BGBS 050: Cory Bayers | Patagonia | Success Looks More Like Activists
If there are two things Cory Bayers does exceptionally well, it’s buying a lot of sushi and having a big heart. As the Vice President of Global Marketing at Patagonia, Cory leads storytelling for the higher purpose of saving our home planet. Cory’s humble disposition, fervor to learn, and respect for the standard Patagonia is held to as an environmental leader makes it all too easy to rally behind his success. His passion for growth propels him to leap towards risk and adapt to the moment (including that time on the chandelier in Austria), and we can’t help but want to do the same.
For our special 50th episode, good friend Mike Arzt introduces Cory and provides fun insight and perspective to his journey. This episode will warm your heart, make you laugh, and inspire your inner activist. You truly can have it all at Baby Got Backstory. As accomplished as Cory is, he stresses that over time, the marketing campaigns won’t be what he remembers most, it will be the people. With that, we wonder, what can we all do to focus more on our relationships right now?
In this episode, you’ll learn…
- Cory advocates that Patagonia’s value-based mindset and excitement for advocacy is just as real as it seems and courses through all of its employees
- When Cory asked Yvon Chouinard what success looks like for Patagonia’s future, he responded that they might be smaller. That was the perfect answer to Cory because it proved that the company cared more about impact than metrics.
- The most difficult part of marketing for Patagonia is that their audience holds them to a high standard. Although it is scary to be called out when something isn’t perfect, Cory encourages the community to continue because it pushes them to be better.
- Always the adventurer, Cory moved with his family to many places for work, including Norway, California, Seattle, Vancouver, and more.
- Cory valued the decentralized marketing model that Lululemon took on, which tolerated risk and allowed for a freely creative environment.
- When Cory joined Patagonia, he felt like he was coming home. He found himself full circle working for one of the first brands he ever fell in love with.
- Instead of worrying about what’s next, Cory prefers to stay in the present and focus on the relationships he’s made over time.
- Cory overshot the sushi order by 120 feet. You’ll get it when you listen.
- Even as an experienced leader, Cory still feels a sense of uncertainty and risk when putting out something new as a marketer, and he considers it a good feeling
- For the next generation of creatives: Don’t chase perfection or let your ego rule you when you’re figuring life out. There will always be great moments and hard moments, so dive in and be okay with how things turn out.
[7:54] The conversations are real. It’s values-based, it’s on a mission, and it’s a serious mission. And it’s not just, “Hey, let’s put a mission up there but we’re really out to sell a product.” No, it’s not like that at all. We truly are in business to save our home planet.
[22:37] I fell in love with the business of sport or that interaction, or that blurring of the lines really, between fun, passion, and sport and work.
[30:41] Heck, I’m still a student. I’m still learning every day. And I love that aspect of it.
[44:11] I enjoy that aspect of being able to help coach and impart some of my knowledge on the next generation of marketers and creatives and people that are going to change the industry way more and change the world way more than I have or will.
Cory Bayers 0:02
I don’t know how it evolved. We were standing somewhere and there’s one of the rooms and there’s no furniture is just literally the castle. And it was a massive room with this ceiling that seemed to go on forever and hanging down was this crazy big chandelier like one of those you see in the movies like it looked about 810 feet in diameter just hanging there but like wood and it had candles, it wasn’t like electric or anything. We can handle one. And I was like, Am I as a kid you always see movies like people swinging across those things. So I thought, hmm, Now’s my moment to shine. And I care what I was standing on. I just jumped off of it, and landed on the chandelier and Swan across the room.
Marc Gutman 0:54
from Boulder, Colorado. This is the Baby Got Back story Podcast, where we dive into the story behind the story of today’s most inspiring storytellers, creators and entrepreneurs. I like big back stories and I cannot lie. I am your host, Marc Gutman.
Mike Arzt 1:14
Mike Arzt here super honored to be introducing Cory bayers for the 50th episode, Baby got backstory. I’ve got a long, long history with Cory. And I can honestly sit here today knowing I’d be on a much different paths if I hadn’t been lucky enough to get to work work with Cory through a couple different companies he’s been at. So for me, as I as I thought about our journey, I realized how much that I was at a kind of a pivotal point of my career in life. I was freelancing, but we hadn’t started our agency yet. We were starting a family but didn’t have a family yet. Like it was this is this big moment in my life of I think stepping into a whole new level of growing up building a business building a family when I cross paths with Cory. And so as I look back on that I feel like it was the stars aligned to have a mentor a client and a friend like Cory taught me so much that I still think is a big part of the foundation of what we do today.
So I first met Cory when we got hired, actually, I got hired to be the snowboard team manager for Helly Hansen. Cory at that time was working for Helly in the Seattle office, heading up marketing. He got the opportunity to move over to Oslo, for Helly Hansen, moved his family over there. They had their third child while in Norway. And we were constantly going back and forth. And not only getting to, you know, go over there and work with them. But a watched him raise his family in a foreign country. And I should say, well, Cory was working in the US he was the Canadian, so he was already an expat. So it was really, really amazing time. And what I learned from Cory was that he was super calculated and organized, when it came to budgets and expectations and just just real clear vision of where the marketing of Helly Hansen was going. And I think sometimes that stifles creativity, but when you have someone who has creative vision, and formulaic execution, with budgets, that’s I think what is so hard to find these days, we work with a lot of different clients and you know, some very wild style and you go out and get stuff done. But it’s it’s rare. When you find someone that sort of puts that whole package together and has a ton of fun doing it, rallies the teams around them.
People are excited to go work extra hard. And then Cory has also got the other side that you kind of got to watch out for that might not come out till later night. But let’s just say that a Cory’s liver was built and designed in Canada. And it’s a powerful machine that you should just know what you’re getting into. We’ve seen we’ve seen some weaker folk not not survive. So yeah, just this great, great journey, learning from Cory, him really giving us an ability to expand the work we did with Helly , which was at the time we were launching the Public Works our agency, it all fell into place. And I can sit here probably 15 years later knowing that it was a huge chapter of my life with so much fun and education and I owe a ton of that to Cory. So it was cool to see him make the decision. Eventually to leave Helly Hansen go to Lulu lemon, which was a move back to Canada. You know, Lulu time was you know, I think a brand that so many people are envious of watching seemed like They were just on top of the world. And Cory Cory had a great gig there. And his family was back in Canada.
He was closer to solid quality hockey, which I know is a big part of his family’s being. And then he got this opportunity to go work with Patagonia and head up their marketing, which I think for any of us who love the outdoor industry, or the outdoors, or companies that take a stand and do really hard things, I mean, Patagonia is at the, at the pinnacle. So now Cory sits in this position of, I mean, he’s, he’s in a position now this is going to change the world. You know, what he does, what that company does, what his team can do. It’s profound change, so couldn’t be more proud of him and thankful for the time that we got together.
Marc Gutman 5:56
So I’m here with Cory Bayers the Vice President of global marketing at Patagonia and Cory, what does a vice president of global marketing at Patagonia do?
Cory Bayers 6:06
That sounds pretty official. Wow, I’m all grown up.
Marc Gutman 6:11
It’s about time. Right?
Cory Bayers 6:12
Exactly. My mom always want me to grow up someday. Um, well, it’s very official title. Basically, I have the great fortune of leading an amazing group of people at Patagonia in Ventura, California, and in our offices around the world. Communicating with the brands up we tell stories, you know, I work with, you know, creative teams, marketing teams, strategy teams, operational teams, you know, lead books and film, basically all all the brand communication, non non non graphic on product, but any other PR, communications, branding, marketing, advertising comes comes out of my team and I work super collaboratively with people in Ventura, the business units, with, you know, marketers and market. So there’s a lot a lot of great collaboration. Yes, that’s kind of what I do. I tell stories about a pretty amazing brand.
Marc Gutman 7:10
Right? I mean, that sounds like the job I want when I grow up. So you got it, you got a pretty good, so I’m gonna hop right into it. Like, what’s awesome about working at Patagonia? Like why, you know, why do you love it? And what’s so great about it?
Cory Bayers 7:27
Ah, I think I said to someone the other day, someone asked me, they said, What? Well, you know, is Patagonia’s as real as it seems like his value base like, is it? Is there any bullshit there? Like what goes on? and sincerely Do you see, it’s real, I mean, from, you know, right through the organization, from the Chouinard family, all the way through our board and our teams.
The conversations are real, its values-based, you know, it’s very, it’s on a mission, and it’s a serious mission. And it’s not just, you know, hey, let’s put a mission up there. But we’re really out to sell product, it’s no, it’s not like that at all, you know, we truly are in business to save our home planet. And that’s I’ve never been at a place anywhere with such conviction of mission and such a discipline of staying on task, you know, I mean, evolve and the family have, you know, charted waters over the last decades that it’s just been consistent. You know, they’ve learned they’ve been transparent. They figured stuff out, they’ve LED, they’ve done everything. So it’s really, that’s the best part about working here. conversations are still as hard as they’d be at any other brand. And the work is as hard as it is at any other brand. But the purpose of the mission is real. And that’s, that’s what gets me up every day. So that’s cool.
Marc Gutman 8:55
Yeah. And, you know, at least for me, and I think so many people, I mean, Patagonia is the gold standard. It’s the brand that I think of that I admire the most for all the reasons that you just laid out, I think, at least in my memory, I’m sure there were other ones. But in my memory was really the first purpose driven brand. It was really the first values driven brand where I think even as a consumer, I looked at it, and I said, Wow, they have my values.
They believe what I believe, in addition to sort of this ability to transport me to a place of adventure, and make me feel adventurous made me feel like I’m part of the outdoors. So, you know, I think we see that, and I work in a space now. And you might get this question all the time as well. I mean, everyone now is purpose driven. Everyone now is values driven. I don’t say that to be sort of flippant. You almost have to be you know, it’s like it’s, you know, the world is expecting it. But not everybody has that same sort of success. Not everybody is able to hold to truenorth the way Patagonia It does so like, like, in your opinion, like, what do you think the secret is? Or what do you think the wise? How is Patagonia been so good at that and been able to turn that in to both a company that is mission and purpose driven? that’s changing the world and is a pretty good business.
Cory Bayers 10:18
Yeah, that’s a meaty question. I, you know, I originally thought, when I interviewed at Patagonia, I sat down with Yvon Chouinard the, one of the founders, and I asked him, I said, What does success look in five years? Like, what do you want from me? Like, what is? What does Patagonia look like, in five years? How do I know if I’m succeeding in your eyes? Like, are we moving forward? And I was sitting there with the the CEO at the time Rose and the head of HR Dean, and he Yvon just kind of, in his great way, you know, looked down at his hands and, you know, rubbed his hands a little bit and put down his feet and said, I dont know, we may be smaller, and the head of HR just went white, just pale. And I said, that’s the perfect answer.
And what I mean by that is, I don’t really give a shit about sales, we’re not numbers driven. They’ve had some hard years in the past, I’m sure you know, over the decades, it’s a good years, and I’m sure that’ll continue. But the success for them, as in Patagonia, in general is never been sold, there’s never solely rests on a sales figure, or growth, target success looks like, you know, getting more activists to sign up to sign a petition to, you know, defend a local watershed to change the supply chain completely on its head to organic cotton only. I mean, those are huge success factors, regardless of a sales figure. And I’m not saying that everyone is just all other brands, we’re just looking at a sales figure, but it does give us a different frame of reference of what success looks like. And I think that’s that’s helped us weather a lot of different storms over the over the decades. So that mentality about truly wanting to do good, and and being up for that change. And measuring that change has been such a central tenant to who we are, that I think that’s our success metric. So yeah,
Marc Gutman 12:18
yeah. And we’ve talked a little bit about what’s so great about Patagonia. But what’s really hard about what you do there, and What don’t we see What don’t we know? Like, what and what do you wish, like maybe people didn’t know about the, the how hard it is? Or the hard part of what you’re doing?
Cory Bayers 12:34
I get Yeah, the it’s a bit of a double edged sword on this one. The hardest part is, because we’re seen as a leadership brand, we’re held to a very high standard, which which is right. And, and to me, this is where you get the double edge to it, we’re held to a high standard. But we’re also open to, you know, like anyone else, even more so though we’ve got, if we, if we step out a line, we got to target like, people let us know. And that can be really hard when you’re doing, you know, making the number of nine out of 10 things right, or 915 things right, and you do one thing wrong, and you get hammered for you’re like, Damn, but there’s all this other stuff. We’re doing good. Yeah, we dropped the ball on that one, but look at the goodness, but I look at it, the others on the other side and go, you know, what, it’s a good way to be though, you know, we’re a community that cares. And we care, hold us to that standard. And that standard allows us to, to keep moving on and keep you know, pushing ourselves. So while it does get hard and frustrating, sometimes it it does pull us forward, it’s a nice standard to be held to.
Marc Gutman 13:43
Now you’ve got me curious, because, you know, I firmly believe that we often grow through those hard times when we’re challenged or when there’s criticism. So, oh, Can you recall a moment that kind of falls into the parameters you just describe where maybe you did a mess misstep, or you got called out and how that went and how you learn from that. And then how you were able to, to kind of, you know, return back to that high standard by through that through that learning moment.
Cory Bayers 14:11
Yeah, you know, looking at as an example, you know, I look at, let’s see, DWI, or you know, water repellent finish on on gardens, we are switching to be non fluorocarbon. So, not as toxic in that there have been other brands that have been quicker, because we look at, you know, what are the options. So by switching from one, one formula to another, there’s impact, and it’s not a marketing play, to just switch and say, Hey, we’re PFC free or whatever. It’s okay what what chemistry are using now, and what are the effects on the environment now, and because there are ramifications and we’ve spent some time looking at the solids and we don’t want to jump to assault That is just makes us look good or feel good.
When we know there is also an environmental impact to a lot of these options out there. So working with our supply chain working with our partners to to get that right formulation. So in some instances, we’ve been, you know, criticized for going slowly, and rightfully so. And I think that’s fine. But you know, people need to know that we really examine all solutions, and we play through the impacts, and those impacts could be on the environment, those impacts could be on performance and durability, lifetime value of the garment itself, its performance of the garment, other harmful effects, so we kind of play through everything, we’re very much, you know, measured twice, cut once mentality. And when we go, we go, but a lot of times, you know, our communities don’t see that. So we can be called out. And that’s, that’s rightfully so. But sometimes it’s a little, you know, a little hard, but it’s all good, keeping us to that standard, but dw is one of the examples that we’re looking at right now. And we have, we are switching and in subsequent seasons, we’re going to be completely flipped, and it’s going to be really exciting.
Marc Gutman 16:10
Yeah, and that’s really interesting to think about, you know, and that you have to have all these considerations. And I think of Yvon is kind of famous story about, you know, shifting to organic cotton and things like that. And you know, was that as that that the way that story goes was just like it was a decision, it was done? It was the it was gonna ruin the company. But you know, he didn’t care and he was just going to move forward, because it was the right thing to do. Is there a little hyperbole to that story? Is that the way it happened?
Cory Bayers 16:42
That’s pretty much how it happened. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think he walked in and said, You got 18 months, you know, figure it out. And you know, switching to organic cotton at the time. And I’m going from story I wasn’t at Patagonia at the time, because this is going back, I believe, to the early 90s. Could be 94, 96, somewhere in there. But yeah, and you know, taking people out to the farms. and showing them the difference between employees at Patagonia and inventor and showing the difference between organic farm and chemical based, you know, fertilizer and run farm and having people actually see that difference and the impact that that’s having. Yeah, that’s, that’s fair, there’s a lot of truth to that story. It’s, it’s completely true. And similar with this DWR as well, we’re looking at, you know, timelines on there, where we’re going to be flipping it. And we have that conversation with a lot of different things like, you know, we’re always pushing ourselves to a timeline, like, Okay, how quickly what is the impact, and really want to make sure we’re careful and solution, but at the same time, trying to run as quick as we can. One of the expressions I had heard, go as quick as you can to take the time you need. And that’s been, I think, really paramount in a lot of our decision making, like we’re going to run as quick as he can turn over every cell, do whatever we can, but make sure we’re also examining the impacts, and then going,
Marc Gutman 18:05
I mean, that part of that story that kind of blows my mind that like I haven’t really thought much about, and being a storyteller, and you just shared in the opening, I mean, your your whole job as being a storyteller, is this idea of bringing the employees to see the different farms and to get their buy in? And you know, and I don’t really see that very often, I think we’re so consumed with external storytelling, that we don’t spend a ton of time on this internal kind of component. And so, like, how important is that to you and your role? I mean, are you spending a lot of time thinking about how do we sell? and sell is kind of the wrong word? How do we like show how do we get people to see our point of view? Because when you just share that that story about going to the farms I was like, Oh, my God, like, how could you work at Patagonia and not be bought into the shift? Even though it seems scary, even though it seems big? If you’re given that opportunity to insert yourself in the story?
Cory Bayers 19:00
Yeah, no, it’s, it’s something that we can always do more of. And you’re right. It’s not selling to the teams. It’s more, you know, making sure they’re engaged. We have a very, very incredible group of people in all of our offices that are, they’re there for the right reason, they’re hungry, they’re curious, they’re creative. So it doesn’t take much to share the story and go, Hey, this we’re working on to get people really, really excited, which is pretty incredible. And I’m trying to think back of, you know, other places that it goes really goes really quickly like a story gets picked up. You’re like amazing, okay, how do we make it happen? And people getting behind it. And there’s there’s very little having to sell someone in a meeting like this, the reason why we’re doing it, it’s more like his right reason why we’re doing it. Here’s some of the background and just see people light up like Oh, man, that’s cool. That is, oh, yeah, let’s do it. If anything, we’re on the other side of that. As I always say, you know, we want to solve so many problems, we do a lot, and sometimes too much and we get it, we get, we get underwater a little bit when it comes to the storytelling or some of the things we’re taking on. We’ve got a lot of energy.
Marc Gutman 20:15
Like I can only imagine, I think, maybe it’ll come up later. But I shared with you My, my, sort of thought, how I always view the the decision room, the marketing room at Patagonia, and everyone’s like, you know, can we talk about something else? Maybe other than saving the planet, or public lands or water rights or, you know, all these things? So, you know, and so thanks for sharing that Cory what, you know, I’d like to know is like, you’ve had this amazing career. And I want to talk a little bit about that. And but like when you were a young boy and growing up in Canada, were you even thinking like, Hey, I’m going to be in the outdoor industry. I’m going to be in marketing someday I might work in marketing for some big, you know, outdoor brand?
Cory Bayers 21:04
No, no, not at all. I mean, I grew up in Montreal, and grew up in the city. Luckily, we could, we spent summers in Vermont, and upstate New York on Lake Champlain. So for Yeah, all summer, basically, I’ve been in a tent and a sleeping bag for months on end. And that was amazing. And I always, you know, that was my connection to the outdoors and made me fall in love with the outdoors and the sports that I did. But it probably wasn’t till college where I was an accounting major, which makes me laugh right now. And I’d gotten into skiing and snow sports.
And there I was, it sounds bad, but I want to find a way to get to the mountains cheaper, and mean somebody just started you know, ski club, and it was a way for us to get Okay, we’ll get a bus, we’ll get a bunch of people on there. And if we get enough people, we’ll get a few free tickets and then we can ride for free. We just got to work it and organize it and and we’re not getting paid but we’re gonna get free lift tickets. And I just kind of got into that and we used to get in organized try to do weeklies in the winter, like busloads of students, you know, down to like, you know, JP smuggler’s notch, you know, moe, Sutton all these places, and just have fun with it. And I really fell in love with the, I guess the the entrepreneurial side, the business side, the marketing side. And some of my friends I’m hitting the longer they actually joke, they’re like, yeah, we weren’t sure if you’re gonna graduate or just be escaped. But they’re like, we’re pretty impressed that you actually graduated, stuck around.
But I just I fell in love with the, I guess the whole the business of sport or that interaction, or that blurring of the lines really, between, you know, fun, passion and sport and work. And then straight away, I think after my first semester, I switched from accounting into marketing, and just, you know, enjoy the creative side of it. And the entrepreneurial side of it, really. And so that was kind of the foray into into it. And when I really started to think about, hey, this could be, this could be a place I’d love to work in, and it was like, Oh, am I going to work in like, you know, ski resort like country Lodge, I thought about guiding, you know, guiding school, do I want to do that. So there’s a lot of options, but I knew I want it to be tied to the outdoor sports and the outdoor community in some way that I could apply my little bit of knowledge and passion to to be part of the community.
Marc Gutman 23:33
Yeah, and I would think you know, this, but maybe you don’t Mike Arzt who introduced us for this episode, and also connected us so that we were able to have this interview. Did you know he had an exact same sort of like a call to racket going on, where he was putting together ski clubs selling lift tickets, like getting people to the mountain so he could go for free?
Cory Bayers 23:53
I didn’t know that. And I’ve known Mike for years.
Marc Gutman 23:57
Exactly. verbatim, almost verbatim to what you just shared. It was like, I was like, I was like, I was like, did they do that together? That sounded like, like, almost identical.
Cory Bayers 24:07
Although Funny enough, I know. He went to UVM. So yeah, we weren’t that far. I was in Montreal, but no, I didn’t know that story. No. That’s funny.
Marc Gutman 24:15
That’s how he got his start as well. So, you know, and at that time, why don’t you give us like a little sense of what the outdoor landscape look like, you know, you know, it’s I think it was a lot different than it is today.
Cory Bayers 24:30
Yeah. Wow. I mean, it was definitely a lot. It was more fringe. It was more varied a lot fewer brands, the space wasn’t it wasn’t I wanna say co opted, but it wasn’t as mainstream. You know, it was a little more isolationist, different kind of pursuit, smaller group, smaller community at the time. So yeah, it was a little different in that regard. Obviously, you know, product and technology has just exploded in terms of what’s possible now. But the community was a lot smaller and you were more on the fringe, it wasn’t as mainstream to see someone who saw someone walking in, you know, a ski jacket or waterproof jacket or even hiking boots in the city, either thought they were student or, you know, a traveler or something like that, like, you know, a European traveler coming through backpacking through whereas now it’s very commonplace. I mean, it’s it’s part of, it’s part of the culture it is it mainstream activities and pursuits.
So yeah, it’s grown immensely, which has had some great upside to it. I mean, it’s been amazing to tie it back to Patagonia, though, but, you know, something that, you know, people aren’t gonna protect the land unless they have an attachment to it, love it, no, it care about it, or recreated, you know, on it. And by having more people involved in the sport, it’s only going to get more people involved in defending the places we love. So it’s, it’s been super positive in that regard. Yeah, and
Marc Gutman 26:00
I think at that time, there was this really interesting birth of this intersection of outdoor and lifestyle, you know, and that where people were, you know, I think, you know, that was about the time I was starting to see, you know, accountants and business people wearing Patagonia clothing, you know, around town and stuff like that. And prior to that, we didn’t really, we didn’t really see a lot of that. So, at this time, you know, you’ve made this decision, you’re going to apply yourself, you’re in the marketing, you see the, at least the world that you want to be a part of, you know, that it’s like, hey, there’s this cool thing with like, being outside and being in marketing and business and being an entrepreneur. So would you do with that, where’d you go from after you left school?
Cory Bayers 26:50
My girlfriend and I went and cycled around Europe for almost a year. So that was that was fun. I had Patagonia gear at the time, obviously. And then when we came back, we knew we want to live kind of in the West, the mountains, we wanted to explore the western side of Canada and the US a lot more. And so we moved to Vancouver. And the we actually used mountain bikes with flicks on them to tour we didn’t use a regular touring bike. And it was a Canadian brand called Rocky Mountain bicycle. And when we moved back to Montreal, basically packed up the car, sold everything, not that we had a lot basically had ski snowboard stuff, threw it on the car, and then drove drove out to Vancouver. And, you know, applied, we both applied for jobs sending photos from this trip to Rocky Mountain bicycle where the bicycle place that we bought our bikes from. And my wife got a job there as an accountant.
And I would just, you know, hang out, you know, mess around with the bikes. This is early 90s. So mountain biking was relatively young then and kind of got into the sports team got into with a lot of those guys. And then eventually I joined Helly Hansen and I was doing marketing for Hansen in Canada. So that was you know their retail and wholesale and team and all that stuff so out of Vancouver so life was pretty good actually starting to see you know how I could actually apply some of the things I learned and the passion I had to the the outdoor industry so that was Helly Hansen was kind of my first outdoor brand that I just threw myself into and enjoyed immensely of Vancouver. That was
Marc Gutman 28:33
Yeah, and when you started with Helly Hansen, what was your role there?
Cory Bayers 28:37
I was head of marketing for Canada. So I was overseeing Canadian marketing.
Marc Gutman 28:42
Was that a big was that a big sort of territory or big deal? Or was Howie maybe not that
Cory Bayers 28:47
you know what? Helly wasn’t, I guess that huge at the time. And it was a big geographic territory, but not a massive role. It was a great role for me to you know, learn and figure stuff out. I would say it had, it was big enough that I had a budget and and things I could do to get in trouble. But it wasn’t so small. I was like, Damn, I’d like to do that, Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t do this, I had enough latitude. And and it was of enough size enough autonomy that I could kind of mess around get in trouble try some different stuff, whether it be events or ads or whatever it was, or working with athletes or or in store and things like that. So I really, I really enjoyed it a lot. It was a lot of fun. And then after that, I went to do marketing for their Mountain Sports division out of Seattle. So moved the family down to Seattle, and enjoy that as well. You know, just concentrating globally. This is a global role on Mountain Sports. So ski and snow and climb and hike. And that was that was so much fun.
I love Seattle love the Northwest. And the opportunity came up. They said well, you know we want Would you like to come to Norway, and kind of You know, market the other categories as well like be involved in marketing for your kids and footwear at the time. We’ve got some other categories. And always the adventure is like hell yeah, I’d love to. So moved over to Oslo, Oslo, Norway and work for for Helly. They’re a global that’s their head office and work there for I can’t remember I was there almost four or five years, I guess, in the marketing team there just met some amazing people, and just what a great culture and what a great country to live in, and what a great brand. And I learned, you know, a lot of dealing with international markets and just other stuff it was it was really cool. It’s such a great learning curve. Heck, I’m still a student. I’m still learning every day. And I love that aspect of it. So now that I’m looking back and thinking, wow, yeah, I enjoyed learning there. There and there. So no, it was great. I had a lot of fun.
Marc Gutman 30:55
This episode brought to you by Wildstory. Wait, isn’t that your company? It is. And without the generous support of Wildstory, this show would not be possible. A brand isn’t a logo, or a tagline, or even your product. A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product service or company. It’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Wildstory helps progressive founders and savvy marketers build purpose driven brands that connect their business goals with the customers they want to serve. So that both the business and the customer needs are met. This results in crazy, happy, loyal customers that purchase again and again. And this is great for business. If that sounds like something you and your team might want to learn more about, reach out @ www.wildstory.com. And we’d be happy to tell you more. Now back to our show.
I think for a lot of marketers, a lot of people in the outdoor industry, that would have been a job of a lifetime that would have been it that would have been like, Hey, I’m going to stay with Holly. I’m going to do you know just I’ve got I’ve got a good I’ve got it really good. And yet another roll came came your way. And did you go right from Helly Hansen to Lululemon?
Cory Bayers 32:19
I did. But the reason why I left Norway was it was for personal reasons. My dad, my parents are a little older. And my dad I was on a photo shoot in Northern Norway. with Mark Gallup at the time, good old photographer friend and my dad. My parents live in British Columbia and an interior small town called Kamloops. And my dad had a heart attack. And it took me like, as soon as I found out I was on the shoot, it took me another 3040 hours to get home, get back to British Columbia to see him. And I kids at the time two young, two young girls. And I was just like, Oh, you know, I want them to know their grandparents, I got to get home. So I went back to North back to Norway after my dad was feeling better. And it was it was tough. But I you know, the guys at Helly, were great. I just said, Look, I really I gotta get home, you know, there’s a time for family. As much as I love, love the team here and I love Norway. I got it, I got to get back and take care of my my family and let them see what my parents you know, see their kids, their grandkids are. And so I went back. And they were great. And now Helly was like, hey, do you want to stay on and like, consult for a little bit out of Vancouver like helping the transition.
I’m like, I’d love to. That’s great. So my thought of coming back to Vancouver was, you know, maybe I can talk to a few brands and kind of string a bit of a marketing consulting thing together. You know, whatever that looks like. So move back to Vancouver landed on like July the second song hit the pavement talking to some old friends. And one of my buddies was like, Hey, you know, you should talk to Lululemon. I was like, Oh, the yoga brand over on West fourth. He’s like, yeah, Cory, you’ve been out of Canada a little while they’re a little bigger now. Okay. And this was this is 2009. And I’ve been out of the country since early 2000. So not quite nine years, but close to it. So 2009.
And I approached them and said, Hey, you know, here’s what I’m looking to do. Here’s my background, I’d love to, you know, see if you have anything, you know, do you need any help? And the person there at the time was like we don’t but we’ve got a brand role. Do you want to be brand manager here? You know, we’re figuring some stuff out at the time. They’re still relatively small and growing. And I was like, sure, this is kind of cool. I really loved everyone I met and what they stood for, and just every conversation I had, I’m like, oh my god I’m in. So that’s how, you know, I just transitioned, you know, by mid August. I was like, yeah, I’m at Lulu. Now. That Lululemon for was almost seven years, seven years. So from August oh nine, I started at Lulu overseeing brand and brand manager role and then oversaw the creative. So head of brand creative VP brand creative for for several years.
Marc Gutman 35:18
And so for folks that may not know like what what is a brand manager and in you know, maybe in the context of working at Lulu just to make it real and then also like had a creative like, like what does that what does that role do? And what are your responsibilities? And and again maybe like maybe some of the things that are that we don’t know like what’s tough about it?
Cory Bayers 35:38
Yeah, well, brand manager very similar to you know, marketing manager, the difference that Lou lemon between I guess a typical marketing manager role. And why it was a bit more of a brand manager type role was a very decentralized model very, very interesting. And that, you know, a lot of they create locally, whether it’s events and their stores and stuff like that. So it was it wasn’t typical, you know, hey, here’s, here’s what we’re doing in the month of August or whatever this is your store window and, and do that it was more about teaching them about brand about our brand about the limit brand, what does that mean? Where our values and having them go and create locally, which was really cool. In such a such a great, a great model.
And then when I was, you know, before I jump to the creative side of it, you’d ask, you know, what were some of the challenges, and one of the interesting things, you know, blue lemon had, at least at the time, and for my tenure there, and I would think so still now, you know, an appetite for risk. And they knew that, you know, I’m making up out of 10 windows that a store would put out, one would be absolutely amazing, or two or three, whatever would they’d have absolutely amazing windows, and a bunch of them would be kind of mediocre, it is what it is, and you can’t hit it out of the park every month. And then one or two would get us in trouble. Meaning they’d be like, Oh, that’s an offensive one or you know, their media would be involved or something would get messy, like oh, yeah, okay. But there was a tolerance for that. And it was an exciting environment to to be creative within. And then I went to, after that overseeing the creative team and working with them and other talented bunch of, you know, designers photographers, film, there’s a bit of film and video, you know, at Lou lemon at the time. And that was a different role that was like purely creative with a bit of a strategy to it. But the creative side of it was really guiding that, you know, what’s the look, the look and feel of lemon through those years. Everything from you know, print ads to the website to how we shoot how we tell a story, the emails that go out. So all the creative communication at the time, I had the great fortune of working with, you know, a great team there to bring that to life. And that was a lot of fun to learn again, I learned a lot there.
Marc Gutman 37:59
Yeah, and the way I hear the story, and please correct me if I’ve got this wrong as that you’re at Lulu, and you’re head of creative and things are good, you’re happy you’re doing your thing. And you get approached by by the the, the big the big white whale right by Patagonia the I was gonna say, you know, like, I was gonna say, Detroit redwings. But you know, that think that’s for my like, more of my memory than the reality these days. But you’re, you’re you’re approached by you know, the preeminent outdoor. You know, like you said, the gold standard high level. Patagonia. Is that is that the way it happened?
Cory Bayers 38:37
Yeah, it was actually interesting in that when I was still in Norway, and I was looking to move back to Canada. I had reached out to a few people, like different recruiters like, Hey, you know what, I’m heading back to Canada, for family reasons. You know, I’d love to talk with you guys about something I got talking with this person, Deanna at a recruiting agency, we had a great conversation. And she’s like, you know what, there’s nothing at Patagonia right now. But I’ll definitely keep you in mind. And she was working. I think it was in Portland, with a recruiting firm. And I was just kind of getting my name out, because coming back to the US had been out of the country for quite a while and didn’t think anything of it, and then went to Lulu. And literally it was I guess it was a probably a total of eight years later, I get a call from her. I was like, Oh, hey, Deanna. We didn’t talk to him forever.
I’m like, Wow, great. What’s going on? She’s like, well, we you know, we’re looking for a head of marketing. Are you interested? I still had I remember our conversation a few years ago, and like, eight years ago, about, you know, just a random conversation we had. So she reached out I’m like, Yeah, I’d love to have a conversation with Patagonia for sure. And it just kind of started they’re really you know, I met with rose CEO at the time and the people here and just love them. every interaction every conversation I had, so it was it was a tough decision actually to leave to leave Vancouver to leave lemon. But yeah, it was it was. It’s been great. It’s been great almost five years now. Yeah.
Marc Gutman 40:13
And I can imagine was a tough decision. I mean, first of all, moving from Seattle where you’ve established your home and you’re loving it, and I was Vancouver, Vancouver. Yeah. Okay, I’m sorry, Vancouver. But yeah, you’re still you’re still moving to Southern California. That’s a big move. And I could sense perhaps in the question that you referenced in the beginning of the show, when you asked, you know, well, how do I know I’m successful? I mean, I would have to think it might be intimidating, coming into a company that’s so highly revered, like, like, you know, and certainly, at a high position. I mean, my thought is, like, I wouldn’t want to screw that up, you know, I don’t want to be the one that like, I don’t want to be the one that like, starts to put, uh, you know, cracks in this hall of this of this ship. So, I mean, were you intimidated? was it was it a little scary?
Cory Bayers 41:02
Um, I don’t know if it was scary. I mean, I have gone through the 80s, you know, as skiing and in the outdoors, I was just so immersed in their catalogs, and the imagery and the brand. And I’d read Let my people go surfing that it. It didn’t feel distant. It didn’t feel like this is another entity. It felt like something I knew something I was passionate about something I felt close to in some weird way. You know, because I’ve been so involved or absorbing everything they’ve been doing for decades, really, like I said, since the 80s. That it didn’t, it didn’t seem like such a leap. And the conversations were very real and honest. And expectations were our you know, about saving the home planet, which I know that sounds massive. It is massive. But it’s it Yeah, I don’t know, I it’s not something that really crossed my mind. It was, I guess, another adventure, a way to learn. And it’s in a really weird way of felt like kind of coming home because of my, they were one of the brands that are the first brand I fell in love with, you know, when I was into the outdoors, or getting into it and getting into quality apparel, and, and what spoke to me imagery wise. So yeah, it was it was a bit of a full circle in that regard. Yeah.
Marc Gutman 42:29
Yeah. So you’re there. Now you’re overseeing a great team, like, what’s next for Cory?
Cory Bayers 42:36
I don’t know, keep having fun, keep learning. You know, just keep growing really keep. I keep talking about learning. I’m kind of the eternal student. But there’s something that I discovered a long time ago that I really liked coaching, you know, and not to jump around. But I remember like, in the 90s, when my first jobs actually had us do this Myers Briggs test. And it’s a personality test, right? And you go through the whole thing and answer these questions, and the report comes back. And I was, you know, mid 20s, at the time, and one of the things on there, it says, You you really enjoy coaching, you’d be a great coach. I never thought of that, like really a coach? like when I play team sports and ever wanted to be the coach or anything like that. But I just discovered like, okay, I want to be a coach, really, okay, I was in my mid 20s, I kind of put it aside. And then, you know, when I was leaving Norway, the team there, they put together this little photo book, and it was just pictures of me with them through my time there. So like, on photoshoots, behind the scenes on the mountain, you know, in the cafe in moss and Norway at the office, or just a bunch of stuff. And, and the thing that just broke me was they said, thanks for being our coach. And I was just like, shocked.
I was like, Oh my god, I guess? Yeah, that’s what I love doing. I, I like that. And I hadn’t thought about that for about 10 years. And that just nailed it again. And so I am I enjoy that aspect of being able to, to help coach and impart some of my knowledge and you know, on on the next generation of marketers, and creatives and people that are going to change industry way more and change the world way more than I, I have or will. So I do enjoy that. So I don’t really look too far. What’s next I kind of try to stay in the present about keep learning on what I’m doing and keep keep coaching my team and keep seeing people grow because honestly, if you ask me was the thing I’m most stoked about over the last 10 years. I’m not going to talk about a campaign. I’m not going to talk about creative. I’m going to talk about relationships, people I met someone like Mike you know, Mike Arzt and the great work we’ve done. I’m going to talk about, you know, a young designer out of school that was I believe that intern at the time when I joined Lw lemon, on my left, she was, you know, an art director and on our way to be a creative director, just a brilliant creative mind. Those are the things I remember, I don’t remember, you know, some campaign that went out that we may have felt good about at the time. So, yeah, that’s kind of what I’m looking at right now.
Marc Gutman 45:19
Oh, and it sounds like you’ve been such an influence to a lot of different people. Just even how you, you know, described, you know, your involvement in coaching and your influence and, you know, coaching the next generation of marketers, but like, who’s been the most influential person in your life?
Cory Bayers 45:37
Oh, tough question. I don’t know if there’s been just one I think through throughout my journey, there’s, there’s always been someone along the way that is really inspired me, you know, that we’re talking about mike mike is always, always inspired me with his just creativity, his drive, his sense of purpose, the ability to have fun, I’ve looked up to Mike for a long time. And I look at you know, some ambassadors we’ve had the pleasure of working with, you know, when I was at Helly, there is one gentleman Yoren Crop, who unfortunately passed away in a climbing accident several years ago, but such an influential person and his perspective on life. And, and what he accomplished, you know, was amazing, I look at right now someone like Yvon Chouinard who’s simply iconic the real deal, you know, learning from him and hearing his little bits of wisdom.
So yeah, it’s kind of a bunch of people all along the way, have always, you know, it hasn’t been one mentor. It’s been a bunch of a series of mentors. And, and even if they weren’t full mentors, just learning like a snippet from here, or, or someone teaching me something going, Wow, that’s pretty cool. Yeah, I never looked at it that way. You know, from even days, that loon lemon and yoga philosophy and just exploring yoga, and things like that. And I learned along the way from, you know, some of the some of the coaching we got there was it was incredible. See, I can’t pick just one sorry.
Marc Gutman 47:17
It’s all right. And, you know, I think it’s a just, there’s some synchronicity in that you mentioned Mike and Mike was on the podcast. So those of you listening, you’ve heard us reference him a couple times, you can go ahead and listen to his episode and learn more about Mike. But Mike also had sent in a question through the baby got backstory, sort of email channels, have a question that he would like to ask you. So are you ready for it?
Cory Bayers 47:44
Um, as I’ll ever be.
Marc Gutman 47:47
All right. All right. All right, let’s, let’s see, let’s see.
Mike Arzt 47:52
There was a time when we as Helly Hansen, rented out a castle in Austria, is maybe one of the best fashion shows parties have ever seen go down. I highly recommend renting a castle to anyone listening. Later that night, while leaving after copious amounts of enjoying the castle. Cory pulled off pretty amazing gymnastics done, and was really hoping he may be share, share what went down?
Cory Bayers 48:25
Oh, geez, I knew Mike would talk about something like that. It is it is it was a castle in Austria. And it’s really, it’s pretty crazy. It’s funny. I was at a sales meeting. Pre COVID in in Europe, or European team there. And it was in Italy and what they had rented out like, it’s incredible what you can actually buildings and areas you can do events in in Europe always blow my mind. And this was a castle in in Austria. And we were launching a new season. I can’t remember which season it was. And yeah, it was just a lot of fun. It’s really well done. And we stayed around a big group. We had a bunch of the skiers and snowboarders there and just had a really good time. And I don’t know how it evolved.
We were standing somewhere and there’s one of the rooms, there’s no furniture, it’s just literally the castle. And it was a massive room with this ceiling that seemed to go on forever. And hanging down. Was this crazy big chandelier like one of those you see in the movies like it looked about, I don’t know. 810 feet in diameter just hanging there but like wood and it had it candles. It wasn’t like electric or anything was the candle one. And I was like, Am I as a kid you always see movies like people swinging across those things. So I thought, hmm, that was my moment to shine. And I care what I’m standing on. I just jumped off of it and landed on the chandelier and swung across the room. And I believe there’s a couple of bottles of elixir in my goggle pockets on the inside of my jacket that fell out as well when I was swinging and Mike like that story, but I just swung on that thing. And after a golf Mike was like he didn’t realize that things Pro is over a couple hundred years old, he could have killed yourself. That’s like, that’s the last thing I was thinking it was. I was six years old again. I want to fly on that thing, just like you saw in the movies, man.
Marc Gutman 50:23
Well, thank you for sharing that. And I am just so sad. I’m so sad that like I like you know, didn’t didn’t have the opportunity.
Mike Arzt 50:28
I think I alluded with the other question if you get into it, but we’ll see if he’ll tell that one. If he won’t I have pictures. I don’t think Cory holds back on much. There’s I think one of our favorite ones was the most you talk about, like snowboarding or skiing, like overshooting the landing. Ian foreman and Mark Gallup and I were all heading over to corys house in Oslo to have dinner and he told us just to stop and pick up sushi on the way at Alex sushi, which is like, it’s the Nobu of Oslo. So really good, stupid expensive, like you probably buy a small house in Kansas for what dinner costs, right. So in the snowboarding terms, if it had been a 60 foot tabletop, I’d say Cory overshot the landing on the order by 120 feet, but maybe he can tell that story of I still kind of wonder what happened to all that sushi. Hopefully he fed the entire neighborhood.
I think Cory might have taught me about the Canadian Caesar and Crown Royal, like those are two very big staple still in my life. I think a lot of that resulted from the same trip that a game we created called trail ball was launched. I remember our bar tab at the end of that week at chatter Creek. I still have that also. But the line items are something like 196 crown Royals, like 126 Caesars, more Coconino than like he could have floated a small tugboat and the amount of coconuts we went through. But that was an epic trip that a lot of learning and creativity came out of and even some good photos. This thing with Cory Cory some pretty put up put together for he’s like one of those guys that could actually probably run for political office
He’s a dark horse.
Cory Bayers 52:35
Yeah, you know, I was I always struggle with the sushi orders, you know, and I got better in my old age, but I always just struggled quantity. And these guys are coming over and they’re hungry, and I don’t want them to starve. So I went to the restaurant during the day. I said, Look, do you guys deliver? I’m not living that far. But I like to place an order and do you deliver? And they’re like, no, sorry, we don’t deliver. I’m like, Okay, well, I’m gonna order now. Okay, now and my buddies will come by a taxi. They’ll pick it up, and they’re gonna bring it to my house. No problem. And I still remember Mike, when I opened the doors, Hammond gallop and Ian. And they’re holding the sushi. It literally looked like a pallet of it. And they’re all smiling and laughing and I’m like, what’s wrong? They go, Well, we got a message from the owner of the restaurant.
I’m like, Oh, geez, would I do my card bounce? Like what happened? He goes, No. His message to you is here’s the number you should call. We’ll tell you what is it you ordered? Like it’s an for an army we will deliver anywhere for you. And here’s my personal number. So I kind of overshot the landing. I think it was something like I don’t know. $4,000 to sushi for four people. But it was Yeah. My wife still reminds me that to this day, whenever I order sushi, I get the look. So yeah, I really overshot the landing. I get the look. Yeah, even my kids, even my kids know the story and they give me the look too.
Marc Gutman 53:58
It’s serving you well, you know, you’re still telling that story today.
So, has there ever been a moment like at Patagonia or any time during your career where you just felt like, like scared or like, you know, something wasn’t gonna work out the way you had hoped?
Cory Bayers 54:16
Oh, yeah, we did a week is it? Yeah, I mean, shit. A lot of times. Yeah. Because, you know, whatever you as marketers, or as creatives, you know, whatever you’re unleashing, kind of wait for a reaction. Sometimes there’s some stuff you can put out there and go, ooh, boy, this is gonna be interesting how this one’s received. And sometimes it’s received well, and sometimes it’s not or Yeah, there’s always an element of, of risk or uncertainty. I mean, you do what you can you work through it. You work with your teams, and then but once it’s into the big wide open, yeah, there’s an element on a lot of campaigns or a lot of things that I’ve put out over the years that you’re like, Okay, how’s it gonna be received and yet a feeling doesn’t go way, I think it’s a good feeling.
Marc Gutman 55:02
Yeah. And so kind of in that same kind of milk, like, what are you struggling with most right now?
Cory Bayers 55:08
Uh, right now struggling? Oh, let’s see, bro, can I say the election?
Marc Gutman 55:16
You can say anything you want, yeah.
Cory Bayers 55:19
Yeah, just, you know, electing climate, climate leaders, people are gonna care for this planet, you know, truth, trying to implement some government change and, and that’s something that we’re very passionate about. And yeah, the environment. So that’s, that’s that’s a big thing right now and obviously we’re a couple weeks away from Election Day and hoping that we can as a community elect climate leaders that are going to help protect and you know, keep these lands safe so we can we can continue to enjoy them and our children and grandchildren and everyone can enjoy them. So yeah, that’s that’s the biggest thing on my mind right now.
Marc Gutman 55:58
Yeah. And you mentioned that you really enjoy coaching and that you enjoy mentoring that next generation of marketers and creatives. With that in mind, like, what’s one piece of advice that you’d give them?
Cory Bayers 56:10
Oh, this is like the the letter back to yourself when you’re 18, or something like that? Kind of, I always think, or I think about that sometimes, like, what could I tell myself, or someone starting out? And I would get and say, You know what, don’t don’t worry about being perfect. Like Don’t, don’t chase perfection, just go and do it and try it and figure it out. Don’t be Don’t be too concerned about how how you look or let ego get in the way just just dive in and figure stuff out. There’s going to be great moments, it’s gonna be hard moments. That doesn’t change that just goes with you. But yeah, don’t be apprehensive and don’t worry about perfection. Just just kind of dive in and be okay with it. And don’t let Don’t let your ego rule you.
Marc Gutman 57:02
What’s one of your favorite memories of Cory
Mike Arzt 57:05
I was thinking about this driving in today. And there’s so money, some good memories. But uh, I think an awesome one was we’re at we’re an Aspen for the X Games. And, you know, you were watching all that athletes compete. And it’s just such a great weekend, you’re surrounded by all your industry friends, you’re in Aspen, which is awesome just on its own. But it was just hammering snow. And I believe we were supposed to fly out of Aspen to go directly to the SI trade show in Vegas. And I think the flight got canceled. And then we just quickly made the decision that it just wasn’t worth like sitting at the airport, probably getting get canceled again, or whatever. So we just stayed. And that Monday when pretty much the circus of the X Games cleared out of town. We went to Highlands and height islands bowl and had a I don’t know, it must have been a two or three foot deep powder day. And it’s just that feeling of you just had this great weekend. But it was chaos. And then the next thing we end it with just just us hiking the bowl and just smashing some serious pow. And then we got in the rental car, drove straight to Vegas, and checked into the hotel still in our snowboard gear. And I think we ended up getting in like half a day later than we would have. But getting that that kind of bonus day with that. sharing it with friends and getting powder like that. I mean, that’s really takes it right back to why we all got into this whole thing.
Marc Gutman 58:41
In addition to the question that you asked earlier, is there something else that you’ve always wanted to know, from Cory that maybe there’s been like this mystery of this thing outstanding that either professionally or personally, you wanted to ask him and know the answer to?
Mike Arzt 58:58
I don’t know. There’s so much Luckily, we’ve had some good time to sit down together. And luckily a couple weeks ago, I ended up out in California and got to stop in and spend a night at Cory’s new place and kind of you know, just see the family. I think it’s been several years everyone was so so grown up his oldest is in college. I mean, it’s crazy. I like last time I saw them they were kids. This time they were adults and and just cool to see him settled into the whole new Patagonia thing, but I don’t know I think I think what’s interesting, so interesting to me is that he was able to move through a couple different great companies, but those also required international moves with a family. And I think that would probably stop other people from taking on that challenge. And yes, I don’t know if I if I had some one question. I’d probably be like the mindset of making big decisions like that with a family and trying to To figure out what the right move is.
Marc Gutman 1:00:02
Make sure to visit our website www.wildstory.com where you can subscribe to the show in iTunes, Stitcher or via RSS, so you’ll never miss an episode. I like big stories and I cannot lie. You other storytellers can’t deny.