The Deconstructed Brief

Be an Outsider

Be an Outsider

Brand: L.L. Bean

Agency: The VIA Agency


How do you get people outdoors? Americans spend the majority of their leisure time watching TV or on their electronic devices, according to research by Mintel.

One Thought:

Meet us outside.

L.L. Bean created a full-page newspaper ad that you could only read outdoors. At first, the ad appears almost blank, with the words “Just bring this outside” scattered across the page. The ad springs to life outdoors, thanks to photochromic ink, which is colorless until it is exposed to ultraviolet light. The complete ad is essentially a manifesto for people to join L.L. Bean in the great outdoors, which happens to be the best environment for the company’s signature boots.

What they told Adweek

“It took the confluence of a great strategy, a creative solution and incredible technology for VIA to pull off a modern twist using a traditional medium,” said Teddy Stoecklein, executive creative director at The VIA Agency.

Lessons to be learned:

  • Create an experience — Not all experiential marketing has to be big events. Here, L.L. Bean has created a memorable moment by asking people to spend a few minutes in the sun. Even small experiences like this help create a sense of community among fans.
  • Create a community — The ad moves L.L. Bean away from a focus on conquering individual pursuits (think climbing a mountain). The new positioning is about friends and family enjoying the outdoors together. The manifesto encourages you to join the club, with copy like, “It doesn’t matter where you come from. Only that you come often. So wherever you are, join us.”
  • Build on a good idea — This isn’t the first time a marketer has used photochromic ink. This year, Coors Lights used the ink on cans in Canada, revealing colorful patterns when you took the cans outside. This followed similar ideas from Coca-Cola and LAY’S. The use of technology felt fresh for L.L. Bean because it supported a specific, unique concept.