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Purpose-Built, Athlete-Driven: How POC Creates Unique Content that Connects To Its Long-Term Mission

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From the baseball field, to the Nascar track, to the tennis court, in sports, ads can be found everywhere. Brands and sports have been linked together through sponsorship for decades. And now, with the rise of social media and influencers, athletes can create even more profitable relationships with brands than ever before. 

But a sponsorship should be more than just a way for a brand and an athlete to make money. Today, more than ever, that message matters. The story you tell makes a difference. And the purpose behind a brand is what is drawing people in and converting them to loyal customers. At POC, that belief is what has been driving the company since its founding, and it is influencing its unique content strategy, which is successfully driving people to its website and into its ecommerce channels. 

POC is a Swedish company that makes top of the line protective gear for athletes around the world. David DeMartini is POC’s Global Chief Marketing and Digital Officer and on this episode of Up Next in Commerce, he explains why the purpose- and data-driven content strategy the company has  devised is working, and what other brands can learn from what they have built. Whether it’s more of a focus on original, serialized video, or a different approach to working with influencers, POC’s marketing strategies have far outperformed traditional methods. Learn how and why on today’s episode!

Main Takeaways:

  • Don’t Be Old School: Athlete sponsorships are not new in the marketing world, however, brands like POC are finding creative ways to expand those partnerships. By investing in different marketing channels like video series, movies, and other long-form, engaging content, brands can set themselves apart and tell stories in ways customers will connect with. 
  • Propose a Purpose: More than ever, consumers are driven to brands that have a clearly-stated purpose or mission. But simply having a purpose written out on your website is not enough. Brands that develop an ambitious purpose, stress test it, and look beyond the problems of now to understand how their purpose can drive them in the future are the ones that will succeed.
  • More Than The Data: Every organization should be using data to guide organizational decisions, but data should never be the only factor. Data should be used in conjunction with what you know about your customers on an intangible level to create a balance that is analytics-based but still feels human.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“One of the key attributes that you see as particularly important and something that a lot of brands in the outdoor space focus on is purpose….A trend that I was seeing with the brands that I worked with at Backbone Media, the ones with a solid foundation, a clear purpose and a really clear and ambitious purpose but not to the point where the brand platform and the mission of the vision didn’t really mean anything, those are the companies and the brands that were doing the best.”

“For anybody who’s thinking about starting a business, I can’t stress enough the importance of making sure you spend the time and put the work in on building a brand platform and then pressure testing that through all different mock scenarios thinking about where you’re going to be in five years, 10 years, 15 years, and beyond. And making sure the verbiage you use in the core of that brand platform can remain constant. you can’t be too focused on the problem you’re trying to solve, you have to think beyond that problem, that future problems, and make sure that your approach and what you’re creating can solve future problems as much as it can solve the problem here and now.”

“We feel like if the story’s great and we can help facilitate telling it, we don’t need a ton of branding. We don’t need POC products sitting next to every interview or we don’t need the traditional product placement in these stories. We feel like we’re doing a service to the community by facilitating telling it, and for us, that’s what we’re here for. So, we take a bit of a different approach to content than say some brands do or some brands previously have.” 

“The rise of influencer marketing has put such an emphasis on follower number and engagement metrics and all these things. And I think what we’ve seen is that those things are all important, but you can’t focus so much on just the numbers to where you lose sight of the individual, the personality, and really the non-tangibles that an influencer or an athlete or any partnership brings to the brand.” 

“The value that these athletes and influencers and anybody that we partner with bring to our brand is they have their own community and we want to help them build their own community. But if we come in and say, ‘You need to talk to the community that you’ve built in our voice and in the way that we speak,’ and over-engineer that, one, their community is going to say, ‘This is stupid. I can tell this isn’t real, or I can tell that this isn’t the person that I committed to either through a click on follow or some other way.’ And if we give that freedom to the person to communicate the points that we’re trying to get our audience to understand, and in the way that feels natural to them, it’s going to come off better, it’s going to be a better end product in terms of the creative and it’s going to resonate with the audience more effectively.”

“In terms of using the data as your true north, you have got to be able to analyze the data, understand what the data is telling you, but then put that information or that insight into the context of the other things you know about your customer base.”

“Customer expectations have evolved to a certain point to where the traditional tactics in terms of driving a sale, there’s more options there. I think you’re seeing a lot of brands think about the needs of their customers and really looking at it and saying, we need to be able to add more value than we’re looking to extract from our customer base. And to do that, you have to really think about what are the challenges or the struggles, or the other complimentary problems you can solve for your customers on behalf of them to help strengthen that connection they have with your brand.”

Mentions:

Bio:

David DeMartini is the Chief Marketing and Digital Officer, Global at POC. He joined the company in 2016 after spending more than four years with Backbone Media, LLC, where he held the position of digital specialist.

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Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hello, and welcome back to up next in ecommerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, co-founder of mission.org. Our guest today is David DeMartini, the Chief Marketing Officer at POC. David, welcome to the show.

David:

Hi, Stephanie. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I’m really excited to have you too. I just went into a Wormhole watching some of your guys’ videos with the skiers, flying down the mountain at lightning speed and I was like, “Could I do this? No, probably not.” But they were great to watch.

David:

Yes. Oh, well, thank you. And I sure you could do it. We have an amazing roster of athletes that do a great job of telling our brand story through their actions and our goal is to do everything we can to keep them safe. So, it’s fun to create content or let them create content and it helps us tell our story.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I love that. We’ll definitely be diving into all of that in a little bit, but first tell me or anyone who’s listening, what is POC?

David:

Yeah. So POC is a Swedish company that was founded in 2006, 2007 timeframe. We are a protection brand. We’re the world’s leading protection brand, currently servicing athletes and participants across bicycle sports and snow sports. And so, we have a really strong mission and purpose to save lives and protect those pursuing their passion, and enable people to really find more joy in life through using our products to keep them as safe as possible when they’re doing the things that they love.

Stephanie:

Yeah. And you have very nice looking products as well. I haven’t been snowboarding in a while, but I’m like, “If I was, I would want this helmet here and they even have mouth guards nowadays, which is mind blowing to me.” I mean, very helpful, but I have not seen any other companies. You have a helmet with a… Is it called a mouth guard? What is the word for that now?

David:

Yeah. Well, on the snow side, we have a couple of different disciplines that we service. And I think the product you’re referencing is one of the helmets we have on the race side of our business. When slalom skiers or even some GS skiers are running gates. There’s a chin bar that attaches to the helmets to make sure none of [crosstalk] end up smacking them in the face as they’re making their way down the course. So, always looking for ways to better protect our athletes in our customers. And that’s a pretty handy service with that chin bar because taking a slalom gate to the face is not much fun.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It does not sound like it. I also looked at them like this would be perfect for my two and a half year old, and he is always falling and hitting his face somehow, or his chin I’m like, “You guys need some kids versions of this.”

David:

Yeah. That’s a good point. We have an amazing children’s line that we call poquito-

Stephanie:

Oh, cute.

David:

Kids helmets and there’s some really cool safety pieces built into that. We found that the most accidents that happened with kids on a ski slope or on a bicycle are scenarios where someone larger than them, whether it’s a larger kid or an adult just simply doesn’t see them. And there’s a collision that happens. So we have a really great visibility story built into our kids’ products, but we hadn’t thought about the chin or face protection for the children, but maybe we [crosstalk 00:03:28]. Yeah?

Stephanie:

Yeah. So when I was looking through your LinkedIn [inaudible 00:03:33], I also saw that you have a background in media and sports, and I was wondering what drew you over to POC?

David:

Yeah, so I of cut my teeth at an agency in Colorado working across an amazing book of brands that the agency Backbone Media service at the time. And it was really an amazing opportunity for me because I got to really dig in and understand some of the challenges that brands have really all maturity level, where we’re trying to overcome. Everything from a larger, more established brand, like Eddie Bauer or YETI Coolers, all the way up to startups looking at how do they just continue to raise some money to propel their business

David:

And so, as I was working through and learning and absorbing and working with all these amazing people at Backbone Media, I was really fine-tuning the things that were interesting to me and knew I always wanted to be in marketing and direct-to-consumer but really found an understanding of what specifically in those areas were interesting.

David:

And then after about five years with Backbone, POC was one of the clients of Backbone for a long time. And one of the accounts I worked on and an opportunity came up to join POC internal as the marketing director for North America and I took that and I’ve been lucky to find myself in some opportunistic positions within POC. And my skillset has allowed me to rise to the ranks here as well which has been really fun and really rewarding.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s great. I also love how POC has the same messaging across all the platforms. It was very clear about what you guys stood for. So tell me a little bit about… Did that draw you in when you saw, “Here’s our purpose. Here’s why we’re here.” How did that impact your decision to jump over to work with them?

David:

Yeah. I think that one of the key attributes that you see as particularly important and something that a lot of brands in the outdoor space focus on is purpose. And the term purpose can be applied to business or the way that a company operates in a lot of different ways. But I realized early on that a trend that I was seeing with the brands that I worked with at Backbone Media, the ones with a solid foundation, a clear purpose and a really clear and ambitious but not to the point where the brand platform and the mission of the vision didn’t really mean anything. Those are the companies and the brands that were doing the best.

David:

And so, I quickly realized how important that was. And so, as I thought about what was next, I knew that, that was core to any organization that I could see myself at, for an extended period of time. And so I made that one of my priorities and starting to look around for whatever was next for me was that purpose has to be there. And I have to really be able to connect to that purpose in a meaningful way because if I can’t, in a lot of ways you’re trying to fake it to make it, and that just gets really taxing and is tiresome and hard to do. And it comes back to, if you can act to the purpose it’s very easy to find the motivation to really give everything you have to the business and these days you have to do that.

David:

So, POC has had it. It’s a really amazing a brand platform and admission and vision. That’s been with us since day one and credit to the founder, Stefan Ytterborn who created the brand in 2006, to address a problem that he saw in the form of… His kids were becoming ski racers. And he looked around at the head protection at the time and said, “This doesn’t seem all that great and I think I can do this better.” And had the foresight to realize that spending the time and really ironing out what he was there to do and what their mission and vision looked like, was crucial to make sure he built something that could continue to live on and be successful.

Stephanie:

That’s great. Your kids always seem to be a driving force sometimes with businesses or new products. And I love that story, having an actual reason to develop something and being like, “Oh, everyone actually needs us in this industry. And it’s not good enough. I’m going to fix it right now.”

David:

Yeah. He saw a problem that was specific to him and where he was in his life and realized that, he’s probably not the only one feeling this way and really created something special and it’s been a fun ride since then and continues to do well. So, again, it goes back to the core purpose of the business is real and meaningful. And that’s really valuable and making sure that we make the right decisions on a day-to-day basis.

Stephanie:

So, since you’ve been able to see many brands, especially why you were working at the agency, what are tips or best practices around maybe a new brand coming up with their purpose, but then actually following through, because I think that’s a tricky thing with a lot of these new companies popping up it seems like a lot of them say they have a purpose or here’s what we’re doing, but it doesn’t actually come through. It’s just like the messaging. You don’t see actions behind it. Is there any advice or things that you saw when you were at the agency of like this work and this did not work, everyone should not do it this way?

David:

Yeah. It’s a good question. And I think the answer to that can take many different forms but really what you’re looking for is something that’s balanced in something that is, it can stand the test of time. And so what I saw at Backbone was it used to be that you could identify a problem, find a solution for it, and then take that and run with it. And I think that that worked for a long time and that was the traditional approach to starting a business. But I think the consumer today has evolved so much to where they look for more than just helping them solve a problem. You really have to be invested in the solution and in the problem itself to a point where it’s authentic and real.

David:

And so I think for anybody who’s thinking about starting a business and can’t stress enough, the importance of making sure you spend the time and put the work in on building a brand platform and then pressure testing that through all different mock scenarios thinking about where you’re going to be in five years, 10 years, 15 years, and beyond. And making sure the verbiage you use in the core of that brand platform can remain constant. I see if a new company is… It’s almost like you can’t be too focused on the problem you’re trying to solve, you have to think beyond that problem, that future problems, and make sure that your approach and what you’re creating can solve future problems as much as it can solve the problem here and now.

David:

And it’s a really hard thing to do, and it takes a very specific approach and creative mind. And it’s not easy to achieve. And so I feel lucky to be part of an organization where, we were able to achieve that. And the founders that started POC went through that exercise and it’s cumbersome and difficult. But I think it’s super important.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I completely agree. It reminds me of… I don’t know if you’ve heard of the, Clock of the Long Now, it’s a 10,000-year clock, and it’s all about encouraging long-term thinking. And every time I start thinking about longer-term thinking, and where is this headed? I always think about that clock, it’s my motivation.

David:

Yeah. I think that’s a great connection point. And it’s really hard to visualize and come up with mock scenarios as to what could happen in 10 years because who knows what’s going to happen in 10 years. But I think just going through the exercises and putting the time and the effort and we’ll help you find the right balance between to immediate here and now, and then on the other end of the spectrum is… I don’t know if you know a guy named Scott Galloway, but he uses the term, yogababble where you use so many buzz words and it’s so conceptual that it actually completely loses all of its meaning. You got to find someplace in between there that is balanced and can stand the test of time to a certain degree.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That’s a good mentality. I saw you have another title, which you didn’t mention in the intro, and I’m not sure why, of executive producer. I was looking at the one video, American Downhiller, which is really good. I only got to watch 10 minutes of it, but I think it’s a good segue Into some of your marketing and content strategies because the video was so well done. I mean, is it on Netflix? If not, it should be. Tell me a little bit about how you guys go about thinking about developing videos.

David:

Yeah. I’m really glad you brought that up because that’s a really, really fun and amazing project that we just launched to the world earlier in… I think it was in October actually. I was going to say November but, launched in October with a world premier here in Park City, Utah, and then a distribution program with U.S. Ski Team and skiracing.com. And like I mentioned, we got our start in ski racing and it’s incredibly important in Colorado business. Compared to other snow sports categories, or the bike category. It’s relatively small, but it’s so important because in the athletes… Really on any level that are competing or skiing gates on a consistent basis.

David:

I mean, that’s where the stakes are at the highest. That the speeds are incredibly high. The snow conditions are ice essentially these days. You have skis with incredibly sharp edges and the possibility of things going wrong is quite high. And so, we work really hard to continue to innovate on behalf of the ski race community and find different ways to apply the different technologies and safety features that we develop to their world. And so, through the years we’ve become really close to this ski race community. Like I said, it’s not a huge community, but it’s very tight-knit one. And one that we’re very happy and proud to be part of.

David:

And over the years, looking for opportunities and being very close with the U.S. Ski Team, we saw this story that was really amazing and hadn’t really been told on a mass level around the men’s speed team, and how brotherhood really formed through, I guess you could say it through unique adversity in the sense that no ski racing in the U.S. is not what it is in Europe. When you go to Austria, you go to Norway, you go to Switzerland, ski racing is… I mean, the Hanukkah in Austria is it’s like the Super Bowl, it’s a huge deal there. They have amazing massive fan bases and so being an American and on the American team, when you’re competing, most of the races are in Europe. And so the challenge is that the U.S. team had to overcome were unique.

David:

And I’m not really qualified nor want to say that their challenges were harder or worse to overcome than some of the Europeans, but they were just different. You’re not able to travel home on the weekends. You’re spending so much time with your other teammates and it really cultivated this brotherhood that organically evolved into this story that became… They took the name American Downhillers, and that term became a tool to represent this brotherhood and the function of some of the veteran guys on the team working to help develop and help some of the younger guys that were coming up to the speed program navigate some of these difficult scenarios that they were in, where you’re in foreign country, you’re not able to see your family. You’re not able to go home on a consistent basis.

David:

And really that story was just so amazing that we were working with skiracing.com, and we finally said, “Hey, let’s try and tell the story.” And so, it came to life and I believe it was 2017 where we started to do some short episodes in conjunction with skiracing.com. And we did that for two or three years, five minute, eight minute, 12 minute episodes, focusing in on different elements of this American Downhiller story.

David:

And towards the middle of 2019, we said to ourselves, “Well, these episodes are great but we haven’t really done anything like telling the story from start to finish. Is something we haven’t done and it would be an amazing piece for the ski race community.” And so, we partnered with skiracing.com and a woman named Claire Brown, who’s an amazing producer and has an amazing team of filmmakers. And she’s been a part of the ski race community since she was a little kid and she raised competitively through college and I believe she was an All American. And as a staple in that industry and community. And so, we worked with her to tell the story. And so we were able to tell the story from start to finish and pull pieces from the different episodes that we had. And it turned into this really amazing piece that, gives some insight and some behind the scenes look into what it truly means to be an American Downhiller and then some of the challenges that they had to overcome.

David:

So a really, really fun project that Claire and Elizabeth Reeder, who’s one of our Sports Marketing Managers, did an amazing job facilitating and putting together, and we’re super proud of it. And we’re excited we’re going to continue on with this theme and this first one was focused on the men’s team, and there’s equally as interesting and amazing stories on the women’s side. And we’re excited to continue to tell these amazing stories that happen in American ski racing, and the next one up we’ll be focused on the women’s team.

Stephanie:

That’s great. So, where does this content live? I definitely want to finish it. I mean, like I said, it seems like it should be on Netflix or something. It’s very, very well done, very professional. It gets you right from the beginning with all the skiers hopping in and saying what it means to them. Where do you guys put this content after it’s all made?

David:

So the distribution for it… We launched a lot of amazing new ski race product this season. And so, we had an objective to reach and engage and build our connection with the ski race community. So the initial rollout plan with this was to work with the U.S. Ski Team work with skiracing.com. and obviously we would support it as well, but we have it living on YouTube and we’ve seen really great results from an organic grassroots distribution plan. We are looking at some film festivals throughout the country over the next few months and have submitted it in a few of those and we are looking at some larger distribution. There’s possibility that some of it might run on NBC, this winter, which would be amazing.

David:

And we’re looking at the subscription viewers or platforms like Netflix and Apple TV and Amazon as well. And trying to figure out how we can get it up there. The goal with the larger distribution platforms is… Again, the story is what’s most important and the story can help inspire the next generation of ski racers or particularly American Downhillers. There’s a utility function to that and we want to make sure that, that’s available to any and everybody that wants to see it on an ongoing basis. So there’s a long tail distribution plan to this as well, to make sure that anybody who wants to learn and understand this story has the ability to do that through some of these larger platforms.

Stephanie:

That’s cool. It seems like there’s definitely a lot of angles. You’ve got the partnership thing going on. You’ve got… Yeah, being able to tell the story holistically, like you wanted to and then the long tail of possibly be able to sell products as well when people see them, yeah. At the perfect place, perfect time while they’re watching it.

David:

Yeah. And we were very intentional about… We didn’t want this to be something that felt like we were artificially trying to place product throughout it, the commitment was to the story. And like I said, we’ve been a partner with U.S. Ski Team for so long that now our product is visible, but you’ll also see product from our competitors. And that’s okay. We feel like if the story’s great and we can help facilitate telling it we don’t need a ton of branding. We don’t need POC products sitting next to every interview or we don’t need the traditional product placement in these stories, feel like we’re doing a service to the community by facilitating telling it, and for us, that’s what we’re here for. So, we take a bit of a different approach to content than say some brands do or some brands previously have.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Well, how do you guys approach product placement? Because that seems like a very… I mean, it’s always been around, but I see a lot of brands doing it way better now. I was just talking about it, the Netflix series of one about organizing and how well the container store did after that. And I don’t remember really being slapped over the head with the branding, but it was more me wanting to check into it afterwards if like, “Well, what were they using to organize their entire closets?” And it was very organic. So I see brands doing a much better job now when it comes to product placement and partnerships around that. How do you guys explore that avenue?

David:

Yeah. So our sports marketing organization does an incredible job and partnering with athletes and getting our product on athletes has been core to our marketing strategy since day one. And so, again, do think it comes back to the purpose conversation we had and we are not delivering on our purpose if we are not supplying the best in the world with our products, because we truly do believe that they’re the safest products out there. And so, as you mentioned it, when you take an approach of… We want personalities, we want athletes on our roster that have similar beliefs but of course their own brand and their own way of executing on those beliefs. But we want people who stand for innovation, progression, and we want to make sure that the partnerships we develop with athletes, we truly are helping them pursue their passion and helping them progress the sport that they’ve dedicated their lives to.

David:

And so, we have an amazing list of a roster of athletes that we’re always looking at and adding to. We have some amazing development programs as part of our sports marketing strategy. We have a three layer level approach. We just launched a revised regional or grassroots athlete program that we call the Aspired Collective and that is solely intended to give up incoming athletes across both snow sports and the bike world. Give them opportunities and help them continue to progress in their careers to one day be the next superstar. And so, doing what we can to support the communities and support the activities in sports that we service through supporting talent within those categories you naturally find yourself with your product on the right people more often than not.

David:

And so, again, it’s a little bit… We try and take a maybe a less manufactured approach and we don’t go out and say next year we think so-and-so is going to be the best ski racer. So we’ve got to get our stuff on this person, this guy or girl, and then the next year it’s someone else. And so we go after, we look for longer-term partnership opportunities people who truly believe in what they’re doing and partnering with us helps them do what they’re doing better. That’s the stuff we look for.

Stephanie:

Yeah. It seems like athletes sponsorships, that’s like the original [OG] influencers. Influencers are big now, but the sponsorships of athletes, it seems like it was already going on for a really long time. But what seems really hard to do is figure out how it’s driving sales or how it’s influencing your marketing campaign. How do you guys think about that when you’re setting up these partnerships, you’re picking out what athletes you want to work with? How do you think about what the end results should be outside of just wanting to work with a great person of course and making it long-term? What are some metrics you hope to achieve with these parties?

David:

Yeah. I think it’s a really good question because I think the rise of influencer marketing has put such an emphasis on follower number and engagement metrics and all these things. And I think what we’ve seen is that those things are all important and I’ll get into how we look at those, but you can’t focus so much on just the numbers to where you lose sight of the individual, the personality, really the non-tangible that an influencer or an athlete or any partnership brings to the brand. And we’ve been very careful to… We have an objective to be results driven and measure what we can and take a data-driven approach of course but we also want to make sure we don’t over index on that to the point where we lose some of the intangible stuff.

David:

So, when we look at an athlete, a lot of times their Instagram follower account or their YouTube page is an important metric and in the equation but they’re also three or four other metrics that are equally as important. So we look at personality, we look at opportunity to have a longer-term relationship with this person. We look at how they compete, where they compete, these sorts of things and make a very balanced call on whether or not they should be somebody we should pursue or not pursue. But to answer your question about measuring influence that athletes or influencers have, it is difficult. And there are some data tools that we have, whether it’s being smart about how you distribute content for them to work into their communication outreach with specific links and stuff that we can track through our website.

David:

But a lot of that stuff is specific to a single campaign or a single program and there’s really not a great way going back to the equation that we look at, there’s not a great way to measure the intangible stuff, but we know it’s important and we know it’s working and it’s a core element of our positioning in the marketplace. And so, we measure what we can, but we also try and be real and be okay with… There’s simply some things that are just hard and difficult to measure and we trust ourselves to say, “This is this things that aren’t measurable, we can…” I trust our people and we trust ourselves to say, “This is worth the investment and it’s providing a lift to our brand in a way that we just simply can’t measure.”

Stephanie:

Yes. What are some of your favorite marketing campaigns that you’ve done that you really remember, or that were most successful?

David:

Oh, that’s a good question. Favorite marketing. The American Downhiller is definitely up there just because it was so different and new, and we’d never produced a feature like them but we’ve already talked about that one. Earlier this fall, we launched a signature series, excuse me, around Fabio Wibmer who’s an incredibly talented mountain biker, whether it’s trials or downhill riding or, dirt jump riding. He is arguably the most popular mountain biker in the world right now and we created a signature series with him that we launched earlier this fall. That’s really, really cool and we took the approach of, “We’re going to create the product for you, but we really want you to create the marketing and the messaging and launch this product in your voice.”

David:

And that was a really fun approach to take to this because one, it took a little bit of the stress off us internally, and two, it allowed for our audience to hear a message that they’re used to hearing from us, from somebody different, which I think in a lot of ways was quite refreshing and something different. And Fabio’s team is incredible at creating highly engaging video content and his YouTube following is massive. And so, we basically said, “We’ll help you make the product. We’ll support some of the distribution of the content, but we want you to create that content.” And so it was a different approach for us and a pretty fun one because it brought a different tone of voice to a launch than we’re used to having.

Stephanie:

That’s really fun. I mean, and a really good point because I can think of so many brands who work with people in their industry and they end up squishing their creativity by saying like, “This is our brand messaging. This is how it needs to be done.” And you can tell you’re like, “This is not Oprah Winfrey talking. This is not that Oprah does that.” I don’t know, but they squish the creativity of the artist or the influencer by all their rules. And it ends up not being very organic and then no one’s following actually ended up connecting with it.

David:

Exactly. And the value that these athletes and influencers and anybody that we partner with bring to our brand is they have their own community and we want to help them build their own community. But if we come in and say, “You need to talk to the community that you’ve built in our voice and in the way that we speak and over-engineer that, one, their community is going to say, “This is stupid. I can tell this isn’t new, or I can tell that this isn’t the person that I committed to either through a click on follow or some other way.” And if we give that freedom to the person to communicate the points that we’re trying to get our audience to understand, and in the way that feels natural to them it’s going to come off better, it’s going to be a better end product in terms of the creative and again, it’s going to resonate with the audience more effectively.

David:

And we lean on our athletes in our roster of partners very heavily because they’re good at what they do. And for us to come in and say, “We know how to do what you do better,” it doesn’t feel right and I don’t think it’s right.

Stephanie:

Yes. So you had a good quote that I saw, but I’m probably going to botch it. So you can just tell me if it’s wrong. It’s all around data and you were saying that the data that you gather around your customers is your true North. And I wanted to hear a little bit about, what data do you look at and is that influencing your products, or how are you using it day-to-day?

David:

Yeah. I think that you got the quote exactly right so, thank you for that. And I guess maybe a little counterintuitive to my last point of the balance between tangibles and intangibles, but when we do have data available, we need to make sure we’re using that. And we are still a growing organization and we are far from totally dialed in terms of our data management and pulling and curating as much data as we possibly can. But we have gotten a lot better at doing that, really the past three or four years. And part of being able to actually use your data effectively you have to start with your systems and your tech stack and we’ve been really lucky to be able to partner and use Salesforce suite of services with Commerce Cloud, Marketing Cloud, and Service Cloud.

David:

And the decision to run with those platforms was specifically so that we could start to organize our data and get our systems to speak better together and learn more about our customers. We have all kinds of different touch points with these customers. And the fact that Salesforce Commerce Cloud can speak with Marketing Cloud, and even with Service Cloud when we get a customer service inquiry that scenario really at least gives us an opportunity to maximize what we know about our customers. And so, like I said, we have a long way to go to be where I would say we’re A+ rating in terms of data management,` but every day our team gets smarter and we make right the right decisions and we learn more.

David:

And I think in terms of using the data as your true north and bringing it full circle back to the idea of balance, you got to be able to analyze the data, understand what the data is telling you, but then put that information or that insight into the context of the other things you know about your customer base. I think one of the things I feel very lucky in that, we are a relatively small team, a marketing team of 25 or 28 people across both the marketing team and the digital team. One of the benefits of that is that, we don’t have a lot of redundancy and every individual in the organization you naturally have to gain an understanding and you got to know our customer relatively well for almost everything that we do.

David:

And so, that contextual understanding and knowledge of our customer, coupled with some better data management and insight going actually does give us a pretty good understanding of our customer. What’s important to them and how we can deliver on that. Whereas I think a lot of times in bigger organizations I’ve seen, if you have a lot of not necessarily redundancy, but a lot of very specified positions that do one thing and do one thing very, very well, it’s a lot harder to understand the big picture and gain of an accurate profile of the contextual things that go along with your customers. And so, I guess what I’m saying is in a larger organization, it’s very easy to look at the data and only the data and it’s sometimes hard to bring your head up and look around and say, “Okay. Well, this is what this is telling me about this specific point or insight. How does that connect with what might be happening over here?” And so there’s of course the challenges with being a smaller group but I there’s also a lot of benefits and that’s definitely one of them.

Stephanie:

Yeah. I completely agree. I mean, thinking about how do you get to that holistic approach where… I mean, I’ve been at larger companies before and things get siloed and you have your customer service team over here, and they’re probably hearing so many good nuggets from customers about new product features they want, or something that might help the experience better or the unboxing experience. And a lot of times that they just get stuck there and you don’t know how to incorporate into your new product launches and stuff. And so, I hear a lot of companies, especially smaller ones that are very quickly growing, experiencing issues like that, where things are all siloed and they don’t know how to look at the data, but then also take a step back and use your gut and be like, “That’s actually sending us in the wrong direction, or that’s not really our customer who’s saying that.”

David:

Exactly. Yeah. Being a small group allows us to… Our customer service manager can easily stand up and walk across the room or these days, tap our Digital Director on the shoulder and say, “Hey, three of my team members said this and they’re hearing this. What does that mean for what you do?” Those conversations are really, really important. And since we’re lucky. It’s a little easier for us to facilitate those just because we’re a smaller team.

Stephanie:

Yes. So what digital trends are you excited about? Where are you guys headed over the next three years in the world of ecommerce?

David:

It’s a good question but there’s lots of them. I think one of the things that I’m seeing in and we’re actually acting on is that, consumers are… Their expectations have evolved to a certain point to where the traditional tactics in terms of driving a sale, there’s more options there. I think, you’re seeing a lot of brands think about the needs of their customers and really looking at it and saying, we need to be able to add more value than we’re looking to extract from our customer base. And to do that, you have to really think about what are the challenges or the struggles, or the other complimentary problems you can solve for your customers on behalf of them to help strengthen that connection they have with your brand.

David:

And I think what we’re going to see is that, we’re going to see a lot less mass trends, I guess, in a sense or mass tactics in the sense that brands that are going to be successful are the ones that are going to focus on building a community that is tight-knit has a very meaningful value prop for the members of that community. And ultimately places a little bit more emphasis on lifetime value and holding onto the customers that they have and building a better relationship with them versus turn and burn customer acquisition bring them in, make a sale, move on to the next.

David:

And so, we’re really excited about that because we have a lot of the ingredients necessary to build a meaningful community and we have to do some ideation on this idea of providing more value than we’re looking to extract, but it’s a new set of challenges and one that I think is a little bit more fun because you’re becoming a better partner to your community and keeping hold of that and looking for ways to solve other problems for them and make your brand more appealing and one that they want to connect with on a deeper level. And that’s really fun, and so we’re excited about that.

Stephanie:

Yeah. That gets back to the whole idea of long-term thinking. And yeah, I think the companies that’ll rise above the rest, especially with so many coming out right now, we’re going to be the ones who think longer-term like that. Think how to build that community and really engage your customers. That’s not just driven on that quick conversion.

David:

Exactly. Yeah. And if you look at the mega brands out there right now that are being successful, they’re looking at that exact equation, obviously in a different way than we are, but you see brands like Peloton and Lululemon’s acquisition of Mirror, they’re looking to check a series of boxes, whether it’s vertically integrating owning the hardware, developing a reoccurring revenue model. All these things that compliment and go hand in hand with a tight-knit community of consumers that are truly committed to you as a brand.

David:

Yeah. I think literally Lululemon’s one of the most amazing examples because they do such a good job of developing a community, creating these ambassador programs towards, there’s one up here on main street, you walk into a store and you look around and the imagery they use our local ambassadors. You look up on the wall and you see your friends up there and it’s like, “Wow, one, I didn’t know they were in a massive, that’s cool.” But also to be that smart to actually integrate local ambassadors into their communication and retail is just such a cool thing and makes the brand feel truly invested in this area [inaudible] do that-

Stephanie:

Yeah. I didn’t know they did that. That’s really cool.

David:

Yeah. And so they’re all in on the community thing, and I think this acquisition they made of this mirror product is a great way to continue to facilitate that at scale. And it’ll be really cool, not really case study, but brand to follow over the next couple of years and see how they continue to evolve because they truly are the best in the biz.

Stephanie:

Yes. I agree. All right. Well, let’s shift over to the lightning round, brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I’m going to ask a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready to go, David. All right.

David:

All right. [inaudible] this might be tough.

Stephanie:

I’ve done a done, I’ll have to cut you off.

David:

Yeah. Cut me off. Don’t be shy.

Stephanie:

All right. What’s up next on your Netflix queue?

David:

Oh, Netflix queue. I don’t know the name of it, but there’s a film series about the Formula One circuit that has been recommended to me and I wish I could remember the name, but it follows some of the drivers Formula One and it’s supposed to be really, really good. So-

Stephanie:

Drive to Survive.

David:

That might be it. I think you’re right. It saved in our account, which is very helpful. Thank you Netflix. That’s the one where we’re super psyched to see next.

Stephanie:

Right. That sounds cool. Yeah. I think someone on our team actually recommended that as well. And I think they told me to watch it from a business perspective. I’m not really sure why. I need to check it out.

David:

Wow. Well, you have to let me know what you think.

Stephanie:

Yes. What’s up next on your travel destinations when we can get out into the world and travel again?

David:

Man, that sounds so nice. Doesn’t it?

Stephanie:

I know. That’s why I asked it.

David:

Yeah. My wife and I have been talking about… And we originally were going to do it for a honeymoon, but things didn’t work out the way we want it to at that trip, but we still have not skied in Japan. And that is on our list for when things settle down, is to go and Japan such an amazing place and it’s such a great culture that we’re super excited to experience that a little more in depth than my business trips have allowed. And you would also get an incredible amount of snow. So this seems quite good as well.

Stephanie:

Yeah. Well, that sounds really nice. And then you can go and hang out in the hot bath with this monkeys. Have you seen that?

David:

I have seen that. I think my wife might be more excited for that than she is the actual skiing.

Stephanie:

Oh, I’ll go with her then.

David:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

I went to Japan and I missed that because we weren’t in the right area and that’s very sad. I’m like, “How fun would it be to take a bath monkeys?” I don’t know. Maybe it’s a tourist trap, but either way I want to try it.

David:

Yeah. It sounds pretty entertaining.

Stephanie:

Yeah. What one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?

David:

Oh, man. I mean, so much. It’s a good question. Well, here now, I’m getting ready to take the next level of avalanche certification and understanding how avalanches work so that we can ski and travel through the back country safely. I have some training on that, but there’s a lot more that I don’t understand. And so that is fresh on my mind as the snow is starting to fall and I’m excited to continue my education on understanding snow pops and risk assessment and making sure that we can [inaudible] snow, but do it safely.

Stephanie:

I mean, that’s a good one. And that is a unique answer. No one else has said that so far. So David-

David:

Thank you.

Stephanie:

All right. And then the last one, what one thing will have the biggest impact on ecommerce in the next year?

David:

I mean, the thing that comes to mind feels a little bit like a cop out just because it’s been so talked about, but I think 5G is really hard to ignore and when that fully rolls out the mobile trends that we’re seeing are going to become even more important and pointed. So, it’s going to put so much more emphasis on the computer you carry in your pocket rather than the one that you sit in front of it at the desk. We and a lot of other brands are still working on how do you crack that device in a way as meaningful as it could be in maximizing the value to the business that comes from a mobile device. So, I think that’s going to continue to become more and more important and it’s a tough one to solve.

Stephanie:

That’s a good answer. Or it’s not a cop out because no one else has said that so far. I thought you were going to say COVID-

David:

Oh, right.

Stephanie:

And then I was going to be like, “No. [inaudible 00:51:09].” So-

David:

No. I didn’t think of that. It’s the new normal, I guess.

Stephanie:

I’m glad. Yeah. Exactly. All right, David. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show. Where can people find out more about you and POC?

David:

Yeah. So, come find out more about us at pocsports.com. Can learn more about our product offering, our amazing roster of athletes and the things that are important to us and want to moment just to thank the amazing team of people, not just with marketing but everybody here involved with POC. Like I mentioned, they are as committed as anyone can be to why we exist and that permeates through our business and so many different ways on a consistent basis. And the people here and the talent that they bring and the drive and passion that they bring truly is what makes us an amazing organization. So, would rather say, thank you to them I guess than promote myself, if that option is okay.

Stephanie:

That option is okay. That sounds great. Thanks so much, David. Yeah. It’s been great.

David:

Yeah. I appreciate it, Stephanie. And great to speak with you.

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Episode 62