and Omni-Wick Evap for sweat zones).

The SNEWS team noticed Columbia was getting more fashionable with its Fall 2013 offerings, including it’s Checked Tunic (MSRP TBD), an urban button-up tunic with an empire waist that can be worn with a pair of jeans or leggings. Also, the company offers a colorful Infinity Scarf (MSRP TBD) to add the feminine touch to any outfit.

Some other notable items launching for fall ’13 are the Trail Summit Running Gloves (MSRP $40 for men, $35 for women), which feature a reflective strip across the top of the hand, a faux leather stip across the palm and Columbia’s Omni-Wick technology, plus a touch-screen compatible pointer finger.

Omni-Heat for your feet

Another thing the company is focused on doing for Fall 2013 is turning a product into a collection, as it’s doing with its Minx boots that launched last fall. There is now a Minx collection with Omni-Heat (MSRPs $110 to $120). The three products in the collection are the Minx Moccasin, Minx Slip-On and Minx Mid (photo below).

Mark Nenow, VP of global footwear, said the Minx collection offers what consumers expect from Columbia: “They are jackets for her feet.”

A favorite of the SNEWS team was the upcoming Minx Moccasin, which has a suede outer and an insulated upper featuring Omni-Heat Thermal Reflective lining plus 200 grams of insulation for added warmth, plus high-traction Omni-Grip rubber sole grips on all kinds of surfaces.

But officials tell us Columbia still has more innovations to come.

“You don’t want to bring in a new [technology] when consumers don’t know what the first one is,” Blackford told media.

“Woody’s got a lot of stuff under the hood,” reiterated CEO Tim Boyle, “but if we start adding it too quickly we don’t get the full benefit.”

–Ana Trujillo