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Topo Designs: Authentic Brand Storytelling in a Digital Age

Every bestselling brand story has a few key elements: original plot, relatable characters and an emotional connection. So what’s the difference between a good brand story and a winning brand story? Delivery. Topo Designs, a USA-made outdoor brand, proves that how you tell your story is just as important as the story itself.

Adam Wells, Manager of Creative Content at Topo Designs, explains how versatile product design and authentic, digital media helps them tell a brand story that consumers can live by.

Where does the name Topo come from and how does it support your brand values?

Adam: Much of the initial inspiration for Topo came from classic camping gear in the 1970’s, back when people really were reading maps because GPS technology didn’t exist. Stemming from that, our logo is an overly simplified topographic map, which reinforces our brand’s minimalist approach. We love the outdoors and we have an appreciation for an active lifestyle, so the name Topo (short for topographic) really gets to the root of what our brand stands for.

The Topo brand inspires an adventurous, active, and travel-filled lifestyle. How does your brand mission influence the products that you make?

Adam: We rely heavily on imagery to inspire people to enjoy the outdoors, stay active, and lead a balanced lifestyle. I like drawing a parallel to Denver because our products are made for people who work and live in an urban setting but are always trekking out into the wilderness for weekend trips. Our gear has that overlap by functioning as both urban and outdoor gear. We focus on making products that are beautifully simple, because most people don’t need specialized, technical gear. It’s nice to be able to use the same bag with anything and everything.

Being made here in the USA is an important part of your brand. What are some challenges of this commitment?

Adam: Being a “Made in the USA” brand is challenging because it’s more expensive. We’re paying more for labor and the price has to reflect that. It’s also harder to make more technical bags, because we can’t create all of those extra features that people request and still stay at a competitive price.

However, we’ve found it’s something people are willing to support and there are a lot of benefits. We know our sewers, which gives us more transparency and control over production. Having sew shops here in the states allows for a faster and more communicative prototyping process. Overseas, there can be more lag time and communication can be a challenge. It’s important for us to have control over the way our gear is produced—that it’s made fairly and sustainability—and that it’s the highest possible quality.

Topo Designs is a very visual brand. Could you talk about your brand’s digital storytelling strategy? Why has it been so successful?

Adam: It’s crucial that we’re using high-quality images and that the story behind each image is actually a story worth telling. There’s authenticity in the photo, it’s people we know doing things we enjoy. We work with brand ambassadors who get out there and climb, hike, bike, travel and are able to capture those activities well. Because it comes from a real place, it’s not overly sales-y and doesn’t feel forced.

We like to talk about where the photo was taken, who it was and what they were doing. We make it about that event and not about our apparel. I think this strategy is working because it helps make the outdoor lifestyle more accessible. Our digital stories help reinforce our mission to create durable, well-made gear that fits seamlessly into all aspects of everyday life.