Vango  manufactures camping equipment in Scotland. It started in 1966 under another name, but trades today as Vango from Port Glasgow, a seaside town of little more that 15,000 people. They list two key people, both interested in sport, Stephen Newland and Alistair Moodie as two key people that drive the business. The latter, appears to be more private on social media. This doesn’t detract from the way Vango leverages its marketing on social media. Vango increasingly, relies on the content contributions from the profiles of its distributors. Smart move in localising a national brand, that originates from what was a Scottish fishing hamlet.
AMG is the holding company that owns a few brands, including Vango, Force Ten, Blacks of Greenock, Lichfield and Mitco. AMG hold licences to distribute other outdoor brands as well. Currently, AMG makes more than 2,000 products that are sold in more than 50 countries. They have designed inflatable tents and caravan awnings and lightweight camping equipment. Vango also developed ProTex ® waterproof and breathable fabrics. AMG’s strapline is being Pioneers of Outdoor Innovation.
Before social media could begin talking about Vango, they first got their logistics, computer ordering systems and product marketing working well. AMG provide an Extranet for its trade customers to order stock from them, anytime. In support, account managers are allocated to trade customers to assist with website login, branding and promotional material, product images and any procurement or returns issues. Digital Order Pads are available, where stock availability, prices, spares and images are loaded to make seasonal ordering easier. The system is automated to allow stockists to showcase any AMG brand, easily. There are four trade categories:
The company appears to use a few broad marketing themes on a number of social media channels rather well. Broadly speaking, they appear to be:
- Promoting sales of their products from their website, from Amazon  and allowing distributors and retailers to sell their products off their own eBay accounts. 
- News, announcements and promotions are promoted on their Facebook  pages, on  Twitter, on their Instagram  page and in blog posts, via their website.  Vango has a Pinterest following as well.
- Affiliate endorsements, product reviews, lifestyle images and product videos increasingly appear on social media and instructional videos on Youtube are a sales support.
All three above, provide promotional platforms for not only the extensive network of online sellers and  distributors, but the bricks and mortar retailers as well. Vango call the latter, stockists  – and there are many of them spread across the UK. In all, AMG employ 98 people and manage eleven specialist outdoor brands in various categories, of which Vango is only one. Mitco is another, who specialise in supplying fabrics for industrial, sporting and leisure. These fabrics are used for marquees, yurts curtains, boat covers or mats.
Clearly, Vango are in the manufacturing business and they leave the retailing and to others.    Price promotional support is offered so that retailers may promote Vango products by promotional discounting.  AMG Group Ltd, do have a Sales Director, who has an UK Field Sales Manager to support group sales and business relationship building, via six Account Managers.
Vango have more than eight product groups, such as Tents; Awnings, Sleeping bags, Rucksacks, Furniture, Trail Foods, Footwear and more. Each category has a huge variety of sizes and styles. For instance, regards tents – there are Airbeam tents, Family tents, Technical tents, Hiking tents, Adventure tents, Duke of Edinburgh tents, Scout tents, Festival tents, Wild camping tents, Mountain tents or Group tents – to name a few. The point being, Vango offers a large number of products, colours, spares, accessories and category extensions.
Vango do manage and promote their brands via a digital magazine and  countless digital brochures. The lifestyle, news and announcement blog posts are ideal for sharing on social media. The customer services page on the Vango website is simply laid out and easy to find information or ask a question. The blog page  carries articles on competitions, festivals, prizes, new products and events. Events could be in collaboration with other camping brands such as the Caravan and Camping Club. 
The point that is obvious regards the Vango Social Media Strategy is that it supports a sizeable, yet understated value chain. Vango creatively let their story and the stories of their retailers loose on social media after their logistics infrastructure was in place. This meant that as sales volumes increased, the publicity would amplify a well oiled system. Errors, omissions and mistakes are quickly broadcast on social media. I expect that as vango’s reputation grows, it will leverage its positive reputation on media platforms globally.
Vango currently sticks to its core business of outdoor equipment and experiences. Through AMG it sources materials, products, commercial services and strategic marketing. The branding, designs, images, marketing campaigns, strategic thinking, product development and research is centralised within the group head office. Last year, logistics were relocated to a huge centralised distribution centre, replacing three others. Transport is provided for staff who now need to travel.
Vango key account relationships with customers are managed by a sales team. So the infrastructure is in place, to supply and service bricks and mortar retailers. Then, Social Media promotes a massive network of online trading, via Amazon where Vango has developed a branded, informative profile to stimulate huge sales through that platform.
eBay, similarly provides a profitable platform for both retailers and many small online companies, accessing Vango branding via the AMG website. These eCommerce sales outlets rely on online referrals, social media endorsements and demonstrations. The latter sell both new and pre-owned products. It’s a perfect platform to sell at variable prices, especially if there is bidding on scarce items.
Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook are open source media platforms where the Vango tribe of resellers can promote outdoor and camping lifestyle images, stories, anecdotes and offers. What’s particularly interesting, is the way Vango encourages its online sellers to create events for Facebook group / Club members. Vango branding is readily available for them to download. So too, on the same principle, Vango resellers are able to create videos for their own YouTube channel, where they either review camping products or promote equipment sales. Visitors are able to comment below, providing data and interaction. While wearing Vango shirts, they relentlessly provide training videos on how use Vango products.
Collectively, this network of media channels create and publish huge volumes of branded content, using designs, trademarks and products sourced directly from Vango themselves. The brands are lifestyle products with aspirational aspects relating to leisure, pleasure, sports and fitness. All things that are easy to comment on, like, share and talk about. If the content is created on amateaur cameras, it looks authenticity endorsed by a user, not a slick marketing team. The content often looks like personal endorsements and is easily trusted.
Someone wanting buy a tent or specialist outdoor equipment will often go to YouTube to ask others for advice. If the comments and the video are sincere and happen to suggest using Vango products, the publicity is priceless. The SEO algorithms are flooded by this content and it plays positively into improving Vango market share.
What Vango are doing on social media is obvious and to be expected. However, they got in early. The difference between them and other consumer goods companies, is that they are effective in keeping the content development, branding and publishing of community posts simple and easy to access. Campaigns look like they are customised and come from individual retailers. My guess is that campaign concepts are often conceived, nurtured and shared throughout the whole Vango social media network. The longer the conversation continues in a myriad of places, the further, wider and longer the publicity machine gains momentum.
Vango are not in your face marketers. They know the value of personal endorsement and that nationwide stock availability is crucial. Before they want to be talked about. Consequently, their interaction with customers in the digital community is growing slowly, almost covertly. Their end user is discerning with disposable income, so style and substance matters. Now that the board of directors has been boosted with additional skills in marketing and strategy, be sure that their social media strategy will evolve further, supported by reliable technology.
Here are some questions that help us mine into the way Vango is currently doing things:
- What is missing from the current Vango social media platforms?
- What technology and mobile phone apps would you expect Vango to introduce next?
- How best could Vango leverage the existing database they have on suppliers, customers and distributors – to improve their customer relationships?
- How could Vango differentiate their social media messaging to appear more focused on their target markets?
- Do Vango need to be more transparent with their media content, relating to corporate values, ethos, management personalities and show more human faces for customers to relate to?
- What do you think Vango are currently doing right, compared to their competitors, regards their Social Media strategy?
Your comments and experiences would be appreciated below. This way, we build and clarify the real strategy story.
Here are some links below, numbered and referenced in the narrative above. They are designed to ignite your thinking. Please add your comments below and more valuable sources if you like.
| Wiki|| Facebook|
| Go Outdoors|| Camping World|
| Airbeam Tent Owners Club||The Vango Tent Owners Club|
| Airbeam Tent Sales|| Winfields Video|
| Leisure Outlet UK Video|| Cotswold Outdoor|
| Vango Search pages|| Events(festivals, running, ..many blogs)|
| Blog tribe|| Recycling|
| Tent review|| Instruction|
| AMG|| Case Study|
| Amazon|| eBay supplier network|
| Bikester|| Discounting|
| Stephen Newlands|| Alistair Moodie|
| Website|| Instagram|
| Twitter|| Stores|
| Camping recycled|| Magazine|
| National activities list|| GoGo social|