Why do some brands blow it?

Posted: Tuesday, June 26th, 2012 at 12:05 pm

Why do some brands blow it? Image

I just finished reading Macolm Gadwells book, The Tipping Point.  Published first in 2000 I had heard of it but only noticed it when I was sitting in the San Francisco Airport waiting on a flight.  I love to read while traveling seems like I have more opportunities for a block of time to engage in a more in depth topic.  I am a big fan of these cool social commentary books, things like Freakonomics, The Long Emergency, Guns, Germs and Steel, and all of Richard Dawkins writing on evolution.  These guys are bright and have positions that are both controversial and incite huge debate, I love it!

The Tipping Point however, hit home, in a more direct and tangible way. When he spent a chapter talking about Airwalk shoes, a good meaty discussion of how a company can totally blow it, I felt like I had lived it.  It was worth the read just for the description of how they blew it as they made the meteoric rise from a tiny brand with strong core values about the skate community they served.  They watered it down and sold it off to the masses and in the blink of an eye it was over, the core users (influencers at specialty skate shops) quit buying them, and with in a year or two sales had plummeted.

It got my attention as the owner of a small specialty outdoor store.  We too have watched the meteoric rise and fall of a number of brands & products.  Sure we have had lots of great products and brands that just did not make it, but the real interesting ones are the companies who seemed to have it all and in the span of a year or 2 totally foundered and are either gone or should be.

While I do consider us pioneers of new products and categories, I see that we are just the ones who can put gear, clothing and ideas in front of the folks who will tip it to infect the community. We try to offer the best brands and products but sometimes we cannot stop them from tripping over their egos.  I bet you all can name 4-5 brands or products that seemed to be unstoppable and then within the span of a couple years they are mostly gone.  Anyone remember Dana Designs packs, Cloudveil Clothing, or Moonstone.  How about all those companies  who appear to be in a free fall while still driving sales with increased distribution, Crocs, Vibram 5 Fingers, Marmot, Isis.  The list could go on, all great companies who have lost the “mojo” and need to sell the products into a larger and larger market to maintain sales.  Then poof when the tide finally turns all the customers who they sold out on the way down are gone, they are staring failure in the face wondering what the hell happened.

Our job here at the Trail Head is to make sure we find those new products and support with our dollars the ones who still see the value in a small specialty user driven market.  That job changes every day and that is what makes our job fun and exciting.  We have just started going through the semi annual market buying season and Erin, Doug, John and I are doing our best to find relevant quality clothing and gear, compelling and something that addresses a need of our customers.  Sometimes we simply do not see the train coming, like when I bought 72 Pair of Crocs because I really thought they would make a great Backpacking Camp shoe.  Light, comfy, and ugly enough to get some attention on the shoe wall; boy did I not see that one coming…  Or when I wore a Patagonia down sweater in a TV ad and Erin got tired of special ordering them for the next year.

I have already seen a new water shoe from Astral that is I believe going to be what we have wanted for years.  I also looked at a cool new group of bags from Timbuk 2 that have a built in battery to recharge your phone, when like all of us, we find ourselves with a dead battery and no way to make a quick call when we really need to.

Cool ideas and innovative ways of integrating new and old.

If you have any great ideas or products you want to see in The Trail Head Next summer, Let us know!

Thanks for the support

Todd Frank and the entire staff at the Trail Head