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Why Columbia Sportswear’s Newsletters Rock My World (And My Inbox)

I rarely sign up for newsletters. Why? They’re lame. I’ll read pretty much anything I can get my eyes on, from literary classics to IKEA instructions to contact lens solution ingredient lists, but never newsletters. It’s a lot easier to click “delete” than it is to scroll though a mess of dull, regurgitated info.

But last fall, I gave my email to Columbia Sportswear in exchange for 10% off. Good deal, I thought. It’s easy to ignore emails and I have a shiny new jacket. I automatically deleted the newsletters for many months, until I saw the following headline:

“Trail running: Great practice for fleeing mountain lions.”

Must. Click.

As I read on, I found myself incredibly amused. The newsletter didn’t tell me to buy these shoes, that jacket or this shirt, but it did give me the urge to read their blog then stalk their website.

And the greatest thing? They post the newsletters in their blog. Rarely is a newsletter good enough to read, never mind post online, but Columbia proudly displays them on their website, Facebook and Twitter.

Here’s what melted my hate for all things newsletter:


3 3 MC Trail Series2 10 - Stikky Media

I love graphs, especially fake ones that list “my friend Steve” as a reference.


“Before you get muddy though, we’ve got a mix of trail wisdom for you. A trail mix, shall we say, of the kinds of trails you may encounter, terms you’ll need to know and ways to notify anyone you run into that you’re about to run into them.”

Columbia’s newsletter sounds like it was written by real people, which can be hard to do. There’s no marketing jargon, sales pressure or lame corporate info that nobody, not even the employees, cares about.


The winner of the best trail term wins a $100 gift card. Here’s a sample:

“Whale Trails: Trails with a Y-shaped fork. Favored in the late nineties by runners with lower back tattoos.”

The newsletter is a great read because it’s crammed with these awesome terms. The contest is general enough that non-outdoorsy types will get a kick out of it, but it’s not totally irrelevant either.


Like my beloved fake graphs, photo, videos and diagrams get the point across without losing readers. Take the following:

3 3 MC Trail Series2 8 - Stikky Media

Most people would have just listed off the weights in a meaningless way, but Columbia used bird pictures. I get the difference, and I know what a Dodo silhouette looks like. Cool. They also post seemingly random videos, such as parkour mishaps, but magically make them relevant:

“Trail running, dodging obstacles and embracing nature is a beautiful thing. When you take away the trails and nature, though, it gets really exciting.”

Columbia truly understands the culture surrounding their products. Along with amazing elements listed above, they post things like recipes and links to fun events. They know people can go to their website to learn about products, so they write fun, relevant lifestyle info that’s both weird and professional.

I’m still wary about signing up for other newsletters, because not everyone knows how to simultaneously amuse and engage. But if there’s another newsletter like Columbia’s (fake graphs, please), welcome to my inbox.