“Design in China” e45 – Mobigarden 牧高笛 vs. Naturehike 挪客: A Battle for Dominance in the Outdoor Camping Industry

“China’s camping market is still in its early stages. The first camping boom in Japan occurred from 1985 to 1996, with the number of participants rapidly increasing from 4.6 million to 15.8 million. In comparison, the Chinese camping market is just starting to show its potential and has many times more room for growth.” – Lu Dunhua, Founder of Mobi Garden.

The outdoor camping industry in China has been experiencing remarkable growth in recent years, driven by the increasing popularity of outdoor activities and a growing desire for nature-focused experiences. As the market expands, competition among brands vying for dominance has intensified. 

From camping equipment to clothing and campsites, the refined camping trend has attracted more than just Mobigarden as companies that seized the market opportunity. According to Tianyancha data, in 2020, 2021, and 2022, there were respectively 3,000, 8,200, and 20,000 newly registered camping-related enterprises in China.

Among tens of thousands of camping enterprises, there are buyers’ collective stores, emerging entrepreneurial brands, companies transitioning from foreign trade to domestic sales, and well-established leisure sports brands. The market is becoming increasingly crowded with “players” selling tents, outdoor furniture, and canopies. Consumers find it difficult to choose between similar products with beautiful pictures and similar styles, leading to a dilemma for the industry—consumers are unsure which brand to choose, and brands don’t know whom to imitate.

Two prominent contenders in this battle are Mobi Garden and Naturehike, each employing distinct strategies to capture the attention and loyalty of Chinese consumers.

Naturehike, a brand under Ningbo Naturehike Outdoor Products Co., Ltd., was established in 2005 as a professional outdoor sports brand. It advocates the concept of “light outdoor, light travel” and is committed to providing high-quality, cost-effective ultralight outdoor products. Naturehike designs and develops products for outdoor activities such as mountaineering, rock climbing, hiking, and camping. By combining elements of environmental protection, comfort, fashion, and convenience in outdoor sports, Naturehike creates a professional and stylish outdoor equipment style. The brand has gained a good reputation among outdoor sports enthusiasts. On Taobao, the sales volume of Naturehike is roughly more than twice that of Mobigarden.

Mobigarden, since its inception with the Cold Mountain Tent in 2003, Mobigarden has adhered to the concept of “camping professionalism.” As the core product line, Mobigarden’s outdoor camping equipment series covers various scenes such as high-altitude camping, hiking, park leisure, refined camping, and travel, meeting the specialized equipment and clothing needs in each scenario. Mobigarden advocates getting close to nature, exploring nature, and protecting nature, aiming for harmony between humans and nature. The brand is dedicated to creating comfortable, safe, and refined movable spaces. Mountain sports, mountain climate, and mountain aesthetics serve as the inspiration for their designs.

Arthur Gensler, the soul designer of Apple’s retail stores and the founder of the world’s largest architecture firm Gensler, once said

“Good brand storytelling is not about stating, but showing.”

From professional camping to refined camping and a new lifestyle brand, the change in positioning for Mobi Garden has led to a shift in marketing strategies – moving away from the previous marketing focused on the professional outdoor community and product-oriented approach, towards reaching out to more young people through popular forms.

Before 2020, Mobi Garden did little marketing in the domestic market and had limited participation in external activities, with brand exposure primarily within the outdoor community. For example, they participated in the ISPO professional outdoor sports exhibition and established a community of outdoor enthusiasts. Much of their brand promotion relied on word-of-mouth between dealers and users.

However, after 2020, Mobi Garden changed its strategy and seized the characteristics of refined camping, which is highly social, experiential, and visually appealing. They adopted marketing methods that align with the aesthetic preferences and interests of Generation Z, including co-branded products, cross-industry collaborations, and user activities.

In this process, Mobi Garden seems to have discovered a “universal key” that penetrates different lifestyles and circles of people. The concept of a new lifestyle extends beyond camping alone. It encompasses preferences for car consumption, taste in different music genres, and appreciation of trends and art. These multidimensional labels can point to and better define this group.

That’s why Mobi Garden has engaged in more cross-industry collaborations. For example, they have organized camping-themed activities for targeted audiences in collaboration with well-known automobile companies such as Rolls-Royce and NIO. At events like the Tmall Camping Festival, Shanghai International Auto Show, and Strawberry Music Festival, Mobi Garden continues to enhance its exposure to the new middle class.

In order to attract more young consumers, Mobi Garden has also partnered with LINE FRIENDS to host camping festivals and sponsor variety shows like “Let’s Camp Together.” Through collaboration with LINE FRIENDS, they have created a “cute camping” concept IP, breaking the traditional image of dull and monotonous tents. 

Naturehike has successfully expanded its presence through a wide distribution network, both online and offline. The brand has established partnerships with major outdoor retailers, making its products easily accessible to a diverse customer base. Naturehike’s brand visibility and reputation continue to grow, aided by positive customer reviews and word-of-mouth recommendations.

Mobigarden and Naturehike have solidified their positions as leading brands in the outdoor camping industry, each with its unique strengths and growth potential. While Mobigarden focuses on innovation, technology, and cultivating an adventurous brand image, Naturehike excels in providing reliable, value-for-money products that cater to a broader consumer base. As the demand for outdoor experiences continues to rise, both brands are well-positioned to capture the market’s attention and further expand their influence.

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