Keith Perera – Warrior Marketing
In the beginning
Back in 2012, we started planning for our next big stick. We knew we had to come to the market with something big and that the stick tech landscape was moving at a pace faster than ever before. With many companies launching many times during the year, the environment to capture a player’s attention with our latest and greatest was noisy and confusing. So we took a step back.
What do players even want?
It’s a simple question, but not a simple task to answer. We put together a consumer focus group crew and took our talents on the road. We sat with players in the locker rooms and peppered them with questions, and then went on the ice, mic’d them up and got their reactions to shooting with a Warrior stick. The exercise was refreshing and eye-opening.
Hockey is a team sport, and team is very important. We found that many of the kids are influenced by each other and what other players use for sticks. Having a good reputation in the room is more important than any marketing slogan you create.
We were losing our customer
Some of the kids we talked to WERE fans of ours, but we lost them. Whether it was to durability issues, legitimacy, crazy graphics–whatever it was–they stopped buying Warrior. We heard what they were saying and took a look at the team stick rack and it was evident: we were not considered as a high end stick choice for them.
The choices at retail are too complicated
Kids mentioned standing at a stick rack in a store and being overwhelmed. We don’t blame them. If you walk into a hockey superstore, it can be daunting. They needed a simple story, otherwise they would easily default to what they were using or to what their friends were using.
The weight/balance test in the store is very important. If they pick up a new stick, they need that “wow” weight factor. If they are choosing a new model stick, they need that stick to feel light in their hands.
Don’t believe the hype
Players are bombarded with technology buzzwords and they’re not buying it. Textreme! Dagger Taper! AxySym! Hyperflex! MonsterKick! Not one kid in any group could explain what any of the technology-related names meant. They basically called it “Bullshit Marketing.”
Try telling a teen to do anything. In this age of empowered teens and with the avalanche of knowledge available to them at the touch of the finger, our influence as a brand is weak. They’re not listening to companies on what to buy; they’re talking to their friends and seeing results.
Put up or shut up
It doesn’t matter what catchy name you call your technology–just make it work. “If the stick is light, well-balanced, doesn’t blow up and helps me score goals…then I’ll buy more and tell my friends to.“ In every city, the kids mentioned they wanted to shoot quicker: “If you have a quick release, the goalie will never see it coming.”
This gave us a pretty simple formula:
- Quick Release
- Simple product – looks pro
- Simple technology
- Lightweight, Balanced and Durable
So let’s dive into how we did it.
1. Quick Release
Our engineers set out to build “Quick Release.” But we found out quickly that you can describe quick release and build it, but there was no benchmark. How do you measure it? So they worked with a leading university that consults the aerospace and defense industry in composites to develop a test. The result was this:
Though it looks like a medieval torture device, it was a breakthrough in measuring the actual release time of a puck in a shooting motion. This measurement was crucial in the effort to “fine-tune” our stick via flex point and material layups. The result, after many iterations, was the formula for the layup content of QR.
2. Simple Product – Pro Look
Working with our pros and high level players, we put together a basic list of needs. Players are not graphic artists, so when they see a graphic they don’t like, they can’t always tell you why (except when there’s a dragon on it, that was pretty easy). So we asked them what they want.
- Clean top view (no graphics when I look down at the puck)
- Mostly black stick
- Matte finish blade
- Corner grip texture for added torque resistance
- Bright colors are okay, as long as I don’t see them
Now telling Warrior you need an all black stick is like telling your wife you need the new Ferrari coming out next spring–not gonna happen. But we understood that we could do it in a smart way. So, we looked at the underside of the stick in a effort to “make it Warrior,” all while keeping the top side mostly black. And if you’ve seen it in NHL games or in stores, the result was magnificent.
3. Simple Technology
We let the technology outcome speak for itself, and when we were thinking of a catchy name for it, it was simple – Quick Release. Why overthink it and attach Dagger Taper or True1 names to it when it doesn’t mean anything to the player? Quick Release is exactly what the stick does, so we named it that.
4. Lightweight, Balanced, and Durable
In the hockey stick world, these words are not easily grouped together. But our engineers found a way. We knew that if we built the lightest stick ever, but it was fragile, we would never sustain sales. So they put their collective brains together with our carbon suppliers to come up with better materials and processes to make light and durable go together.
Carbon layers are laser cut to remove weight due to overlapping layers. When you overlap layers, it just adds weight you don’t need. Plus, by laser cutting each layer, you get precise fit so the product will be more durable after production.
Working with Mitsubishi Rayon USA, the leader in composite technology, our engineers and their engineers created a new way of building fibers together. Using smaller fibers that permanently bond allowed for more strength per square inch, which leads to lighter weight, more pop life, and increased impact durability.
Building tighter inner shaft walls and built-up engineered corners improves impact strength in the shaft. The more impact we can survive, the longer your stick will last.
Innovations from our past also helped make the stick lighter than ever. True1 construction, first developed by us (under the Inno name) in 2004, eliminated fuse point in composite sticks. The blade and shaft are molded together to create a truly one-piece stick. The major benefits to this is full length flex control and cutting tremendous weight in the blade/shaft area.
All in all, the Covert QR project was long and involved many people. From our engineers to our test lab, to the relationship with the university and materials suppliers, to the production engineers at our factory, it was truly a collaboration. That team effort produced our lightest, fastest stick ever…and our pros, dealers, and those kids in all those cities are noticing.
Let us know if you have any questions–hit us up with a Tumblr comment or click the tweet to us button. We’re here to help!
| Update – Full Circle Podcast Episode 4 |
Listen to our Sr. Product Manager, Chris Jenkinson and I chat about the Covert QR and how Covert is tearing up the NHL – recorded Nov20 2014.
Click the Podcast image below:
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