LLBean Rebrands to Be More Digital, Less Direct-Mail

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Anybody eagerly awaiting their back-to-school catalog from LLBean this year may be disappointed.

The 105-year-old brand is focusing less on paper and more on broadcast in an effort to attract consumers on a national stage. This week, LLBean is rolling out a new website and digital push centered around its new "Be an Outsider" campaign. Three TV spots will follow starting July 24.

"The campaign is one piece of a bigger strategy to shift us from a heritage brand, in catalogs, to a product company," said Brad Matson, who joined Freeport, Maine-based LLBean five years ago as senior VP-creative.

The shift began last year with the hire of the Via Agency, also a Maine-based company, as a strategic consultant. Via won lead creative duties in a competitive review earlier this year. "Everyone really loves [LLBean] but it's lost its clear path," said Leeann Leahy, chief executive at Via. "The brand has gotten fragmented over time."

LLBean is investing twice as much in back-to-school this year as last year, according to Matson. He declined to say how much, but in 2016, the brand spent $1.9 million in July through September on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media. For the 12 months of 2016, LLBean spent $14.6 million on measured media, per Kantar.

Later this year, the company is planning more robust efforts including additional TV spots, in-store experiences and print marketing. Though LLBean in the past has run just a couple TV spots during the year, it plans to air a dozen by the end of 2017.

It's also paring back its product mix.

Though "Be an Outsider" embraces the outdoors, it differentiates LLBean from other outdoors-focused brands that push more extremism because it emphasizes inclusivity and a "shared love," said Leahy. "It's not about scaling a mountain, it's about having a picnic," she said.

In one spot in the "Be an Outsider" push, a group of kids leave school on their bicycles in a scene reminiscent of "E.T." or "Stranger Things," though the adventurous youths end up examining rocks as part of a homework assignment. In another, kids emerge from the branches of a tree when the school bus arrives.

Erwin Penland previously worked with the retailer, a relationship that began in 2014. The company's "When" spot last year played up its products as a better alternative to fast-fashion.

"We know that TV makes people aware of who we are on a national scale," said Matson.

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