Coolers are a summertime staple supply. Every camping trip, picnic, and party needs at least one or two in any season of the year. If you've owned one for any length of time or thrown a lot of parties this year, then you know they have a downside as well. As they age, the seals around the drains break. In fact, cheaper coolers don't even have drainage. The plastic can age and crack, and the Seams are especially weak. After a while, you have to throw them out and replace them. Styrofoam coolers are an environmental nightmare, and the market was ready for a genuinely great high-end cooler when two brothers from Texas came out of nowhere with the Yeti. The only downside is that they're expensive. So we decided to look into why these particular coolers are so valuable.
Why Make a High-End Cooler
If the stories are correct, then a couple of brothers from Texas loved going fishing. Their cheap coolers didn't stay cold long enough, and even the better quality options just weren't that sturdy. They wanted an option that kept ice much longer and was tough enough to stand on while they were out fishing. That doesn't seem like an unreasonable request, but there was a time, not so long ago, when that kind of cooler didn't exist. Eventually, one of the brothers ran across a cooler from a retailer or trade show that was made in Thailand, from rotomolded polyethelyne. They loved the idea of this new, more substantial, seamless cooler, but it wasn't enough. They came up with a design idea of their own and met with a manufacturer in the Philippines to discuss how to make it work. That drive and their ability to identify an unserved niche were the beginning of what we now know as the Yeti cooler.
Small Things Make Big Differences
Rotomolded polyethelyne sounds exceptionally complicated. In reality, the concept is straightforward. Polyethelyne is a very strong type of plastic. Meanwhile, rotomolding, which sounds like some sort of complex scientific term, is actually short for rotational molding. Rotomolded polyethelyne is plastic formed in a rotating mold. The result is so durable it's practically unbreakable. Demystified or not, the fact is that this process can be used to create seamless molds of virtually anything. Kayaks and boats are a great example of another use. The durability is the most outstanding feature, but rotomolded polyethylene has another essential quality for boats or coolers. It can float, and as a result, it makes an ideal substance for coolers.
Additionally, instead of using standard foam cores, Yeti features denser injected foam insulation. The brothers put a lot of thought and engineering into the design. The finish isn't the typical rough texture, but rather a smooth, pristine exoskeleton. In place of flimsy inflexible plastic handles, you'll find rope with more ergonomic rubber grips. Rubber doesn't slip as easily, making it less likely that you'll drop a Yeti. The lid has one solid metal piece through the whole length connecting the hinge instead of multiple smaller parts. On the front side, the rubber latches stretch, making it a little harder for children to open. Certainly, Yetis don't pop open if you drop them. There are rubber feet on the bottom for stability and grip that won't mark a floor or slide. Lastly, there are places on the sides to add padlocks, which will keep people or even bears out of your cooler if they don't have the key.
Brilliant Business Plan
The best product in the world won't sell if people don't want it or know it exists. Plenty of great products have failed because something cheaper and more well known could do the same job. Merchants want to make money, and the ones who do the most business care less about good quality than they do about stellar profit margins. However, coolers take up a lot of space, and that means smaller merchants like mom and pop fishing supply stores didn't carry them. By creating a better product that's worth more, Yeti became a brand that smaller shops could carry easily. They were worth the space because a small merchant could sell far less and make more money. The brothers planned around the idea of marketing to smaller businesses exclusively. They saw a need and filled the niche with a highly desirable product, but the job was only half done. After all, what fisherman would want a super expensive cooler if they could go to WalMart and get a cheap one instead? The five-year warranty is outstanding, but it wasn't enough.
Make Them Want It
Convincing people that they want a product is what marketing is for. Most, or all of the coolers that are around now rely on the need for their products. Beyond merely adding a blurb to an outdoor catalog, they don't have to market to sell out. Customers come to them for the convenience of cold food and drinks without refrigeration. To sell people a better and far more expensive cooler, they had to create a brand image, a desirable lifestyle that shows the uses and need for a better cooler. Simply saying it's better wouldn't cut it. Additional bonuses, freebies, help retain customers and give added value. Yetis come with stickers, magazines about the product, and things like drying racks or hats. Moreover, the marketing campaign was pure genius. Instead of a few cheesy commercials, they hired well-known outdoorsmen and real people to tell their stories that just happen to feature the many uses of a Yeti. In this way, they created the desire as they built the reputation. Essentially they created the entire high-end cooler market by showing people that there's a better way to keep ice cold with a cooler that won't break down when you need it. They even had a 500lb wrestler attack one to prove it was durable. The cooler won.
You could buy a dozen or more cheapie coolers in the next five years and keep your soda or beer on ice for a couple of hours. Then again, you could buy a half dozen plastic coolers that keep things chilly all day, or you can get one Yeti. In the end, it will cost around the same. So what's the downside to a Yeti? As far as we can tell, you have to know how to pre-cool a cooler if you plan to store it somewhere warm between uses because it holds heat just as well. That's the whole list. Is it worth the price for an oh-so-expensive Yeti? Yes, it is because you shouldn't need to replace it. Plus, you can have any wrestlers or kids, or wild animals you might have, go to town on it. A Yeti will still work the same even if they manage to scratch it up a bit.
Written by Garrett Parker
Read more posts by Garrett Parker