The good folks at TaylorMade-adidas had a shindig at the company nerve centre in Carlsbad, Calif., on Wednesday evening to celebrate the anniversary of a rebirth as opposed to the birth of the company.
If you recall, the company had lost its way by September of 2000. Not only had it lost its reputation as an innovator in its cherished metalwood category, but sales were suffering and its financial future was in question.
“The morale of the people here at the company was not overly excited and we really didn’t have a lot of the things in the pipeline that would say that things were going to get better for us,” said chief executive officer and president Mark King.
It was time for a change and King realized the challenge ahead when he announced that the company was relaunching with a new logo, new product and a new attitude while at the 2000 PGA Championship at Valhalla, when 200 people were invited to a press conference.
Five showed up.
“We actually took the people that were working the barbeque stand and gave them a pad and pencil and said, `Please act like a media person because we need to make this declaration to more than five people,’” said King.
The official relaunch took place in Carlsbad on Sept. 8, 2000, and even King wondered.
“I don’t think it was practical. I don’t think it was realistic. It was just a dream,” he said, adding there was more to that celebration 10 years ago than a new logo and new product.
“More importantly, we had a new attitude about the potential of the future. That night, we made a pretty bizarre declaration that we would become the best performance golf brand in the world,” he said.
“We had two giant competitors that still do very well today that were both doing extraordinarily well and we weren’t doing so well,” said King.
Whether TaylorMade-adidas is now the No. 1 performance golf brand in the world is a topic that will always be open to debate in golf, but there is no denying that it is a powerful brand 10 years after that relaunch.
“If you walk down the halls of TaylorMade today, certainly people here would argue that we have become the best performance golf brand in the world,” said King.
“To me, it’s not whether we have or not because there’s a couple of competitors that certainly could probably make the same claim, but what’s inspiring to us is that we’ve come really from not being in the game and considered one of the elite companies to at least being in that conversation,” he added.
Over the past 10 years, the company has introduced products such as the 300 Series, the R7 driver with its moveable weight technology and Burner irons. It’s ventured into new territory such as footwear, apparel and golf balls where products such as ClimaCool apparel, the Tour 360 shoe and the Penta ball.
On Thursday, the company will unveil its latest products to the marketplace on a worldwide webcast with King that begins at noon Pacific time. To watch, click here and load the interactive video presentation. Video footage will be available afterwards, as well.
According to King, this will be just the beginning of launches to come over the next 12 months in several categories. He even let it slip that an R11 driver is on its way soon.
“We need to build a culture that’s built on innovation. For us, innovation isn’t necessarily just the product technology. Innovation here is about leading change and that’s the world we live in,” said King, pointing to constant innovations in other products such as computers, cell phones and others.
“Those who are out in front of the change curve will continue to go forward and we are focused not only on product technologies, but how do we take product to the market faster? The consumer is demanding speed,” he said.
“The model in our business has changed dramatically in the last five or six years and we think we’ve been out in front of that, which is probably the main reason that we’ve continued to grow and grab market share is the speed at which we operate,” said King.
“Why would golf be the only category that innovation doesn’t speed up? Well, I promise you, it won’t be,” he declared.
There’s another side to that statement, one that King readily admits. While the fast introduction of new products and innovations is common these days, it also leads to confusion in the marketplace and inventory that goes out of date faster with so many introductions.
“I agree,” said King.
“I think it’s a legitimate concern. Believe me, we have the concern with our sales people, with retail customers and certainly at the consumer level. The money that you spend to create a product like R9, you’d hope that the product would last for four or five years to recoup your investment,” he added.
“The reality is this and we’ve studied the market very closely – there’s a core group of golfers that buy new products every year and those people are buying new drivers at $299 or $399,” said King.
“They’re going to buy the newest, hottest driver every year and so, if we don’t have a new, hot driver every year, that means that year, we will give up that market share to one of our competitors and we just aren’t willing to do that,” he said.
King adds that TaylorMade-adidas continues to try and find a workable solution to the shorter life span of products that goes with such rapid introductions, but he adds that excitement in the marketplace has its upside for the retailer, as well.
“We know the downside of rapid innovation is confusion in the marketplace. We know that some consumers wait for six, nine, 12 months to buy the product at $100 less,” he said.
“We realize that, but we also realize when we talk to our retail customers that if it wasn’t for rapid introductions, they wouldn’t be selling any products at high price points, at high margins,” he said.
“It’s a tough model to live in because the pressure on innovation is intense. It takes a lot on the marketplace to manage that – we’re working on solutions all the time to clean up the marketplace (of) old product, so we can put new products out there,” he said.
“Certainly, in the way the industry has evolved, that is the biggest challenge that I wish we had a better solution for,” said King, adding that introductions will actually speed up going forward.
“We didn’t invent the speed to market of new technology,” he said. “What we’ve done is we’ve seen the technology industries and how they operate and we’ve modeled our model after theirs. We will increase the level of introductions because we have to – that is the game we’re in.”