PDN: What differentiates Hammerquist
Studios among outdoor-focused agencies?
Why are your clients drawn to your work?
DAN KOSTRZEWSKI: It starts with our
founder, Fred Hammerquist. Fred was one
of the first guys to combine a traditional
agency model with a passion for the outdoors.
Everyone who works here has a lifelong
career in the outdoor industry, has a passion—
whether it’s skiing or snowboarding or
climbing or riding their bike across South
America, whatever it is. There’s a huge
amount of passion for the cultures that we
come from, and I think that really sets the
work [we do apart].
PDN: Are there unique characteristics to the
way you work with your clients?
DK: One of the things that seems to be
happening right now is more and more
specialization in the agency world. But we
develop these very long-term relationships
with brands, going through an entire lifecycle
of projects. We’ll work with a brand on
everything from brand strategy all the way to
the media buy, and I think in that respect we
become more of a trusted partner for a brand.
If brands are looking for someone to work on
a three-month or six-month project, we view
those as a good starting point but look to build
connections with more of a long view.
PDN: What types of imagery and storytelling
do customers for outdoor brands respond
to currently? What gets the attention of
an outdoor enthusiast?
DK: That merge between editorial-[style]
content and the essence of what a brand stands
for creates this element of really powerful
brand storytelling that hits a more emotional,
value-based level. We’ve seen that brands
are responding to that and customers are
responding to that, and that’s what excites us.
A good example is some of the work we’ve
done lately for Sage, which is a fly fishing
company based on Bainbridge [Island, WA].
We’ve done a ton of emotional, real, strong,
immersive photo content that really connects
with the core of the culture and the passion
for why people fly fish. We’ve used a lot of
photographers who have that passion for
those worlds and cultures. We’ve seen that as
something that folks are responding to. From
a content marketing perspective, the word
“authentic” is a little bit overused, but that’s
really the essence of it: Trying to tell the story
of the souls of the brands and where they
come from and what they stand for.
PDN: It seems challenging to tell a deeper
story given how little time consumers are
willing to spend with content. How do you
create content that accounts for attention
spans but also goes deeper?
DK: People are hit with a lot of surface-level
messaging these days, but for a brand, it’s
much more powerful to be able to connect
with someone emotionally. We take more of
a tiered approach. A content campaign may
be tailored to different mediums, so you may
get a hint of a story on Instagram or a hint of a
story in a promoted video or a teaser clip, but
the deeper you go into the story [by following
a link] the more you get. [For example,] you’ve
gone to a content landing page that has a full
photo gallery and podcast and a five-minute
piece that tells a full story [about a brand or
athlete]. Then [the agency figures] out how
you pulse out that campaign to drive home
that story with the most impact. I think you
can really get people to get people immersed
in something that way, and I think that’s
where you get the emotional connection.
PDN: What, if anything, has shifted in outdoor
industry advertising in the past few years?
DK: I see the importance of a constant
generation of content and storytelling through
all the various mediums to maintain an effort
to tell your brand story on a consistent basis.
You don’t create one ad campaign a year and
a couple of videos and then you’re done until
the next campaign. All these brands need
ABOVE: An image by photographer Jeremiah Watt on the website of fly fishing company Sage, a Hammerquist
Studios client. Hammerquist works with photographers who have a passion for the outdoor pursuits they’re
asked to depict.
FOCUSES ON OUTDOOR
BRANDS AND THEIR VALUES
The outdoor industry has in recent years become a proving ground for advertising and brand
communications that focus on values. Outdoor enthusiasts have responded to brand messages
that offer journalistic stories about people’s love for adventure; about environmentalism and
conservation; about responsibly sourced or recycled materials; and about choosing experiences
over conspicuous consumption. This has created a market in which the values a company stands
for can be just as important as the goods they make or the outdoor experience they provide.
Values are hard to fake. It takes people with a real interest in fly fishing or skiing or rock
climbing to create convincing stories about those pursuits. Hammerquist Studios, a Seattle-based
creative agency that works with companies such as Sage (fly fishing), Hydro Flask (water bottles)
and Kōkatat (paddle sports), operates at the intersection of marketing and communications
expertise, and a genuine love of the outdoors. The photographers they work with have a similar
combination of creative and technical skill, and passion for being outside. PDN recently spoke
with Dan Kostrzewski, creative director at Hammerquist Studios, about trends in outdoor
industry advertising, and about what they look for in the photographers they hire.