As a lot of people who follow SmithFly are aware, and some probably not, we appeared on the CNBC TV show called "The Profit" on March 12th 2019.
We had a nice little party at the shop for the premiere. We looked pretty good on it.
It looked like the star "invested" $1 million dollars in our company. But he didn't.
Most people have forgotten and don't care and that's fine. But there was some discussion after the show aired about the advice that "we didn't follow" or "implement."
So I'm going to start laying out what we did during the filming of the show and a detailed account of what happened here on the blog since it's been two years since he first showed up at our place I figure it's probably safe to tell our side of the story.
The Brand Extensions
During the first round of filming Marcus said he thought the word FLY was too specific and that it was only for fly fisherman and not the general public. Never mind that air planes fly, birds fly, and fly is an English slang for "cool." He thought the name is too much focused on fly fishing (and IMHO the fly fishing section at Gander sucks and doesn't make any money because they don't put any work into it, so his perception of it as a business is biased by bad data from his narrow minded buyers) so he asked us to expand the name to include a whole range of brands amended to the word SMITH.
He asked that we develop different brands for each category of product we had to offer. Fishing Gear, Apparel, Camping Gear, Tactical Gear, Recreational Water sports. So we did just that. We went through hundreds of iterations. As someone who spent a the better part of a decade working at Interbrand I'm a firm believer creating a valuable brand architecture.
It's worth noting that Gander Outdoors Cycling section is called SmithWorks. Kind of a an interesting coincidence don't you think? It sort of fits with similar anecdotes that can be found about his modus operandi of getting participants on the show to develop "new brands" and wrestling control of the new brands from them after the fact. Maybe it's a just a coincidence? Maybe not.
So on of our late night calls discussing these options I threw out SmithCoe as a play on SmithCo which is obviously already taken. The idea was that the Coe river is what gives name to a very beautiful place my family loves to visit in Scotland called Glen Coe. SmithCoe .com was available at the time of the call. He liked the name and the idea that it had meaning for us. We hung up. In the morning I got up, went to my computer to actually buy the domain and someone had purchased it!
I have no idea who purchased the SmithCoe domain but the people who did were silent and hard to get a hold of. I have a consultant who does domain purchasing for my design clients, he is very experienced and qualified and legit, and he said they were a ghost! So someone from the crew who was on the call or maybe Marcus himself had purchased SmithCoe.com out from under me and wasn't going to sell. Interesting...but whatever.
The rest of the .com addresses were available except SmithCamp, it could be purchased for $6500. He said to get them all, so I did and I spent probably $2-3K on acquiring them with the exception of the SmithCamp that one could wait.
I then worked to refine and implement the brand assets for all the sub brands across our range of products and collateral pieces. The recreational water sports brand was the most difficult. Marcus pushed for SmithH20 which I think is terrible, but as a partner I went with what he liked. As a designer I've learned to live things that you don't like in favor of things that work for the brand or stake holders etc. You just can't get too attached to any one solution if you want to be professional. So I threw out dozens of alternatives that I preferred some were ok and some better, but whatever.
I was hesitant to go down this path but I wanted to get the products in Gander Outdoors and Camping World and he told me, in no uncertain terms, that if I implemented these brand changes, and some feature improvements, that the products would be placed into his stores. The feature improvements and brand changes were underway.
I truly believe that this brand strategy was a solid one, the problem is that nobody knows what SmithCamp and SmithH20 are. Promoting new brands is expensive. If you don't pay to promote them then on the internet then nobody will see them. It's very simple.
And this is a problem strategically at his stores as well. One of his buyers told me that Gander has over 100 unique brands of their own products that they own and sell in his stores. The problem is that nobody knows who they are, it's essentially generic stuff with generic logos. And the problem with that in practice is that he, Gander and Camping world, don't have enough money to promote those brands to people and develop them well enough for anyone to have faith in them long term. It's just a bunch of knock offs. They might be made in the same factories, they might be great, but how does anyone KNOW? Brands give you faith in the product. Brands help you understand what to expect. Brand is SUPER important and he doesn't value it at all.
And the interesting knock-on effect of the show being on cable television and the internet etc is that SmithFly's SEO was only cemented further in place! So the show actually acted against the interest of developing the new brand architecture. The show gave ONLY the SmithFly brand more notoriety.
The tent and cabana raft inventory came in with the new brand logos on them. I still have some of those in stock and I still can't get anyone to go to those other website websites because people don't know they exist, because I have pay for promotion of the new brands. Which means I'm not paying for promotion of SmithFly. Which means I'm wasting money.
So we had to stop promoting them! It's hilarious, the very thing he wants to promote, the new brand names, are being defeated by his own show. It's wonderfully ironic.
So anyway, I'm going to upload a bunch of the explorations and lock ups etc we did for the show. I will also upload a low-res PDF of the catalog we did for him. The catalog another story all together!
So if you've read comments on the internet that "we didn't listen to Marcus" then you are just plain wrong.
Some of the initial concpets.
A more refined set of logos and lock-ups.
Another set of logos with marks etc.
The Cabana Raft development drawings.
Shoal Tent refinements.
The final Cabana Raft with SmithH20 logos.
At one point during the filming he said that he wanted us to have 1000 square foot store with in a store or what he calls "shop in shop" concept. It's basically a 30'x30' square of nothing but SmithFly (or SmithCoe) stuff. In the middle of filming he called the manager of the Dayton store, or at least it was supposedly him, and says, hey let's plan for 30'x30' in the Dayton. Manager say ok. They hang up. He says, if they like it in Dayton we can roll it out to all of our stores! Wow that's great.
That was in my wheel house so I sketched something up, no problem. That never became anything either. He was just BS'ing us.
Sketch of the SmithFly / SmithCoe store within a store concept. The idea was to replcate the vibe of the SmithFly HQ with brick columns steel ibeam looking headers and our products neatly displayed. But alas it wasn't meant to be.