The CMO Show:
Neil Ridgway on mastering the...

Neil Ridgway, Rip Curl International CMO speaks to host Mark Jones about the changing nature of surf marketing and how to use innovation and storytelling to stand out in your industry.

How do you fund a surfing habit? If you’re the founders of Rip Curl, you turn it into a day job. In 1969, two surfers did just that, and now 50 years later Rip Curl is a global powerhouse of surf retail.

Rip Curl chief marketing officer Neil Ridgway is charged with bringing big ideas to life. He’s been with the company for 16 years, and says while it’s important to celebrate its 50 year history, it’s a smart play to stay focused on the future.

“Surf shops around the world are declining so we’ve had to become skilled at retail in our own right. We’ve got 350 retail stores around the world but we still service a lot of wholesale customers too. So it’s really become a hybrid business just by nature of the fact that we make great surfing products and we have to distribute them to our customers,” Neil says.

“How you get in trouble is when you don’t stick to what you do well. We are a surfing company, we want to make surfing products for surfers. So while we’re not the biggest company in our industry as far as turnover goes we’re definitely the most profitable because we know what our customers want to buy from us.”

From fast-drying wetsuits to a GPS that can track your surfing time, all of Rip Curl’s products are backed with stories. Neil attributes the company’s long term brand success to its ability to make great content and forge long-lasting influencer relationships.

“In the business sense what we are is a brand marketing company. The brand leads the way: the products, and the way we tap into our customers and get our customers to love us. They understand what we are when we get someone like Mick Fanning and send him to a remote location and he scores perfect six foot waves. We’re authentic. It’s what they want to do and what they want to be.”

Tune in to this episode of The CMO Show to find out what it takes to create a long-lasting brand, how to connect with your target audience and what’s next in the evolution of Rip Curl.

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The CMO Show production team

Producer – Charlotte Goodwin & Natalie Cupac

Audio Engineers – Daniel Marr & Tom Henderson

Got an idea for an upcoming episode or want to be a guest on The CMO Show? We’d love to hear from you: cmoshow@filteredmedia.com.au.

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Transcript

Host: Mark Jones

Guest: Neil Ridgway

Mark Jones: People for the longest time have been fascinated by Tesla, specifically why they don’t spend any money on marketing. They’re always doing something interesting as a brand. We have this interesting tension around creating a story out of something and trying to capture people’s attention. But what if you actually did dig a bit deeper and actually do something as a brand that’s different? Suddenly, you’ve got an entirely different strategy.

Mark Jones: Thanks for joining us on The CMO Show. Mark Jones is my name, and it’s great to have you back. My guest is Neil Ridgway, Chief Brand and Marketing Officer at Rip Curl. I got to say, I’ve grown up going to the beach and this brand in particular has always kind of been part of my life, and as a young kid aspiring to have the clothing and all that sort of stuff, what I like about the Rip Curl story, and you might be aware of the events that they hold, these incredible moments in time that they create around the world, in Portugal and here in Australia.

Mark Jones: The thing about this brand is that they’ve become so much more than just an apparel maker, and obviously surfboards and all the rest of it, but they’re part of the community. I mean, these guys really do imbed themselves in the community, and the way that they partner over the long term with pro surfers is an incredible model to learn from, when you start thinking long term. So where there’s tension around short-termism versus long-termism, if that’s a thing, they’re really living it out.

Mark Jones: Neil himself has been at the brand for a really long time, and so he can speak to this with real credibility.

Mark Jones: Neil Ridgway, thank you so much for joining us on The CMO Show.

Neil Ridgway: No problem, happy to be here.

Mark Jones: Fantastic, nobody ever got sacked at Rip Curl for going surfing, it’s a quote you’ve got on your LinkedIn profile, I love it. Tell me what that reveals about the Rip Curl culture?

Neil Ridgway: Well look, it’s absolutely true. You want to be the customer if you’re at Rip Curl, you want to wear the products, you want to be in the water, we live in Torquay, in America we are close by great beaches like Trestles and Huntington beach. In Europe our headquarters is in Hossegor which is the epicentre of French surfing, in Portugal, same, it’s super tubes. Our company is set up for surfers and we encourage everyone to surf. You can walk out the door at ten AM if it’s pumping as long as you don’t take the piss and come back and do your work when you need to. It’s all good.

Mark Jones: I love it and I’m really interested to hear about your experience as the chief brand and marketing officer at Rip Curl because I think regardless of the sector that you’re in, regardless of where you work as a marketing and comms person I think there’s a lot that we can learn about the way that you engage with your core target audience.

Mark Jones: But before we get to that tell me about the genesis of the brand, the company, where did it come from?

Neil Ridgway: This is our 50th year, we were born in 1969, the founders still own the company, it’s a privately owned company, Brian Singer and Doug Warbrick, or Sindig and Claw as they’re known, and they’re still involved in the company at the Brian’s the chairman of the board and Claw is a non-executive director, and they just knew each other from surfing Belle’s beach back in the 60’s and Brian was a science teacher and Claw was a shaper and they were looking for a way to keep surfing without having to work, so they started making surfboards and not long after that they realised that there was a market for wetsuits and they started making wetsuits and it’s still our number one core product to this day.

Mark Jones: And then presumably from there you went into other parts of fashion, retail and so forth.

Neil Ridgway: Yeah, look, it took quite awhile. We’re really a wholesale business for a lot of years and in many ways we’d still like to be but surf shops around the world are declining as people get older and their kids don’t want to take on bricks and mortar surf shops so we’ve had to become skilled at retail in our own right. We’ve got 350 retail stores of our own around the world but we still service a lot of wholesale customers across the planet too. So it’s really become a hybrid business just by nature of the fact that we make great surfing products and we have to distribute them to our customers, so if the only way you can do that is via an online store or a bricks and mortar store you’ve got to go out and do it.

Mark Jones: Yeah I don’t know if many people appreciate just how much the internet is transforming the surfing business. I think at a headline level many of us would be aware of your competitor Billabong, has been in all sorts of trouble. It’s not an easy time. Is that just simply a case of the impact of online retail or is there something else happening?

Neil Ridgway: Certainly. We see online retail as an advantage, we don’t see it as a threat. We’re a full price full service brand, we don’t discount. Obviously we do gift with purchase and we’ll reward loyal customers but we have loyal customers in that wholesale market, people who own independent surf shops, and you sell them a product, you can’t undercut them somewhere else. We have our own stores where we know that our customers research our products online and like to go in our stores, our stores are brand statements so when they get in there they feel what the brand is like.

Neil Ridgway: We don’t want to see that we’re discounting our products in another channel and making them feel like they’ve been ripped off in any way. So we stay pretty consistent in pricing and for us it’s not a threat, at all. For us it’s become, in the last five years, a very important part of our distribution plan and will be going on. How you get in trouble is when you don’t stick to what you do well. We are a surfing company, we want to make surfing products for surfers and so while we’re not the biggest company in our industry as far as turnover goes we’re definitely the most profitable because we know what our customers want to buy from us.

Mark Jones: So in that context what’s the biggest change that’s happened in your business in the last ten years, it seems like you’re holding onto your price premium but there is still a lot of change going on. What’s going on there?

Neil Ridgway: The biggest change would be the distribution. As we just said, trying to find ways in a very competitive market to get your products to people. I mean, and that’s an advantage as well, all that type of change is not always negative. We were part of a Hollywood film with Bethany Hamilton in it, the young surfer who was attacked by a shark and lost her arm and is probably one of the most famous surfers on the planet.

Neil Ridgway: that film made by Sony Pictures grossed 50 million at the box office in the US, it probably did better than the Shawshank Redemption in the first two weeks it went out, but most of the people who watched that film were across  middle America and they couldn’t find a Rip Curl product if their life depended on it. Down the track there’s an online store and if you see that film and you live in Ohio and you relate to Bethany Hamilton and you can see how inspirational she is you can find the product on your phone when you walk out of the cinema, and you can have it delivered to your door in 48 hours.

Neil Ridgway: So it’s an advantage, those changes are advantages and you just have to embrace them and find ways to use them to get your products to people and get your brand message to people.

Mark Jones: That’s amazing. I think a lot about the story of brands and how the story of your brand interacts with that journey, that type of story that you see among your customers and obviously there’s this question of what business are you in? And you would say surfing products, but really how would you answer that question?

Neil Ridgway: If you’re asking me in the business sense what we are is a brand marketing company, the brand leads the way, the brand leads the products, the way we tap into our customers and get our customers to love us, they understand what we are when we put someone like Mick Fanning on the search and we send him to a remote location and he scores perfect six foot waves, we’re authentic, that’s what they want to do and what they want to be.

Neil Ridgway: There’s a whole bunch of people who just like going to the beach, particularly in this country and so if you think of those people at the bottom of the pyramid who are beach goers we’ve got products for them too. By sponsoring someone like Mick who’s pretty much a household name here in Australia, they can relate to our products and they’re interested in finding out what our business can offer them as a customer, so we’re a brand marketing company first and foremost.

Neil Ridgway: And we have a hybrid distribution, online, bricks and mortar retail, wholesale.

Neil Ridgway: That’s why we sponsor a lot of team events, you get to put your brand in front of a lot of people who may not be surfers but they’re interested in the surfing lifestyle. So we’re a brand marketing company. We’re an apparel company, we’re a watch company, we’re a technical wetsuit company, we’re a footwear company, we’re an eyewear company. When it comes to the products we make we have a lot of divisions and a lot of skews but we only have one brand across them, unlike some of our competitors who have bought into other brands.

Mark Jones: Tell me about how you’ve structured your marketing and your brand activities, how much weighting do you put on influencers and the sponsorships of people like Mick Fanning and how do you then allocate your budget across other activities?

Neil Ridgway: We would probably spend over the odds, right? On that type of stuff. Because that’s just what we do. I think that the quintessential direction for that strategy comes from the belief of the founders that we are long gamers, we’re not short term players. People will dip in and out of surfing, fashion brands will dip in, they might come for a year they might come for three years. When it suits them, before they go and try to influence customers in another sector or with another brand statement. We’re real long gamers in surfing, so we have massive pro teams across the planet that begin with 12 year olds and end with people like Mick.

Neil Ridgway: We run a world tour event as part of the world surf league in Portugal for men and women. Now, there’s not many ways in Europe which is a fractured surfing market at best, that you can say, “We’re big and we’re a serious player in this sport.” So to over invest in an event like that in a market like that lets you communicate to people in that premium way, because they understand it, which is different to hear. Everyone understands Rip Curl here from the time they can, watch their phone or watch the television or see an ad somewhere, because everyone knows about it here because we’re a beach lifestyle company.

Mark Jones: So how would you measure the impact of that investment?

Neil Ridgway: It’s a really good question. CEOs and product people will say we make the product, the product makes the money, the marketing people just spend the money and I would say without the brand you couldn’t actually, you just become a commodity player like a lot of the fast fashion doors that retail, vertical retail, doors that are out there. You’re a fast fashion commodity player and you’re going to make $9 t-shirts, but we don’t make $9 t-shirts. We make really good quality surf products and they’re backed up with an authenticity and I think at the core of our customer base, if you’re right inside that primary customer for Rip Curl they believe we’re authentic and they believe our products work and so they’re happy to have us in their set of brands that they trust and cherish, I suppose.

Neil Ridgway: Certainly they’ll use other products from other people, I’m not saying there’s no one else who can make a good pair of board shorts, but the stuff that we have that really rings true it serves us really well, so that’s outside of the short term advertising, short term social media plays, short term go to market plans that you have around PIP and windows and everything that churns through that weekly and monthly cycle you’ve got to have a really strong long game if you believe in a vision like ours to be the ultimate surfing company.

Mark Jones: What strikes me on reflecting and thinking about your brand, you’ve been around for a really long period of time, you mentioned the founders are still in the business, you’ve got these sponsorships and partnerships that have been going for a long time, you’ve mentioned investing in long term outcomes, that’s really quite counter-cultural or at least different to much of the short term thinking we see in the marketplace these days.

Mark Jones: Is that just a product of your unique culture or are there other strategic reasons behind it that you can identify?

Neil Ridgway: The main strategic reason is that if your brand is strong and understand who it is, when you find new territories or new avenues of distribution and new places to find customers you have a very strong blueprint, strategically, to roll out. Now you may roll that out through a licensee. We have quite a long going but a strong licensee business in South America, a strong licensee business in Asia and they’re not company owned subsidiaries they’re licensees, but they get a hell of a lot of assets out of us in the product and brand sense, and so it lets you expand and enter new markets very easily, that’s one strategic reason.

Neil Ridgway: Again, it comes back to the day to day, here in Torquay or the USA where the centre of excellence for board shorts and swim is, you know who you are, you know what the product is. You’ve got to put that on trend and seasonal fashion flavour into apparel but where we do really well is when we have apparel that is built for surfing, built for weather, built for the outdoors, it’s got some technical advantage and it looks and feels great and we tell that story all the way around the world at the same time, that’s when we really win strategically and tech products are easier to do that with than fashion products and surfwear and apparel.

Mark Jones: Tell me a little bit about the market and maybe we can start understanding some of the narratives and storylines that you’ve reflected here, because it would seem to me that you can be long term and strategically focused in your outlook if the customer base is stable and I find that a curious thing, are you experiencing ostensibly stable levels of purchasing over time? Is it seasonal and you can predict that once a year they’ll come in for a new wetsuit or a surfboard every two years or whatever it might be, is that the kind of thing that’s going on at the customer base?

Neil Ridgway: Well, if you go off what you know, so you know what you know, you know that you’re going to sell a lot of stuff in summer, in the surf industry. October, November, December, January in Australia, April, May, June, July, August in the northern hemisphere, you know you’re going to make a lot of hay there. But when you’ve got e-stores all the way around the world and you can track customers and you can see what they’re buying and you can serve them individually and you can customise to their needs then you can increase sales individually one on one and somewhere in the middle of all of that is bricks and mortar retail.

Neil Ridgway: And bricks and mortar retail is unique, it is a short term game, you’re right. If the product on the table, at the front, is not very good then it doesn’t matter how great the store looks they’re not going to buy it. But if the ranges are consistently good and the research has been done way back in the design phase so that when it hits the market the colour is right, the colour palette is right, the trim’s right, the print’s right, the art-age is right, and then you wrap that around an ambassador then you know it’s going to fly.

Neil Ridgway: But sure you can make products in fashion that are unsuccessful and that’s why you need outlet stores. That’s why outlets exist, it’s to clear through the stuff that doesn’t work not the stuff that does work. I don’t mind saying, we’ve bucked a national retail trend in Australia in our single brand stores. We had a great summer. Sometimes you can say it’s the weather sometimes you can say it’s consumer sentiment but I firmly believe that if the brand is strong and the product’s good and people know about you, you will get consistent patterns of purchase.

Neil Ridgway: The toughest part for us is in the winter, right? Selling surfwear in the winter.  

Mark Jones: Tell me about storytelling and if I can draw a parallel to another lifestyle brand which of course would be Redbull, have invested enormous amounts of money in content of their own and I’ve seen on your own website you’ve got videos with Mick Fanning and team news and different forms of content, what’s the role of storytelling in the growth of your brand?

Neil Ridgway: It’s huge. And it sometimes, we make so much content and quality content that at times I’m not sure that we know what to do with it all because there’s so many great stories. I just came from a meeting on an artist collaboration with a New York based artist called Madsteez and we’ve teamed him up with a pro surfer, Mason Ho and he paints murals of musicians and sports stars all over the world, and so he’s developed a range with us. And so the content assets that we’ve had to build from a three minute master clip to a bunch of 15 second teasers and a whole bunch of stills and everything in between, it’s just fantastic.

Neil Ridgway: And my creative director, James Tyler and his team do an incredible job on telling that story and it will get cut through and because we have a big event like the Rip Curl Pro that we sponsor we can plug that content into the world surf league’s broadcast and roll it out to the masses very easily, so those events are not just about the bums on seats and winning world titles, they’re about getting your product to market in key advertising times through those channels that I couldn’t afford if I had to just buy the media, so they’re really cost effective ways to take the stories to market.

Mark Jones: What other avenues are you exploring? How do you make sure that you keep up this really tight connection with your customers

Neil Ridgway: We have pretty strong social media teams in house, we do pretty much everything in house. We have our athletes, people talk about influencers here all the time and trying to find new influencers. I like to remind them that people like Alana Blanchard have two million followers, Mick Fanning has over a million, Gabrielle Medina, the world champion, has over six million, Bethany Hamilton has over three million. We’ve got some pretty good influencers within our own market. Trying to find new ways to reach new audiences that actually fit with the brand, that’s always a challenge in the digital side.

Neil Ridgway: But we stay on top of it that way. My job is really to make the content around the product and the brand and around the idea and then I don’t think that much about the channel, I’ve got the people in here who know how the channels operate, they take that content and they service the customers that way. So it’s really about the idea first and making sure the idea reflects the brand. If it doesn’t match up with the brand values and it’s still a great idea we just don’t do it, it’s probably a great idea for someone else.

Neil Ridgway: So it’s the idea first. The difference between us and Redbull and I’ve spent a bit of time with the Redbull guys lately, here in Australia and Jason Sargent the MD up there, and the interesting thing is they spend more money than we do on content, certainly as a percentage of their top line, but the thing that they understand very well is how to sell basically one skew. There’s a can of Redbull, there’s a sugar free Redbull, there’s some new types of Redbull that come out now that mix well with cocktails, I can guarantee you that because I had few of those with them, but it’s basically one skew.

Neil Ridgway: We have mountain wear, footwear, eyewear, watches, apparel, accessories, equipment, wetsuits and the number of skews fighting for a place in our own storytelling is a tough thing to manage with a set amount of money.

Neil Ridgway: So it’s really sticking to those core products and having a global messaging plan that, unfortunately, some products won’t get that. They’ll be in stores and they’ll have a swing tag but they won’t get anything near a campaign.

Mark Jones: Are you something like the skew cop?

Neil Ridgway: The skew cop? No. The product people are the skew cops because if they make too many skews they end up in the outlets, but my job’s really to define the hierarchy of the messaging and to take the message out in a long term, medium term and short term way and you also ask about other channels. We’re long termers, and we might be the only ones who still believe in it, but we still do a lot of print in the core market. Not like we did ten years ago, but we won’t be the ones that pull our advertising out of surfing magazines, and surfing magazines are folding around the world every month because some of them haven’t worked out how to be relevant now in that new age, or to attract advertising.

Neil Ridgway: The ones that are good, they understand now that they’re no longer the source of daily information or even hourly information by the second, basically, but they do have a rich place to play in terms of storytelling. So if we make a TV episode, if we make a film and it cuts back to social and it goes online and all of that great content ends up being a 15 second clip on Instagram and a 30 minute long TV show, we always shoot the stills, we always send a journalist, we always have the written form to tell the story, because people do like to sit and they do like to feel paper and smell paper and they like the tangible, long effect of having a great print product lying around on the table.

Neil Ridgway: So we’ll use whatever channel online or offline works to tell the story.

Mark Jones: Something I’m curious about is this tension that brand marketers have around telling stories that are product centric or brand centric versus customer centric. And clearly you’re in a market space where the experience of surfing and the culture and lifestyle of surfing is all that really people care about in terms of a primary outlook on life. How do you understand that dynamic?

Neil Ridgway: I mean, again, that’s horses for courses. A travel story, Mick on the search, we did a trip to a place called The Snake about two years ago which had never been surfed before and it was the most amazing wave you’ve ever seen in your life and we couldn’t really even show the journey and the colour because it was that secret. I think we spent about 20 grand in post production taking out any of the telltales on the beach, so no one could see where it was, and really only shooting it from 25 metres of sand out into the ocean, and the only product story in that was the board short he was wearing. It was just his team hero board short and that was the only product focus that you saw in it, and it was all about the world’s best surfer in probably the world’s best wave that no one had ever seen before, that’s total search, total brand, but gee the payback on that comes in the products.

Neil Ridgway: You can see, his short always sells well, it has to be a really dog worn design not to sell well, but because he’s Mick, and he wears the high and great technical end products, I might be wrong in saying this but my belief is I want Rip Curl to get product for the story. I want it to get credit for it, I understand a teasing period where you just put out through different channels by association that it peaks people’s interest, but at the end of the day I’m going to bookend it with Rip Curl in some way because that’s advertising. I’m in the advertising game so I have to make sure that we get credit for that so that people will, somewhere, down the track, associate with one of our products.

Neil Ridgway: So it’s not always a hard sell that says this is advertising about a product. With technical products though, if you have a new innovation and we have incredible R&D, particularity in wet suits and watches and mountain wear.

Neil Ridgway: We developed the world’s fastest drying wetsuit, we spent a lot of time in short term technical advertising and marketing detailing the tech products and you can’t do that in a long form storytelling way, you have to really illustrate, piece by piece, what makes it up and why it’s going to work. And all you’re trying to say is, surfers needs this because when you take your wetsuit off and it’s cold, if you hang it over a clothesline in 30 minutes time it’ll be dry again.

Neil Ridgway: Traditionally you’ve got to wait three hours to put it on or put it on wet and cold and no one likes that, so when you have those great product breakthroughs that service exactly what the customer needs-

Mark Jones: You’ve got to tell that, you’ve got to tell that story.

Neil Ridgway: You’re not telling them about how great the history of the company is or you discovered a new wave or isn’t Mick Fanning great, you’re just going, “Hey, this product is incredible.” And so it’s a very strange mix for us because you could take the tact that you just tell a long brand story and that’s it, we’re kind of, really, we meet in the middle of that axis all the time.

Mark Jones: Let me ask you another related question. The Netflix documentary, have you done one? It seems to be a big thing now. Incredible traction with people who are interested in the story behind the story,there’s got to be a huge scope for a surf brand.

Neil Ridgway: Yeah, there is and really it’s our 50th year so we’re saying Born at Bell’s right, that’s our call out for our 50th year of surfing, and I don’t want to age the brand, I don’t want to spend a year telling the story about how good we were 50 years ago. We’ve got so many young customers, it’s rich in tradition and that’s one of our values but you’ve got to keep telling the stories of now.

Neil Ridgway: Having said that, we chose not to do a film about two years ago and we launched through Penguin Randomhouse written by a guy called Tim Baker who’s quite a well known surf author, the Rip Curl Storybook, so it’s completely independently published by Penguin and it’s hit all of the major book stores and department stores. I think it’s the precursor to a Netflix documentary.

Mark Jones: I am really intrigued by that because if you think about the journey of a brand and a 50 year old brand at that, certain brands reach a point where they engage in what I call destiny marketing and that is look at us as a mature brand, we’re giving back to the community, we have a great rich heritage and a really compelling story to tell and we’ve got a narrative that speaks to lifestyle and culture, whatever it might be, in a broader way. It’s really a position of strength to tell this story, to say, “We’ve gone through all of the different stages of a brand’s journey, the trials and the growth and all the rest of it.” I’m interested in how you take that mindset and continue to feed it through all of your marketing efforts.

Neil Ridgway: I think it’s about the next 50 years. You’ve got to look back with tradition, we are a hardcore traditional brand that has been at every professional surfing milestone and lifestyle milestone for that matter, that’s how Rip Curl formed, you know, just that desire to be on the search. But, there are a consistent role call of young people who want to surf, enjoy that lifestyle and be really professional, they may be designers, they may be product managers, they may be sourcing and production, they may be marketers, they might be artists, they might be retail staff, but they all want to work for a brand like that because it’s authentic,there is a sense of security in that 50 years but there isn’t any sense of certainty here at Rip Curl.

Neil Ridgway: No one is indispensable at Rip Curl, nobody’s bigger than the brand at Rip Curl, it doesn’t matter who you are or how long you’ve been going, maybe except the two guys who own the show, but no one’s indispensable and so you’ve really got to understand the vision, understand the brand, understand where you’ve come from and continue to make the best products.

Neil Ridgway: And the mission statement in the company values and handbook is about, the reason the place exists is for all of those people to enjoy their search inside a surfing community and make great products or make great messaging and be professional, act with honesty and integrity, think about customers, you don’t put your foot down, we never go, “Okay, that’s it, that’s good enough. We’re the ultimate surfing company.” We’re not. You’ve got to keep your pedal to the metal otherwise you wake up one day and everyone else has gone past you, that’s for sure.

Mark Jones: Yeah that’s right. Tell me about your thoughts on innovation how do you approach the challenge of being different in your marketing across all the different streams of activities, your other content, you’ve got your events, there’s all sorts of activations you’ve got happening, so what does that look like to you?

Neil Ridgway: If I think of one thing individually, if I think of it just in isolation we will not be innovative. It comes from the idea and it comes from understanding all of those platforms that you’ve got and tying them in, that’s when it’s really innovative and you see after a month long campaign roll out where we’re going to launch this Madsteez collection and every one of our pro surfers is going to walk down the steps to Bell’s beach in round one and they’re going to be wearing a wetsuit painted up in those colours, and the commentary panel are going to go, “Whoa, what’s that?” They’re going to be loaded up with a bunch of assets, they’ll know what to talk about it, the advertising will follow, it’ll run through our socials, the artist’s socials, it’ll run in retail windows.

Neil Ridgway: The product will be on the table. So it’s about having a big idea and making sure that you don’t miss any opportunity to get it out there and that, I think, is innovation in product marketing and brand marketing. It’s really hard to come up with a GPS too, we have a GPS watch where you can track your speed you can track your distance you can track your time you can track your number of waves, you come in and it syncs with your iPhone, it goes into the app, all of that data from all of those people who are in that surfing club is there.

Neil Ridgway: To be honest, we haven’t worked out how to tap into it. That is the next step for innovation as far as customers are concerned, is getting that data and trying to find ways to talk to them and for any brand or any company I think that’s such a massive task

Mark Jones: Do you have to hire more people on the analyst side?

Neil Ridgway: Yeah. I think you have to have good advice externally, like we are internally focused when it comes to ad agencies, I think my department is the ad agency for the Rip Curl group and it only has one client, and it’s Rip Curl, but it’s a global ad agency. It has a bunch of different product clients and divisions that act independently but you need a good CRM, you need help with that, you just can’t do all of that on your own in Torquay.

Neil Ridgway: You need expert advice and we’re not afraid to try and get that. But when you think of all of that data around that watch that’s one thing, and then you think of all of that data from the people who have gone through the tills, and then you think about all the data, the people in the shopping cart, we’ve never been people that look back, we’d rather spend our money on what the next thing is than analysing what we’ve just done, we’re like a shit house at that type of research, because we just push onwards what we know our customers where they are and what they want, and the world has changed and so I think innovation for us will come from understanding how to use all that information a lot better and we’re not there yet.

Mark Jones: That’s great. I’ve got say, we started out talking about the “No one gets sacked for going sacked for going for a surf at Rip Curl” which kind of speaks to the laid back surfer lifestyle, but you guys are really switched on, I’m really impressed with the detail and the scope and the long term thinking that you’re applying across your business and in marketing, so obviously it speaks well to how it’s being run and how you see things going in the future so I’m super proud as an Aussie and a beach lover to see you guys doing well and I really just want to thank you for being our guest on the show, it’s just fantastic to get insights into the way you think and to understand that and to share that with the marketing and comms community, so Neil thank you so much for being our guest on the show today.

Neil Ridgway: And thank you, thanks for having me, it’s been great talking to you and it’s sort of made me think about sort of like a working lunch for me, it’s good. I’ve got a few more ideas myself after talking to you.

Mark Jones: There you go.

Neil Ridgway: I really appreciate your time and thanks for having me.

Mark Jones: It’s a pleasure.

Neil Ridgway: thanks Mark.

Mark Jones: You know, there’s an interesting dilemma that I liked in this conversation. they make so much content and quality content that at times he’s not sure what to do with it, because there’s so many great stories. And that’s the case for so many brands that we speak to is that your customers have incredible stories, and, the canvas suddenly becomes so much bigger than you can imagine.

Mark Jones: It’s an interesting take, and so the next step is to say, “What is the best story I can tell right now and how can I connect that best story to moments in time that resonate with my customers and build on that?” It’s a really interesting, change from years ago, when I used to talk to brands all the time about how can we create content? We don’t have any content. We have no assets to build on and this mindset of, “We need to build it up.”

Mark Jones: Now we’ve got the opposite problem is what do we do with all this stuff? So that’s fascinating, particularly, also, the work with influencers and sponsorships, there’s a lot to learn from what Rip Curl is doing. I hope that you’ve got some really fantastic insights out of my chat with Neil Ridgway.Mark Jones: As always, we’d love you to tell your friends about the show. Keep subscribing and sharing, in particular, or leave some comments, do give us your feedback. Until next time, thank you.


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