June 16, 2015 § 14 Comments
After enjoying two of its best years since the world-renowned performance eyewear company was acquired by Italian megabehemotholithic ubercorporation Luxotica, Oakley trumpeted its strong sales and growing market share with a dramatic corporate restructuring. Long-time CEO and engineer of the brand’s smashingly successful Prizm brand, Colin Baden Powell, has been restructured to the position of Chief Design Engineer in recognition of his important work in developing this benchmark product.
CitSB got a chance to sit down with “Scoutmaster” Colin and talk with him about the exciting prospects for Oakley’s future.
CitSB: You must be pretty excited about this demotion, I mean, restructured up-leveling.
Colin Baden Powell: It’s the highlight of my career and I’m so appreciative that Luxotica has shown me this level of confidence.
CitSB: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with the Prizm and how it has helped revolutionize the performance eyewear market?
CBP: Absolutely. We decided to start from scratch, clear the slate, and come up with something that has never done before.
CitSB: Which was?
CBP: Develop a reverse-breakaway product.
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: In bicycling, a “breakaway” is where you “break away” from other riders and then pedal off quickly to be the champion winner. So we wanted to “break away” from our competition. It’s a bicycling sport term. That was our concept.
CitSB: Pretty cool.
CBP: Yes. So in order to “break away” from our competition and pedal to the championships we decided to do that in reverse. In other words, instead of trying to get ahead of everyone we would drop behind them and do something innovative that they couldn’t see and copy.
CitSB: Because you’d be behind them?
CitSB: And that’s the Prizm?
CitSB: Pretty neat. Then what?
CBP: As was part of our plan, the first two years we’ve been far, far, far behind the competition, tucked safely way behind them. In bicycling sports it’s called riding off of your back.
CitSB: Being off the back?
CBP: Whatever. So we successfully did the reverse breakaway off of your back and the main office in Milan was blown away by the execution. They are crazy for bicycle racing sporty stuff in Italy. They went crazy when I showed them what I meant by a revers breakaway. I don’t speak much Italian, but they were excited, I can tell you that. Who is Fausto Coppi?
CitSB: Coppi? He’s, uh, Italy’s most famous standard breakaway rider. So they probably really did appreciate the reverse breakaway concept. Maybe you could call the next generation the “Fausto.” They will love that. So how has this concept been received by the market?
CBP: The response has been incredible. We managed to keep sales way down from the date of launch ’til now. In fact, we’re doing 1/10 the business of our competitors.
CitSB: Sounds like you have this riding off of your back stuff down.
CBP: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty hardcore amateur bicyclist myself.
CBP: Fifty miles a week, consistently, six or seven months out of the year.
CitSB: So tell me more about the restructuring. That really sounds exciting.
CBP: It is, and the folks in Milan recognized that I didn’t just do it on my own. They’ve given Ted Li, our incredibly innovative senior vice president and general manager of the North American market, which is globally the biggest for Oakley, an amazing opportunity to work as a sales manager at Quiksilver.
CitSB: The surf underwear company?
CitSB: I didn’t know that was part of the Luxotica corporate sausage machine.
CBP: It isn’t, but he had so much success here with the Prizm and our other authentic products especially the bicycle racing market thing that Luigi Florentino dello Cappucino, the CEO in Milan, decided to give Ted the opportunity to go innovate somewhere else. What is it that the surfer people say? “We are like stoked dude, mahalo.” Right?
CitSB: Um, right. Other exciting promotions?
CBP: Well, our senior VP of products, and formerly strategy, Chris Donnelly, has always been a key part of what has made Oakley the following-edge company we’ve become, exemplified by the Prizm, and Luxotica gave him the dream promotion.
CitSB: What was that?
CBP: He has always wanted to do high-speed corporate turnarounds, so they gave him an hour to clear out his office and “turnaround” out the back door. Proud to say he got ‘er done in 59:00 flat. Taught that boy everything he knows. Josee Perault, SVP Global Sales, and Link Newcomb, SVP Retail, were already restructuring for a major promotion into a free market job search position scheduled for September, but they were told they don’t need to bother coming in the building ever again as a kind of going away “thank you.” They were touched, really touched. Carline Starner, SVP of HR, was given an exit package that she probably had to create herself. Awkward, perhaps, but it was the highest compliment if you think about it.
CitSB: Sounds like Oakley’s on a tear. Any thoughts about the future?
CBP: Yes, once we get finished with our reverse breakaway project we are going to segue into “Project Sprunt.”
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: It’s another pro bicycling term, sprunting. It’s where you go lots faster than everyone else at the very end of a race but actually they all pass you. There is a really cool blog we all follow here at Oakley that has lots of deep insight into the pro cycling world. The writer is an expert on bicycle stuff. Inside tip here — he’s the guy who we get our best ideas from.
CitSB: What’s this, uh, blogger’s name?
CBP: Not sure. He goes by the handle “Wankmiester,” or “Wankmeister,” or “Wanky” or something like that. Say, mind if I show you our latest glasses? The Oakley Spruntmeister, engineered for reverse breakaway artists.
CitSB: Thanks, I think I’m late for another appointment.
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May 3, 2012 § 11 Comments
I got the following letter from Colin Baden, CEO of Oakley, and in the interest of fair and balanced journalism (a despicable concept), I have decided to share.
Dear Mr. Wankmeister:
The chief director of our marketing program, Jean-Luc Francois de Peeperville-aux-Faible, brought to my attention that you have been publishing what can only be described as one-sided, ludicrous, offensive calumnies in regard to my firm’s fine products. Moreover, you openly admit to having an incestuous relationship with one of our minor competitors in which you receive “swag” for favorable reviews. This is contemptible. However, I take this opportunity to challenge you, Mr. Wankmeister, to do two things. First, provide my firm with equal time so that we can explain to your reader what it is we do and our corporate philosophy. Second, provide us with some of the same publicity for our upcoming Cinco de Mayo Ride that you have provided to the Belgian Waffle Ride, an event promoted by the previously mentioned insignificant competitors about whom we are not even remotely concerned. I’ve attached a PDF of our ride’s flyer for your review. I look forward to speaking with you in person.
Colin Baden, CEO
So…what’s a Wankmeister gonna do with a missive like that? First of all, I’m posting the ride flyer. That’s it, to your left. Hope you’re getting all frothy at the chance to ride with a dork on a steel bike. Second, I’m posting the transcript of my interview with Mr. Baden. Enjoy.
Telephone: [Ring, Ring]
Oakley HQ: Bonjour!
WM: Uh, hello. May I speak with Mr. Baden?
Oakley HQ: Personne ici parle Anglais. Avec quien voudrais-vous parler?
WM: Huh? Does anyone here speak English? Mr. Baden, please.
Oakley: Joosst a meenoot, please.
CB: This is Colin.
WM: Yo, Colin. Wankmeister here. ‘Sup, dude?
CB: Oh, thanks for calling. I was hoping to get a chance to speak with you.
WM: I see you’ve got this Cinco de Mayo ride thing, hot on the heels of SPY’s Belgian Waffle Ride. I take it you’re a Mexican?
WM: Cinco de Mayo. It’s a Mexican national holiday. Celebrates the defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla.
CB: Defeat of the French? That’s terrible! Everybody loves France! I’m an honorary French citizen! I thought it was a taco and beer festival. We’re trying to use this event, along with co-sponsor Rapha, to promote our vision of what we want cycling to become.
WM: What’s that, exactly?
CB: It’s a new concept. It’s called Bike Looking.
WM: Bike Looking?
CB: Sure. It started in France, out of a collaboration with Luigi Martini della Pottbelli, the Italian women’s underwear designer who came up with the Assos Zegho, and Nigel Cloddingham, the British ballerina who designs for Rapha. They realized that rather than all of this sweaty, nasty, unpleasant exercise that’s involved when you have to pedal the bicycle, wouldn’t it be better if we could just get people all in one place with really elegant, pretty, perfectly tailored bicycle clothing, and have them stand around admiring each other’s polished new bicycles while updating FB over cappucinos? Of course, with an idea like that, the first partner they thought of was Oakley. We were flattered to be a part of it. It’s our vision of what cycling should be.
WM: Uh, sounds really fucking stupid, I mean, interesting. So, tell me about the Cinco de Mayo ride. 42 miles around a bunch of fucking Irvine business parks? What self-respecting cyclist would do that shit?
CB: We wanted to do something that I could also participate in. Not some long, arduous, he-man type ride where everyone got sweaty and dirty and where you had to train for a year type thing. More something suited to, you know, the average person. Here at Oakley we’re all about average.
WM: I see that you’re providing beer by, uh, Tecate, whereas SPY’s BWR had local craft beer with a custom BWR batch and label. What’s the thinking behind Tecate?
CB: Glad you asked. Tecate is owned by Heineken, a multi-billion dollar global conglomerate that specializes in selling urine-flavored beverages on the strength of clever, large market, mass advertising. We like how they think. Do you drink your own urine, by any chance?
WM: Uh, not usually.
CB: You should try it some time. It’s sterile.
WM: Uh, yeah, sure. So, uh, moving along, dude. SPY’s CEO is a Cat 1 ‘cross racer, national caliber ex-marathoner, accomplished surfer, and world record holder of the Beer Mile. This seems to inform SPY’s approach to its product: active, polarizing, irreverent, walking the talk. Could you tell me a little bit about your cycling background?
CB: Ah, well, I, um, er…
WM: Which USCF category do you currently race?
WM: Never mind. I’ve noticed that at all of the local races here in SoCal, one of your big competitors, SPY, has a very visible and supportive presence. They sponsor teams, give out lots of free shit, put on epic events, have a rad van. It’s very grass roots. What is Oakley doing to counter this?
CB: SPY? SPY? Don’t make me laugh. Please. Let me put this in perspective. I’m very much into music. Are you?
WM: A little. Not much.
CB: Okay. Look at it like this. I like to tell people that Oakley is Barry Manilow. Platinum records. World famous. 800-lb gorilla with plastic surgery and a hairpiece. Sequins. Loved by chubby, middle-aged housewives everywhere. SPY is a garage band. Get it?
WM: You mean, like the Yardbirds?
WM: The Yardbirds. They used to be a garage band back in the 60’s.
CB: Exactly. How funny! What a funny name! The Yardbirds! Yes, exactly! SPY is the Yardbirds! We’re going to use that! Good one, Mr. Wankmeister!
WM: Moving along, dude. Is Oakley planning on doing anything on the local bike racing level in terms of sponsorship? Out on my rides, fucking everyone’s wearing SPY.
CB: No. We never give product or discounts to the local yokels.
WM: Why not?
CB: We believe that the way to sell our product is by making it inaccessible. So we sponsor the best racers in the world, knowing that the grubby guys and girls who are out there racing these criterions–that’s a kind of bike race–and the local roading races, mountaining races, stuff like that, those people will have to buy our product. I’m an architect by training. Build it and they will come.
WM: I see. Now, on the technology front. SPY apparently has some pretty exciting and innovative technologies. Can you tell me a little about Oakley’s R&D?
CB: Our what?
WM: R&D. Research and Development.
CB: Oh, that! Sure. Our researchers spend literally thousands of hours posing with different frame prototypes in order to find out which ones look the best at cafes and apres-ski. One of our newest frames, the SagSider, is assymetrically designed so that you can tilt your head onto the palm of your hand to get that silky, “Do me, doody” look without the frame looking whomperjawed up against your tilted head. We spent months at some of the finest milk bars in Europe to develop this look. It’s going to be a smash with our Bike Looking project launch. Rapha’s designed a special “Gentleman’s Kit” with a little bow-tie that goes with it, and you can switch out the flares on the bow-tie to match the interchangeable lenses.
WM: What about lens research? You know, improving the actual lenses to protect the eye, improve sport performance, provide better vision?
CB: I told you I’m an architect. And a pretty out of shape one, at that! Ha-ha! All this sitting makes my back hurt. Sorry. What were you saying?
WM: Nothing. So, any other plans to counter the SPY insurgency?
CB: Can I talk with you off the record?
WM: Fuck, dude, my middle name is “Discretion.”
CB: We’re working with a lady from Jamaica, Obeah Wanga de Igbo. She specializes in remote counter-marketing strategies.
CB: Yes. We provide her with a photo of the CEO of the competing firm, and she provides us with special phrases and tools to bring them to their knees. We start out with pushpins, then graduate to full scale, three-dimensional dolls and needles. I have to say, I think it’s working.
WM: Uh, yeah. Right. Well, good luck with that Cinco de Mayo Ride. I’m sure it will be a big success. And have a can of urine for me, okay?
CB: See you there?
WM: Um…you never know.