In an effort to refine its rugged image, Carhartt has launched its biggest national advertising campaign yet.
The Dearborn-based clothing maker's multimillion-dollar promotion started this month and documents two Alaska-based workers -- a bush pilot and an Iditarod dog musher -- who wear, what else, Carhartt outerwear.
But, more than reinforcing its tough-guy brand, the campaign also highlights jackets that use modern, high-tech fabrics to make them about 30% lighter. It's part of the private company's big push to appeal to more customers -- and go beyond word-of-mouth advertising, which until last year, the company had relied upon.
"We're introducing our products to new people," said Tony Ambroza, Carhartt's vice president of marketing.
Next spring, he said, the company plans to offer a new line of shirts that wick away sweat and are more stain- and odor-resistant.
Last year, the company started retooling its work-wear image and increasing its brand profile with national commercials.
Established in 1889, the company first made clothing for railroad workers.
In the past decade, Carhartt has boosted sales from about $300 million a year to more than $500 million, partly by broadening the brand's appeal. It added a line for women in 2003, started opening stores in 2009 -- and now is highlighting its high-tech fabrics.
It also has been tweaking styles so that they appeal to more fashion-conscious customers.
Ambroza said Carhartt clothing is still made to be durable, but "why should it be ugly at the same time?"
The company also has ramped up advertising and marketing on social media, particularly Facebook, Ambroza said.
The first commercial of the new campaign aired Sept. 16 during the History Channel's "Ice Road Truckers" show and will continue on various platforms through the winter holidays, Ambroza said.
The campaign includes advertising at stores and events, such as Carhartt-sponsored classes.
This Saturday, for example, the company will offer workshops on building with wood, planting a woodlot and painting large murals at the Detroit Mercantile Co. in Eastern Market, 3434 Russell St.
It plans to offer similar workshops on Oct. 27 and Nov. 11. To sign up online, go to www.skillshare.com/carhartt .
Article courtesy of Detroit Free Press Business Reporter, Frank Witsil.