Thursday, September 18, 2014

Zoo York Snowboards, the megacorporation and the ghost of Ed Hardy

Zoo York are the latest non-snowboard brand to try and break into this market, but unlike the recent successes by Nike and Adidas, Zoo York's efforts are a case study in how it shouldn't be done. This is how you don't learn from experience...

Let's go back to 2009/2010 and the travesty that was Ed Hardy's attempt to get into snowboarding. They started off with a range of generic branded-up snowboards...

But things took a spectacular turn for the douche with their incredible clothing line...

And their startling launch event...

Just one season later, after unsurprisingly miserable sales, they beat a hasty retreat, leaving swathes of overproduction in their wake, with snowboards still selling as new on Ebay years later.

Behind the Ed Hardy brand is Iconix Brand Group, a two billion dollar business who describe themselves as 'the world's premier brand management company'. What that means is that they are a leading exponent of buying troubled brands and then creatively rinsing every last cent out of them by allowing the brand to be plastered across any cheap crap that they can, before the brand dies a sad and protracted death.

Strangely, despite their epic Ed Hardy failure, someone at Iconix still has a taste for trying to grab a bit of the snowboarding pie and now they're throwing their keys back in the bowl.

Zoo York was founded in 1993, it was acquired by Marc Echo Enterprises (MEE) in 2001, and when MEE started to hit the skids in 2009 Iconix snapped up 51% of them, then 2013 they got hold of the rest of the company when MEE continued their downhill spiral.

So four years later and Zoo York is the next brand from the Iconix stable that's going to give snowboarding a try, and like Ed Hardy they're going to kick things off with a range of generic branded-up snowboards...

Although thankfully they've decided to steer well clear of producing a range of Tiger print jackets and budgie smugglers this time around.

I don't think anyone at Iconix is all that confident about the success of this project though and they've really not bet the house on this one. There's no sponsored riders, no videos, very little marketing, no social media, even the blog content on the site is just their skateboard news, and tellingly their snowboards are being built by a third party called Revolution. That sort of half-hearted approach stands very little chance of success and it's a wonder that they've bothered at all.

Another worrying sign for this latest attempt to break the market, is that this isn't even the first time Zoo York themselves have tried to edge their way into snowboarding. Back in 2004 they signed-up the then 14-year-old Luke Mitrani in an abortive attempt to expand into the footwear and casual wear market.

Still maybe between them all they'll be third time lucky. Except it isn't even the third time, there's one more example of snowboarding failure in the Iconix stable. Back in 2006 Iconix acquired yet another failing brand, Ocean Pacific (who knew they were still around?). Although primarily a surf brand, back in the late 80's and early 90's Op actually established a pretty serious foothold in snowboarding. They sponsored some of the biggest riders of the era including Damian Sanders, they funded some key events, they threw around the advertising dollars and they produced an epic range of eye-watering neon outerwear...

Diall 911, if you spot Damian Sanders dressed like a neon Guile about to Sonic Boom the shit out of a poor unsuspecting snowboarder.

Sanders in his pomp, styling out those hard boots, smothered in Op gear and branding.

Op sponsored events

Tight neon pants. It's going to be a long time until those two things coincide again.

How about this for a jacket.

Unfortunately in the mid 90's during one of Op's subsequent dips in fortune they pulled out of the sport and snowboarding's neon phase came to an abrupt and sadly missed halt.

But that was only after they creepily foretold of the eventual rise of the Flying Tomato

Today the only connection of the Op brand to snowboarding are some shitty licensed goggles that are available in Japan:

So now the zombie skateboard company of the zombie streetwear company of the zombie brand juggernaut are having their second attempt to break into a market where their zombie tattoo and zombie surf brand-mates have already failed. It's not going to be the epic failure that was Ed Hardy snowboards, but it's clearly not going to be the next big thing either. If anything it's just another sign of the continued demise of Zoo York as it joins OP and Ed Hardy as a brand that will only exist in the dustiest of discount store sale bins.

One last strange thing about this whole charade is that Iconix probably could have had a better shot at this if they had tried to resurrect the legacy of Op. They could could have focused on being the most awesomely neon snowboard company around, which at least would give them a real marketing difference (unlike Zoo York which is going toe to toe against Tech Nine in a fight that they will quickly and quietly lose). But even if they had tried with the best brand and the most unique positioning, the lack of investment or effort they're showing with the Zoo York entry would doom any approach to irrelevance

Better luck next time Iconix, maybe fifth time will be the charm.

Before you go, this is a good excuse to take a look at the excellent Powder and Rails episodes about Damian Sanders starring some of that awesome Op gear.

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1 comment:

  1. Revolution makes the boards because the guys running the show at Zoo York are here in SLC as is Revolution (ok ok technically Provo but shit you guys are 4800 miles away and don't know the difference, alright dammit 7800 km stop being nit picky!) They guys behind the brand have tons of industry experience but they are fighting an up hill battle, mostly because they just aren't getting the funding they deserve. Because like you pointed out Iconix really doesn't seem to be interested in establishing a brand as they are milking one. IMO they kind of shit the bed when they launched with no team. The planning for all of this happened as Forum was being dissolved. What I would have done is scooped up Stevie, Cam, and also approached Biittner who had just left DC. On their own they may not have signed to ZooYork but as a trio it may have been a bit more attractive. Then you have three very skate inspired riders (fits the image) in SLC (fits the budget) to launch the product with.


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