Folk talks to Ernest Capbert, passionate Marketing Director of cold-water surf brand Finisterre, about how they surf between the waves of e-commerce, brand and creative.
Q/ Your business has been launched completely online - what advice would you give to other online retail start-ups?
First things first, as with any kind of business, you need to narrow your focus down and commit to that focus.
The fact that we are online makes it easy for us to take on new and exciting angles that become available to us. It's tempting to try to make your brand seem constantly new or add new products into the mix, but logistically it plays in your favour if you narrow down your focus. It seems counterintuitive but, actually, the more focus you have, the more doors start to open up. We know we want to play in the online market because that's where our market is and it's the best way for us to reach them. We know we don't want to work with retailers because of the complexities of cash-flow.
A lot of people get really worried about doing the next big thing but honestly you should focus on doing one thing and doing it well.
If you do it aggressively, you will embed your brand in the mind of consumer.
Q/ You tell an amazing brand story through your films and photography. Where did the idea begin?
The first thing you have to do is figure out who you are.
When we started Finisterre, we were focusing on technical clothing for action sport; there was little that sold surf-specific functionality. Our main point of sale was our use of special fabrics but we were super-small back then; we were still figuring it out as we went along.
The brand that you see today is based on one simple principle - that people don't buy what we do, they buy why we do it. People always traditionally focused on their USPs, but in this day and age, with the likes of early adopters, influencers and opinion leaders, the way we exchange information has completely changed.
When we find out about a brand, we are naturally inclined to gravitate towards them when they are emotive. We want to know about people who are trying to change the world, and we want to know why.
The why? behind Finisterre is our belief in cold water surfing becoming as big as warm surf. For that, we know you need totally different products.
After we worked that out, we began to work out how was the best way to communicate it - online, we're getting hit with video all the time.
Everything online seeks to distract us, which is why the content we produce is visually based - it's emotional. It grabs people, it lets people in and shows them exactly who we are. One of the old school branding gurus said that the chief problem with quality is variation and I stand by that.
Q/ How did you achieve it?
Everything starts with a great team - it's very much about building the right team. You need the people around you to believe in what you're doing just as much - live it, breathe it, be inspired by it. People are hugely important. The location is important, too. When it came to cold water surf, we had to consider where it was being done in order to capture the essence of the whole sport.
We were really able to romanticise cold water surfing in a way that got people to start asking questions about it. If you promote the category, not just your one brand within it, you can get people involved and excited about it. We want to look back and feel proud that we were the ones that started it.
I'm very much about promoting the category, then defining it. To the rest of the world, surfing is just a sport for scantily clad people in the tropics. That's not our surfing and we've gone in all guns blazing to make sure that people know about it. The most recent film we made was lengthy, which was a risk. I don't think being disruptive is a bad thing.
Nothing that's ever been achieved has been complacent; it's been radical and disruptive and it gets people thinking differently.
The films are a chance to pull people deeper into the story. I actually wanted people to say they didn't get it; you want to hear it because you're putting it out there and you want people to think about why they're not seeing the same old stuff. It's good to take a chance. Ultimately it creates a shift in thinking and that has to happen when you're trying to change something.
Q/ What can we expect from you in the coming year?
We're going to focus on evolving our social, we want to own #coldwatersurf, we want all roads from this to come back to us.
You can become overwhelmed by jumping on board with new technologies, but we just care about the available mediums to help us do what we're doing well.
We've taken a new guy on board to help push our social strategy but the biggest ticker for us is going to remain in visual imagery and video. Film for us will be huge and I'd like to think we'll have a big enough team in the future that anything that we talk about that's worth getting a camera in front of will do. Our beliefs are strong, focused and narrow and we're going to be a lot more potent in the future.
Q/ What's been the biggest lesson you'll take away from the year?
I'd say believing in something; finding that thing is a very empowering thing. A lot of people, let alone companies, think about their 'whats' first. We're all searching for our beliefs, trying to figure it all out. Finding out what I truly believe in and working to try and realise it doesn't feel like work - it's a great thing.
If you're trying to change the world, you have to believe in what you're doing. You can't sustain a business otherwise. You have to empower your team to make hard decisions.
Q/ Finally, what's your advice for someone taking on the role of a Marketing Director?
Be radical & take chances.
You have to inspire the people around you and show them where you want to take them, which requires vision.
You have to be willing to change things in this role and you can't do that by walking on eggshells. Ask questions and learn to put yourself out there, because if your plan is to please everyone, you will accomplish nothing.