Posts Tagged ‘branding’

When Colloquialisms Attack Or, The Time Something About A Muska Shoe Ad Bothered Me For 13 Years

March 9, 2012

Recently as part of a broader discourse on the state of the modern skateshop I deployed the phrase “branded product,” and even with scare quotes highlighting a wry and half-joking nature, heh heh, I felt kind of like a dork. There’s any number of breadcrumbs dropped along skateboarding’s meandering path into the deep dark forest of institutionalization lo these past couple decades, and embracing this type of industry jargon seems like shaking the bag. For the youngsters there’s maybe some cachet to dangling such terms around the park or the curb, suggesting you’re familiar with the industry and maybe a little bit of world-weariness to go along with it, but as time passes I feel sometimes like these little phrases get to be more of a reminder of how weirdly and wonderfully insular our little universe can be, what with pretty much all the media by/for/about its advertisers and well-documented revolving doors granting exit and entry from jobs at companies or distributors the same as pro team rosters.

Of course at a time where our planet is regularly threatened by dangerous solar storms and powered by a steadily expanding sun that may one day engulf us, or heat us up too much to live anymore, this is all minor league shit. But, for a tribe that has developed its own vernacular to the point where a factual complete sentence like “He kickflip backside noseblunt slid that hubba for his ender in the Firm’s ‘Can’t Stop'” sounds like gibberish to the man on the street, I’m getting on my Académie Française on for some grievance airing. Disclaimer, this blog webpage has maybe abused any or all of these phrasings.

Product, singular: Sorta remember first noticing this in interviews in the late 1990s, now it is the parlance of our times when it comes to discussing numerous boards, sets of wheels, pairs of shoes and so on. During especially sensitive moments this word could be seen to carry an elitist tinge, like an offhand description of sponsorship spoils. But it’s also useful as a reminder of the commoditization of boards and wheels over the past decade, and maybe now shoes too, until the pendulum finally swings away from canvas low-tops and back toward the Es Scheme.

Colorway: Distinctly recall first seeing this in an ad for Muska’s first pro shoe for Circa. Disliked it because it always seemed a little poofy and, dare I say, girly. Why not just “see other colors of the Scheme at http://www.esfootwear.com”?

Core: When referring to a shop or a company. To me the word “core” in this sense comes from the same land where they farm those big neon-coloured hats with the fake dreadlocks, step-in snowboard bindings and surf shorts with big flames down the sides. I understand what the word’s trying to get at but attempting to affix this label flounders on the same slippery slope as Justice Potter Stewart grappling with a definition for hard-core pornography. Know it when you see it, etc.

Brand: Instead of company. Comes off a little high-falutin’, or maybe like the product of an overheated marketing 101 lab session. Rather than make things, it must also be things, perhaps to certain people at certain times and for certain favors to be delivered at an agreed upon date.

SKUs: Here you toddle down the path to the strange and surreal dimension of retail merchandising acronyms. SKU stands for stock-keeping unit, and can be used to refer to Es Schemes or other products kept in a store for sale to customers. Confusingly, a shoe* can be a SKU, and a SKU can also be a shoe, or in other cases a hat or even a Hurley sticker.

*such as an Es Scheme

Mike V Takes The Biggest Risk Of His Career By Launching A Company With A Three-Word Name

July 13, 2010

Mike Vallely is nothing if not a man of law. You support him, he supports you. You show up at one of his one-man middle America prefab skatepark demos, you get to see at least one brawny mute grab. You drunkenly wrest a hockey pole from the fingers of his daughter, and you may endure a televised pummeling that could ultimately cost Mike Vallely a coveted hockey blogging gig but not the dignity of his family.

So it is then that Mike V, as he is known, once again cashes in his deck sponsorship chips to go it alone again with the third (fourth? [shit, fifth?]) hardgoods concern, after several years of diligent brand building under the Element/Billabong parasol. He extends his latest business venture into risky territory though by choosing not a mononymous nym like “Transit” or “Vallely” or even “TV” but instead taking a gamble with the powerful yet weighty name brand “By The Sword.”

It makes sense because the tri-nommed brand hints at the powerful violence with which Vallely has long been associated. Yet also it suggests he is coming to terms with his own mortality, perhaps after shearing his locks, similar to the biblical story of Samson or Britney Spears. Vallely represents a figure of controversies and contradictions, but he remains emboldened by his do-it-yourself approach, signaled with his hiring of Jason Filipow to do the artwork for the skateboards.

But even bearing a personal brand as established and cultivated as Vallely’s, it’s hard to overstate the danger of employing more than one word in the name of your company. The ditches are littered with the delaminated corpses of those who tried and failed: Sixty-Forty, City Stars, Tree Fort, Channel One, Gordon & Smith, Santa Monica Airlines. Zoo York and Alien Workshop got bought. Birdhouse Projects moved to the singular burbs, Powell dropped the Peralta and World Industries has all but collapsed under its own weight. Even the venerable Black Label was flirting with the singular “Label” for a while, when the subprime mortgage crisis was peaking.

Can Vallely buck the trend? This is a question that must be and will be answered with time and the developing battle for market share he faces against JR’s Rand Paul-influenced venture, which has the benefit of a one-word name and a music career that may not be as long-lived as Vallely’s, but has certainly captured more blog attention, a priceless commodity in the 24-hour blog buzz cycle. He also is challenging this site in the realm of search engine optimization, a tall order against mounted men bearing halberds.