While most marketers in the action and outdoor industry attempt showcase their products as survival essentials, Mons Royale founder Hamish Acland has veered away from this trope to present his brand as a fashionable label that offers both utility and aesthetic appeal.
This approach has now been continued in a new promotional clip that showcases imagery that is both sexy and utility-based. Featuring Jossi Wells, Christy Prior, Connor Macfarlane, Will Jackways and beautifully shot in the Mons Royale hometown of Lake Wanaka, the over-minute-long video provides a glimpse at the lives of these extreme sports enthusiasts.
"We worked with CoLab Creative who are based here in Wanaka, to produce the video and do the bulk of the filming," says Acland. "We also sourced footage from our partner film companies that work directly with our athletes. The concept came from the Mons creative team internally including Hannah Aubrey, myself and and now includes Richard Birkby. Richard is ex BBDO and starts full time with us next week, this is a significant hire."
Acland says that the early response to the video has already been very positive across the Mons Royale international team.
"We launched the video at our European sales meeting, this includes all of our distributors. They loved it, and they will use it to show potential retailers what Mons Royale is about and when performing staff trainings. It really shows how scalable video is, and how effective it is at telling a story in short space of time. It also really shows off our team of riders who are world class and global names in there own right, Jossi Wells has a far greater social media following than us so it was a great opportunity to connect with his fan base."
And though this clip has just come off the production line, Acland is already anticipating the production of more Mons Royale content in the future.
"We have wanted to do this type of content creation for a long time, and we are now just getting to the size of company to make it really happen. Well we are happy with this video we are already looking forward to the next film project."
Several months ago, NZ Marketing contacted Acland to ask him a few questions about the brand for the 'Owner/marketer' column. Here's what he had to say.
How do you go about marketing your business in New Zealand?
At Mons Royale the product comes first. We aim to design clothing that people fall in love with and talk about. That love is amplified through various channels be it social media or in-store marketing. Part of the brand’s DNA is to help take New Zealand action sports global and we do this by partnering with events, filmmakers and athletes. Our latest partnership was with the New Zealand Olympic Team.
What separates the Mons Royale brand, and how is this reflected in your approach to advertising and promotions?
The majority of action and outdoor brands focus on marketing their gear by demonstrating that it will help you climb Everest or land bigger tricks. The typical advert would be an action shot and the product. It’s how they design their product and it’s the way they sell it, too. We take more of a fashion approach to both product design and communication. Like fashion brands, we use beautiful imagery that showcases the product. As most of our marketing takes place in stores and media that are native to the action sports community, it’s quite different to see this kind of work in those environments.
Your first major ad campaign was very sexy. Were there any complaints about it for its portrayal of women? What did people think of it?
Our aim was to position ourselves as an underwear brand, and that type of marketing is literally the norm. You will also see that we run some fairly provocative imagery of our male models too. It helps get the conversation going for sure. We do get a lot of comments from women saying “thank you” for making technical underwear that is sexy, rather than looking like it’s meant to climb Mount Everest in.
You recently went to Russia to promote your products? How was the trip?
Our trip to Russia was for the Olympics in support of our partnership with the New Zealand Olympic Team. To be there with the team and see them perform on the Olympic stage was amazing. Especially as we’ve been working with some of the athletes for a long time now. I’ve known Jossi Wells since he was eight years old and to see him perform on the Olympic stage was fairly surreal. It was also extremely cool to get feedback from the team that they were stoked that we were involved and that they loved the team kit. This included a team only New Zealand Olympic Team Monsie, which is a full merino one-piece, black with white piping, with the Olympic rings and silver fern.
How does marketing approach differ when it comes to the international market?
We use the same levers but in different combinations. For example, our New Zealand story becomes very much secondary. We have a global fan base that includes some of the world’s best action sports athletes because of the performance and design of the products and it’s that fan base that is at the forefront of our communications. We’ve used social media to amplify fan-love through Facebook and Instagram for a couple of years now and the endorsement of big-name athletes, whether official or otherwise goes a long way in demonstrating international relevance. Some of those relationships come from being part of a global community of riders and that’s another key factor in our success. We don’t just sell to that community – we’re a part of it.
What technology do you find most useful in marketing your business?
Word of mouth is still one of the most effective channels for us, so any technology that helps us to amplify that, especially social media, is useful.
How did you establish a gap in the merino market when there are already so many competitors?
We didn’t create the gap but rather showed the world that there was one. The majority of brands in the merino game were targeting the older outdoor market. The product was very technical and didn’t always resonate well with a younger crowd. We saw the opportunity to target a younger, more style-discerning audience and address their needs. Our solution was to create merino clothing that combines all of the technical attributes that make it great on the mountain with a style that looks good at après ski or around town. It’s that versatility that creates the value and has people coming back for more.
Not many brands become so successful so quickly. What do you attribute the rapid growth of Mons Royale to?
As we were targeting a gap in the market, we weren’t talking to retailers about trying to replace an existing brand they carried; we were really explaining that they were missing a sale, as this audience just wasn’t buying merino. Once the retailers grasped this insight they were more willing take Mons Royale on. It helps that action sports retailers tend to be staffed by people from our target audience and they love wearing Mons Royale. We have some really strong advocates in shop staff around the world – they’ve made it part of their lifestyle and their commitment is a massive asset.
This rings true with influencing other industry people such as the media and pro riders as well. Because Mons Royale didn’t conflict with their already established commercial loyalties we were able to become their personal first choice, their favourite in technical underwear and base layer. For example, if we were an eyewear or outerwear brand, we wouldn’t have been able to work with a skier like Jossi Wells because he has major contracts with Nike and Oakley for those product groups. Underwear is another matter though!
What was the most difficult part of getting the brand where it is today?
Keeping it all together. The clothing game and especially merino clothing is a complicated beast to design, produce and sell globally. We are really fortunate that we have such a great team, which crazily enough is just five people.
What has been the biggest lesson you’ve learnt since you first started the business?
There are so many lessons and many of them big. Stay focused on the big issues. Your team is key. Develop relationships with experts that you can go to seek advice from or mull over issues with a beer or coffee.
What advice would you give to someone who was thinking about starting a business in a field that looks over-populated with competitors?
Don’t, unless you are targeting a gap that you can defend once your competitors know about it.
- This interview was originally published in the May/June edition of NZ Marketing.