Build a brand before products
Why it matters: to become relevant and make the emotional connection
'NOBULL is a footwear, apparel and accessory brand for people who train hard and don't believe in excuses. If you think gimmicks in your shoes make you a better athlete, NOBULL is not for you.'
They are taking over the CrossFit world by storm. With a strong and fierce brand, they make that emotional connection. Their base is in the USA and they have a dedicated EU shop. It all started online and expanding to pop-up and bricks and mortar shops. A basic collection with sold-out limited editions, excellent customer service, and strong social content and advertising, they rock big time.
What is special about their brand, how did they developed it and what we can learn?
- It is about a long term view and mindset. 'Make the pie bigger and not make our slice bigger. If we get more people doing this, our slice by definition gets bigger.’
- Build a brand and create content before you have products to sell. ‘Once we had the name NOBULL, it became a filter that guided everything.’
- Recognize that the product specs are not enough to become relevant and to have an emotional connection. ‘It is not about you, it is about them, your customers and their needs. Most of the times a product is created and then sold to people. Start the other way around, first the needs and use those as a filter to develop the product.’
Stolen with pride from the podcast ‘Chasing Excellence’ 'The Origins of NOBULL' by Ben Bergeron, ‘a show dedicated to dissecting what it means to live a life of excellence, both inside the gym & out.’
I have written down a part of the interview, edited bits and pieces to improve readability.
Entrepreneurial long term mindset
‘Reebok is coming back with an incredible offer.’ Without the slightest hesitation, the response was ‘go with them.’ ‘What they are offering, we cannot match.’
‘And what is better for them, is better for the sport. And if it is better for the sport, it is better for us in the long run.'
'That is such a long term view. Instead of what is better for us this week, this month, this quarter, … , it is about the long term. This is so refreshing because it is about making the pie bigger and not to make our slice bigger.’
'If we get more people doing this (CrossFit), the slice by definition gets bigger.'
‘They get it.'
Why NOBULL had to build a brand before they had a product to sell
[Ben asking] 'You were building the brand before you had the product. Most of the times people have a product and then start to build the brand on top of it. This is flipping it. You have the ethos first, and then find the product that fits. How did NOBULL do this?'
[Markus answering] 'It came from the name. Once we had the name NOBULL, it became a filter that guided everything. And that became the whole mentality about being a brand for people who train hard and have no excuses.'
'It is within the product. We try to keep the product simple and it performs with you the way you need it to - and nothing else. Once we had that then we could start to set that mentality. And that drives the content and everything else.'
Content creation before they had the products
'From the very early stages, even before we had the product, we developed content. You can be very creative in the way you shoot things. You could not see the shoes they were wearing, you can set the tone. You couldn’t necessarily see what the product was, but you can feel it.'
'We did this a lot out of necessity. Because once we started working on it, we had the timeline for launching and we did not have the products. When we realized the product was going to be delayed even more, we were forced to be more creative around the way we talked about the brand and the mentality.'
'The very first piece of content we created was for the factory, a 60’’ spot. Their response was ‘wow this is different and this is exciting’. And from that moment on everything started top-pick up a lot faster.'
Become relevant, recognizing that product spec isn’t enough
'How do we become relevant within the CrossFit space? We were not thinking about how we are going to compete (with other brands). We were always thinking about what we are going to say, and what connects with us.'
'One thing that was very clear for both of us (founders), …, we felt like brands talk about ‘where our products, our shoes can make you run faster, jump higher or make you stronger’. And we didn’t agree with that.'
'The only thing that is going to make you faster, stronger, any of those things, is you to put in the work. That is where the NOBULL mentality 'no excuses' comes from. And that is connected really well in the broader Crossfit community.'
Build an emotional brand connection
'Building an emotional connection to a brand and not relying on the product specs. Therefore you need to build a brand before you have the products. You have to fuse it with emotion to make it work.'
'It is not about you, it is about them, your customers and their needs. Most of the times a product is created and then sold to people. Start the other way around, first the needs and use those as a filter to develop the product.'
'For NOBULL the needs (of the athletes) are about stability, durability and there is no reason it can’t look good. That was the filter for the materials.'
'We went to look for the materials, the upper for our training shoe, the ‘super fabric’. It is a highly durable material, a military-grade material. It makes a lot of sense for everything we are doing in CrossFit with rope climbs and super stable for Olympic lifting we do. It came from a purpose around the need were going to be.'
'Above and beyond you need connection. That the people you are speaking to, feel that you get them. If your message is about you, there is no connection. Nobody is really excited to go out to lunch with somebody who constantly talks about themselves, they want to find about you and if you speak to them and their needs matter. That is where the connecting starts.'
The key takeaways: It is about a long term view and mindset, 'make the pie bigger and not to make our slice bigger. If we get more people doing this, the slice by definition gets bigger.’ Build a brand and produce content before you have products to sell. ‘Once we had the name NOBULL, it became a filter that guided everything.’ Recognize the product specs are not enough to become relevant and have an emotional connection. ‘It is not about you, it is about them, your customers and their needs. Most of the times a product is created and then sold to people. Start the other way around, first the needs and use those as a filter to develop the product.’