How Marketing Wins: 03 — Cons Alexis Sablone
Product: Cons One Star Pro Alexis Sablone
Premise: Marketing research done on myself to explain how ‘marketing’ caused me to buy.
Background: The decision to buy a pair of Alexis Sablone’s Pro Cons is eighteen years in the making starting with P.J. Ladd’s Wonderful, Horrible Life. To really get into my decision to buy a pair of Cons, we’d have to dive deep into Kurt Cobain’s choice of shoes and the long history of musicians wearing Chuck Taylors; this is not that. This is about Alexis’s One Star Pros and what Cons did to make me buy them. Full disclaimer, a friend of mine works at Cons, and my initial interest started years ago with generous promo boxes showing up at my desk, but, hey, that’s marketing.
Hey Mambo — 2002: When P.J. Ladd’s Wonderful Horrible Life came out, I watched with my jaw on the floor. The video was gold, still is, but Alexis stood out. She had one of the best kickflips, was into jumping down stairs, and good at slamming. I was 17, my skating involved both, mostly slamming, so I could relate. Plus, that ‘Mambo Italiano’ song still gets stuck in my head to this day. Bet you’re humming it right now, huh?
First Pair Free -2013: Skateboarding runs on promo. If you’re trying to get a check, you might have to wait a while, but if you’re looking for a box, say no more, you’ll end up with more product than you know what to do with. Awkward at times? Sure, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t happy when my friend started working at Cons and the Chucks I’d wanted since the days of Nirvana began showing up at my desk.
Solo Session — 2015: I ran into Alexis skating by herself at the DMV in SF one night. It always stuck with me. Something about knowing one of the best skateboarders in the world would probably still be skating whether their name was on a board or not was always cool to me. I used to run into Peter Ramondetta skating alone at the library too. He’s another favorite. Soft spot for the solo sessions, I guess.
City Lights — May 2019: The video for her first One Star shoe checked every box to make me want to buy stuff. Skating in traffic at night, a fitting soundtrack, solid tricks mixed with just the right amount of smiles to make it fun but not cheeseball, and of course Josh Stewart’s filming and Alexis’s animations. I was so hyped on the edit, I immediately put the shoes in my shopping cart several times but couldn’t pull the trigger. All-white shoes required a self-confidence I lack.
Adapt To Survive — June 2020: Expecting an upcoming Alexis ‘part’, I was a little let down by the park clip that came out with her second shoe. Then I remembered we were in the middle of a pandemic lockdown, Alexis unknowingly had Coronavirus during it and still managed to film a solo-session commercial. To top it off, she was donating the proceeds from her shoe to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund to help stand up against racism and police brutality and fight to make this country a better place. Enough said, I was again scouring shops online looking for a place to buy.
Not One Thing -July 2020: Cons and Alexis had already sold me at this point, but in my search to find a shop, I got sidetracked and started second-guessing buying shoes I didn’t need. Queue the next video, Alexis completely outdid herself again with a new video she filmed, edited, animated, and created music for. Any skater that multitalented and an architect to boot deserves my money. Case closed, shoes ordered.
Platform For People: The best brands rarely talk about themselves; they elevate people to speak for them.
Imagine your brand is a person at a party. Would you want it to be the one always talking about themselves and how great they are, or someone asking you questions, teaching you things, and introducing you to incredible people?
Count the touch-points above that caused me to buy, there is only one that was solely Cons. The rest are unique parts of Alexis’s story that Cons used their platform to tell.
Tell your brand’s story through exceptional individuals. Their stories will write yours.
If You Love Something Give It Away: Yes, that header is from a Bright Eyes song. Sorry, had to clear my conscious, now, back to the free shoes.
Like they teach you in marketing class, drug dealers are the best salespeople because they get repeat customers, “The first time’s free.”
Every major skate company, especially the shoe brands, understand this well. In all my years in skateboarding, the only company that rivals the free promo of Nike/Converse is Stance Socks, but that’s a story for another time.
Some people will knock it, saying promo is the easy way to market a brand, but here I am, four years since getting a box, searching the internet for the right pair of Cons to satisfy my addiction.
Back To Basics: Marketers are continually trying to reinvent the wheel to make themselves sound smart and keep their jobs.
No matter what bells and whistles get added to a product roll-out, it usually revolves around the basics; free stuff, free stories, and building long term demand.
I would have bought Cons regardless if my friend gave them to me or not, but without that initial promo, I might not have found the perfect fits and become addicted.
Alexis’s skating is incredible, but it was the relatable aspects of her story that I found inspiring and pushed me to buy. We grew up in the same era of skating. Both enjoy a solo session, and although I can’t skate, design buildings, animate, create art or compose music like her, it was learning of all these extra talents that made her my hero. And you have to buy your hero’s shoes. Pretty sure it’s a rule.
It took three videos and over a year for me to buy. In total, eighteen since I first saw Alexis skate, and twenty-plus if you want to count my initial interest in Cons starting with grunge in the ’90s.
Long story short. Don’t overthink it.
If your product is great, give it away.
If your story is inspiring, tell it often.
If your brand is strong, let it grow with people over time.