Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Role of Fly Fishing in Marketing

What does feather tossing have to do with marketing?

In a word, image.

Since the mid-nineteenth century fly fishing has been at the center of image marketing.

First there was Cornelia "Fly Rod" Crosby the women who marketed Maine as the 'playground of the nation' where visitors could experience the 'wilderness with all the comforts.' Now the companies behind this campaign were the railroads since that was the only way someone could get to the backwoods. They sponsored casting clinics in Central Park to entice people to travel to Maine.

Hiram Leonard, Eustis Edwards, and a few others became 'signature brands' as makers of bamboo fly rods. As they became popular, it wasn't unusual to partner or be acquired by more 'business-focused' firms who needed to figure out how to go from a couple of dozen rods per year to 1,000+. The impact of technology, e.g. beveling machines of the late 1870s, on a craft business makes for interesting reading in "Casting a Spell" by George Black.

Orvis, which started issuing catalogs prior to the Civil War, focused on the total image starting in the mid-1960s. Leigh Perkins, who had bought Orvis in 1965 described the company as 'what we were creating and selling was, for a lack of better word, a lifestyle, a kind of Americanized version of elegant, English country living.' For several years Orvis swapped house files with the likes of Abercrombie & Fitch and L.L. Bean as part of its direct marketing program.

Robert Redford's "A River Runs Through It" based on Norman Maclean's novella is credited with spawning (or ruining) even more interest in fly-fishing. Since the movie's debut in 1992 western trout streams have seen a lot of 'image pressure' - fishermen (and women) who look good but don't catch much.

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