In a seeming larger-than-life promotion, Camping World and Eddie Bauer – well, largely Camping World – tout a new collaboration. You might wonder what Camping World has to do with a sportswear retailer, unless you buy an RV from Camping World and find the furnace doesn’t work. In that case, you probably could use a good down vest. We’ll tackle the “collaboration” part first, and then hit on how this whole marriage may just be showing similar symptoms of a “consumer relations” illness.
Heartland and Dutchmen in the mix
First off, no, Eddie Bauer is not building RVs. Of course, neither does Camping World (CW). But Camping World and Eddie Bauer have hit it off, with CW providing the retail space, and Eddie slipping in a rugged fashionista design. Throw in two of the (in CW’s words) “most respected, well-known RV-makers in the industry.” Heartland and Dutchmen RV are building a new line of fancy-schmancy rigs for CW, and Eddie Bauer has lent (hardly – somebody is no doubt paying dearly for) its brand name and logo to be used in these RVs.
Here’s a paragraph from CW’s promotional rip: “Signature green cabinetry. White pressed countertops and champagne bronze hardware. Sharp exterior graphic designs alluding to mountain ranges. Designer furniture. The frosted glass Eddie Bauer nameplate above the kitchen. These RVs are distinctly Eddie Bauer.”
So, just what makes Eddie Bauer, “Eddie Bauer”? A “creative director” present at an advertising photo shoot says, “Seriously, these units don’t just blend in – they stand out in the best way possible. The light colors that grace their exteriors are like a nod to nature’s palette. You’ve got whites, soft hues, and earthy tones that make you feel right at home amidst the great outdoors.”
Little to behemoth, all have a nod to nature’s palette
So if you want light colors gracing the interior of your next RV “nodding to nature’s palette,” maybe these are the rigs you need to look at. Camping World and Eddie Bauer are offering quite a lineup. From a 26’ travel trailer (OK, 23’ of living space) to a behemoth 40’ fifth-wheel, with other models in between, all of these new rigs from Dutchmen and Heartland bear those color schemes and, of course, the coveted Eddie Bauer insignia name plaque.
The promo puts heavy emphasis on Eddie Bauer, to the point it was enough to make some wonder if maybe Eddie Bauer had expanded out from winterwear into rolling stock. One of CW’s readers thought so. Cyndy Warnier fired back in Camping World’s comment section, “Since when does Eddie Bauer become an RV maker? It’s just a name which means nothing about quality. I don’t get it. Instead of a name, let’s do a better job of construction on RVs so people don’t have so many problems and breakdowns.”
Bling and looks, but what about build quality?
Cyndy hits the nail on the head. The emphasis of this Camping World and Eddie Bauer promo is so focused on bling and looks, it runs terrifically short on quality commentary. Perhaps CW assumes that the magic phrase “Eddie Bauer” will simply erase any concerns about the actual build quality. But there’s where the problems crop up.
Decades back, one of Eddie Bauer’s advertising taglines ran, “If you’ve got to trust someone, make it Eddie Bauer.” But Old Eddie sold out the company in 1968, and for a time, product reliability and service still lived on. If you bought something from the company, you really could expect it to hold up, possibly passing it along to your kids, even grandkids.
After Eddie, the rot set in
But like a lot of things from childhood, change doesn’t always mean “for the better.” What followed was an ever-shifting line of company owners, including General Mills, which didn’t hesitate to see the advantage of selling off the company name to others. Ford bought rights to it, and had a run of “Eddie Bauer Edition” vehicles.
Later, General Mills sold out to Spiegel, the catalog sales company. They opened store after store across the country, selling everything from clothing to furniture. More licensing deals were struck. You could buy Eddie Bauer eyeglasses, mountain bikes, even baby clothes. But in 2003, Spiegel filed for bankruptcy and shut down 200 Eddie Bauer stores. When it couldn’t get a good offer for the company, Spiegel stopped trying to sell the brand, and instead reorganized. New owners jumped in. Six years later, Eddie Bauer was in bankruptcy court again, and another new owner came to the front.
Eddie Bauer’s reputation?
So what’s Eddie Bauer’s current reputation? “In the good old days,” Eddie Bauer was a solid, dependable name, backed by solid, dependable customer service. Not so anymore. Type in “Eddie Bauer reviews” on your search engine, and you’ll find site after site showing the company is barely out of the “bargain basement” in customer reviews. Often those leaving reviews say they’ve been a happy customer for years, but after their recent experiences would buy no more. Customer service lousy, ordered merchandise never showing up, and an endless supply of poor quality products. One frustrated reviewer wrote of product quality, “Nothing differentiates them from the crap at Walmart.”
So, why would Camping World hype Eddie Bauer in this new wave of RVs? Perhaps Marcus Lemonis’ minions hope that the old Bauer reputation will last longer than reality. But as anyone who has been around the RV block knows, it doesn’t matter whether the faucets are chromed plastic or plated gold – if the underlying quality is lousy, it will still leak. The same is true here: It doesn’t matter what color the paint on the closet door is. If the guys on the assembly line built it lousy, then the whole thing will probably leak.
Camping World has obviously put a lot of time, effort, and cash into their latest public relations hype. You can visit it yourself, but be sure to bring along snacks and drinks. We struggled through just one video – the one touting an RV where the interior looks more like a park model than a recreational unit. The host on this video is your worst nightmare of a Camping World salesman on steroids. Thank goodness YouTube allows you to change the playback speed – 2x wasn’t enough!
Camping World and Eddie Bauer? If reputation has anything to do with it, it looks as if the two are like peas in a pod.