February 24, 2023

Battling Goliath with a Bamboo Stick

A case analysis of how DMH developed a targeted five-step strategy to launch a fly-fishing brand in a market dominated by deep pocket players.

Hooking fishermen with the latest technology is easy. If you’re an established brand. Fly fisherman are innately curious and fancy themselves as experts in everything from entomology to the weather. They love learning about new gadgets and the science behind them.

But getting them to trust a new brand with their precious time on the water? Well, that's a different story.

When it comes to fly lines, leaders and tippets, there are only a few players in the fly-fishing market and one of them is huge: Rio Products, owned by Far Banks, which also owns Sage Rods, Reddington and Fly Water Travel. Rio has been making lines, leaders and tippet for more than 30 years. Originally founded "by anglers, for anglers" the company is now a corporate powerhouse squarely aimed at owning the market through a shelf space strategy and brute force. They front load fly shops with specialized products for every situation, leaving little room for other brands and a heavy reliance on shop staff to help customers navigate the highly technical portfolio.

Along comes two guys with extreme passion for the sport and an idea about making unique fly lines, leaders and tippet more accessible to more fly fishermen. Are these guys wet behind the marketing ears? Yes, but they do have a couple of tricks up their sleeves, one of which is that they happen to be descendants of fly-fishing royalty. Founder Travis Thompson is the son of Fishpond co-founder Dave Thompson, and Dave knows how to navigate the world of fly-fishing retail.

Enter DMH Advertising and the idea to name the newbie gear producer ARC. ARC stands for Fishing Angling Research Company, but the name hint both to the arc of the line and the unique casting form of fly-fishing. We also incorporated an abstract interpretation of the iconic arcing tails of the Mayfly (an insect that is synonymous with fly-fishing).

Now we have a cool brand name and logo that looks badass on a sticker. Here comes the marketing hurdle: how do we get these guys noticed and in the shops?

Step One: Build a brand with our customer in mind.

Create a brand that immediately feels like a choice for pros but is approachable by everyone who fly-fishes.

Step Two: Start telling the story of innovation.

The ARC Camo ST tippet is a truly unique product offers anglers a combination of stealth, strength and durability that can’t be matched by any other tippet on the market today.

Step Three: Stage a sneak attack product launch at the annual ICAST show.

Blow their socks off with a branded booth, giveaways, editor briefings, new product entries and time with the founders answering questions about the science.

Step Four: Be the underdog for editors.

Get the media relations machine humming with releases, features, round-ups, showcases and demos. Tell the story, back-up the science and give 'em all the content they want.

Step Five: Support your retailers with highly targeted digital media buys.

When a shop gives you shelf space, you have to help get anglers in the door. We recommended highly localized programmatic ads to push people into the shop and paid social to support the overall brand.

Check the ARC Fishing brand or contact us to hear the rest of this fish tale.

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