THE MARKETING 100;GERT BOYLE;COLUMBIA SPORTSWEAR

By Published on .

Columbia Sportswear Co. has grown from near bankruptcy to its claimed position of world's largest outerwear manufacturer. Chairman Gert Boyle has been there every step of the way, and as Columbia's advertising shows, she's one tough mother.

Ms. Boyle and her parents fled Nazi Germany and established the company in 1938. In 1960, she designed and sewed a multipocketed fishing vest, the company's first big seller. After her husband's death in 1970, Ms. Boyle, with her son, took over the business.

In addition to running a tight ship, Ms. Boyle, 71, is the spirited star of Columbia's tongue-in-cheek ad campaign. The ads by Borders, Perrin & Norrander, Portland, Ore., often feature "Mother Boyle" subjecting her son to inhumane conditions demonstrating the durability of Columbia outerwear.

"All the other ads for sportswear feature young firm bodies intertwined with each other, but ours are 100% the other way," says Ms. Boyle.

Columbia's value quotient seems to be the main selling point for its products, including skiwear, rainwear, windwear, casual sportswear, children's clothing, footwear and hunting and fishing apparel.

"We are now selling jeans also to keep up with the new trends," says Ms. Boyle. "We have to get a good price point and a good fit. .*.*. If our product doesn't hold up well, we'll give you a new one."

Columbia has seen a 2000% increase in sales revenues in the past decade. Revenues for 1994 totaled $265 million and are expected to top $340 million this year.

In this article:
Most Popular