The Pack Report

Leader of the Pack: Darn Good Company: Discussing Branding and Building The Best Socks On the Market with Marketing and Branding Gurus, Courtney Laggner and Brooke Kaplan of Darn Tough Vermont.

Tom Sega has a Zoom sit-down conversation with Courtney Laggner, the brand and community marketing manager, and Brooke Kaplan, the director of global brand marketing at Darn Tough Vermont, on this week’s episode of Leader of the Pack, a podcast by Duluth Pack. Courtney, Brooke, and Tom discuss how they became involved with Darn Tough Vermont and how it has continued to rapidly expand while retaining its values as a company proudly Made in Vermont, USA. 

Background on Courtney Laggner

Tom starts by asking Courtney to tell the listeners of Leader of The Pack a little about herself and how she became a part of the Darn Tough Vermont team. Courtney explains to Tom that she is a purebred Vermonter, so Darn Tough has always meant something to her growing up. She graduated from a small K-12 school as one of 47 students. Courtney originally went to Massachusetts for university but missed her home in Vermont. So, she transferred to finish her degree at the University of Vermont, where she graduated with a degree in public communications with a marketing focus in 2008. 

Courtney tells Tom about her first role out of school, where she worked in the mental health field as a Marketing Manager before she went to the Vermont Lottery and did ticket design. After leaving these two roles, Courtney joined the Darn Tough Vermont team in 2016 and has been there ever since. 

Background Brooke Kaplan

After learning more about Courtney, Tom turns to Brooke, asking her to share her background too! Brooke jumps in, saying that she is from rural Pennsylvania but grew up coming to Vermont for its excellent skiing with her family. Brooke was a competitive swimmer growing up and competed during her undergrad at Syracuse University and majored in management. Brook tells Tom that she originally planned on pursuing finance. However, after working in finance at Proctor and Gamble in cosmetics for a few years, Brooke decided she wanted to get more involved with athletics.

So, Brooke went to the University of Massachusetts Amherst for her master’s in Sports Management. Brooke explains to Tom that her goal was to work in college athletics, but after an internship, she realized she missed the business aspects. Her desire to work in both business and athletics led to a role at New Balance, where Brooke worked in footwear for five years and held multiple marketing and product development positions. 

After New Balance, Brooke joined the Life Is Good team, where she became the first marketing hire, and she was able to shape their complete marketing plan. Brooke tells Tom about feeling pulled to go back to Vermont and how in 2010, when she and her husband were expecting their first child and wanted to be closer to family, they moved to Vermont. After moving to Vermont, Brooke worked in coffee for seven years. She tells Tom that in 2018, Darn Tough Vermont presented itself and was a dream opportunity to full circle back into footwear. Now Brooke is the director of global brand marketing for Darn Tough Vermont.

Roles and Responsibilities At Darn Tough Vermont

Tom asks Courtney and Brooke to explain a little more about their roles and responsibilities at Darn Tough Vermont. He also asks them to talk about some challenges that they face in either their role personally or challenges the company faces. 

Courtney Laggner’s Role and Responsibilities

Tom asks Courtney what her responsibilities at Darn Tough Vermont are. She states that she is the Brand and Community Marketing Manager. She explains that Darn Tough Vermont has five brand tenants: 

  • Made in Vermont, USA 
  • Comfort
  • Durability
  • Fit 
  • Guaranteed for life. 

“I work to make sure those brand tenants are woven in all of our brand’s stories and bringing it to life. I also do internal work to ensure that our belief system comes through in the final product. We are a family-owned business, and we view our team as a family. So I work to take care of our family, to do that, I manage all of our sponsorships and partnership. From our sponsorship of the North field little league team to national organizations as well.” Courtney says to Tom. 

Tom goes on to ask Courtney what the most rewarding aspect of her role is. He comments that from Courtney’s words, it sounds like the family aspect is a huge part. “It definitely is so rewarding,” Courtney says. She has been with Darn Tough Vermont since 2016, and the growth since she started has been massive.

Tom asks Courtney to talk a little about the challenges she faces in her role. She explains that the ever-changing world and the changing needs of people makes it difficult to meet their needs constantly. Another challenge is the growth they are experiencing at Darn Tough Vermont. It’s exciting to grow, but Courtney tells Tom that this growth takes away from spending time at all facilities, so she must make a point to do so.

Brooke Kaplan’s Roles and Responsibilities

Tom asks Brooke to share what her role looks like at Darn Tough Vermont. As the Director of Global Brand Marketing, Brooke explains that she is responsible for how the brand looks and makes people feel globally. Her duties include everything upstream, like the Darn Tough Vermont product lines. Brooke tells Tom that Darn Tough Vermont as a company is starting to look further ahead. She gives Tom the example that they are already working on the Darn Tough Vermont fall 2023 line. While they own their mills and can act fast on projects, Darn Tough Vermont’s core business needs must be planned to meet deadlines. 

Brooke explains to Tom that Darn Tough Vermont has nine categories to market and multiple sales channels. These include a website, brick-and-mortar stores, and great retail partners. Tom jokes with Brooke that he knows a great retail store that carries Darn Tough Vermont in Northern Minnesota called Duluth Pack! Brooke exclaims that Duluth Pack is a great example! Brooke also tells Tom that government contracts are another core portion of their business. Along with these channels, Darn Tough Vermont has a robust international market and sells in thirty countries worldwide.

Tom comments on Darn Tough Vermont’s large scale and asks Brooke if they do everything internally or outsource any of their marketing. Brooke tells Tom, “We do everything from our storytelling, copy, photography, communications, and PR. An example of that, and I give Courtney credit for that, is we have a strong and longstanding partnership with the Vermont food bank. That is something that comes from Marc and Ric Cabot and their respect and desire to feed our home state. Over 1 million meals (have been) donated, and it has come through a combination of giving Tuesdays and the Bernie mittens moment that took the world by storm. We did a sock, and the proceeds were donated to the Vermont foodbank. We give to a variety of organizations all over but taking care of our home is also something that is really important and near and dear to us.” 


Tom asks Brooke to talk about some challenges she faces in her role. Brooke tells Tom Darn Tough Vermont is growing, but they are managing that growth to stay true to the brand. Tom highlights how cool it is that Darn Tough Vermont is doing all this work as a manufacturer, sales channel, marketing center, website center, and distribution center, all in the United States of America! Tom states that those are all huge tasks to be done in-house in the USA! “I could go on for days on why we should support you, but we don’t have time for that!” Tom says.

History of The Company

After talking to Courtney and Brooke about their roles with Darn Tough Vermont, Tom asks about Darn Tough Vermont’s history. The Darn Tough Vermont origin story starts with the founder Marc Cabot. Courtney tells Tom jokingly that Marc forgets more about socks than she will learn in her lifetime. Marc is now 82 years old and still comes in daily. Ric Cabot, the current CEO and Marc’s son is also heavily involved in the daily work at Darn Tough Vermont. The Darn Tough Vermont Mill started in 1978 as the Cabot Hosiery Mill in Northfield, Vermont. This mill was highly successful. Many large brands like J Crew, GAP, and Limited, asked Cabot Hosiery Mill to produce socks for them.

In the early 2000s, many companies began sourcing their production needs overseas. Things got dire for the Cabot Hosiery Mill, Courtney tells Tom. The Cabot’s took 2nd mortgages out on their homes, and Marc tasked his son Ric with finding a solution to get the mill back on top again. During this time, Ric came up with Darn Tough Vermont. Courtney tells Tom that Ric knew the world already had a premium wool sock brand, Smartwool. To distinguish Darn Tough Vermont socks he added a lifetime guarantee. Tom comments on what a fantastic story of resilience Darn Tough Vermont’s founding story is. He follows that up to say how it is common to see these stories of resilience with entrepreneurial people.

Darn Tough Vermont Company Growth 

Tom brings up the massive growth that Darn Tough Vermont has had and how the company has gotten on the map. He asks Courtney and Brooke how they have used the press to expand their brand and promote their brand story. Courtney tells Tom that their brand values have resonated so well with many. Courtney states, “it really comes down to how honest and transparent we are. We are committed to making one thing and making it better than anyone else.” She explains that Darn Tough Vermont works with an external PR agency, Fin agency, and sends them product highlights and brand channel stories. This agency sends these stories out through the US. Darn Tough Vermont also works with Spring PR out of the UK. 

Along with working with these agencies, Darn Tough Vermont does a lot of user-generated content, Courtney tells Tom. She follows up to say that the brand is lucky to have strong brand loyalists who share Darn Tough Vermont’s story! 

Being made from merino wool, Tom asks if Darn Tough Vermont struggles to fight the stereotype that wool is hot and itchy. Courtney says that thought is still out there, but it is not true! She explains to Tom and the listeners that merino wool is the most magical fiber! It keeps you cool when hot and hot when cool, wicks moisture, and is odor resistant! “It is not your grandma’s sweater!” Says Brooke. She jokingly tells Tom she knows because she had that sweater growing up. 

Darn Tough Vermont’s socks are far from your grandma’s sweater, and with their lifetime guarantee, you can enjoy them for years to come! It was a pleasure to have Courtney Laggner and Brooke Kaplan, two marketing gurus from Darn Tough Vermont, on this episode of Leader of The Pack! Learning about how this great USA made brand started and the impressive growth they are experiencing now is fascinating. To learn more about Darn Tough Vermont, you can check them out at You can also find a pair of socks for yourself, at or in the Duluth Pack retail store in Duluth, MN. Thank you, Courtney, and Brooke, for sharing your knowledge with us at Duluth Pack.

Tune into the episode HERE

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