Hardware · Marketing

How to test brand positioning/ messaging for a brand new snowboard product?

Adrian Li Experienced Entrepreneur, Brand Strategist and Growth hacker

September 27th, 2016

After 2+ years of developing my snowboard hardware product, I have finally finished the prototype and have a factory lined up to manufacture marketing samples for pitches to retail shops.  The product has two functions: 
1) A hook that will take the weight of the hanging board off the rider's leg during the chairlift ride; 
2) A snowboard lock that permanently sits on the board for very easy access

I'm now working on the brand positioning and messaging of the product.  The hook function is something that currently doesn't exist in the world.  I'm deciding on whether to market this as "A hook that also serves as a snowboard lock" or "A snowboard lock that also serves as a hook".  Because the hook function is VERY foreign to snowboarders, I'm hesitant to "lead" with it fearing that the World won't get it.  On the other hand, the hook is the sexiest part of this product and I'm worried to be selling "just another snowboard lock".

Any suggestions on how to position this product/ test the messaging?  

Thanks in advance,

Mike Wallenfels VP Sales at Hydro Flask

September 27th, 2016

Adrian, I was a founder of Mountain Hardwear and have worked within the outdoor and snowsport industry for over 30 years. Currently I run sales for Hydro Flask and am an angel investor with a fund here in Oregon, so I listen to a lot of pitches from emerging companies. I also live a very short distance from Mt. Bachelor and Snowboarding is a big part of our life. Regarding your question about leading of following with your hook idea. Best of all worlds would be to brand and feature both equally which is where the creativity comes in. However, picking one over the other as the primary message helps to focus your story and create your products differentiation. There are already locks on the market, so unless yours locks better than others, I would not lead with the hook feature. Having a hook to rest you leg is your primary differentiator, so lean into that concept. Also letting people know that it also serves as a lock drives the consumer to convert the purchase at the store. Good luck out there!

Stuart Long CEO - Progressive Leader & Growth Catalyst

September 27th, 2016

Free although mostly subjective is your social media channels as suggested.  Costly yet more objective is the paid focus group route as suggested.  What problem are you solving? Leg pain/discomfort on the lift?  Theft of one's prized possession? Solve for that,  not your feature.  You can always tag line what your solving for.  'Blank blank snowboards,  Get Hooked' 

Rill Hodari

September 27th, 2016

Every good positioning or product message starts with some customer insight that drives the product benefit statement. So ideally you would draft a concept board that has a statement like "Product X Brand makes your current snowboard more comfortable and convenient so you can perform at your top level." The presumed insight being that the problem of the hanging board weight and unattached lock are compelling pain points that may effect performance or cause injury? I am guessing at this because I don't know anything about snowboarding but the key is that you know or have done the research to find out that the problems you are solving are compelling and what compelling customer benefit they are a barrier to. Then you list on this concept board some (at least 3 reasons to believe this benefit statement). For example you might write , "1. Each year XX number of snowboarders strain their leg before they even hit the slopes due to the weight of the board on the chairlift. 2. Minor injuries such as leg strains are the #1 barrier to consistent practice and better performance on slopes. 3. Product X hook is made of a hard plastic resin that can safely hold the weight of any snowboard until you get to the slopes."

So the layout should be:

Key benefit:

Customer insight:

Reasons to believe:


Then show a product shot on a snowboard to show how to use.

You should conduct a survey with this concept board among 100 demographically balanced snowboarders asking purchase interest, believability, value (if you also show price) and evaluate if each piece of the statement (benefit, insights & RTB) are compelling to the respondent (i.e., does it make them more likely to purchase the product).  Lastly, draft concept boards for a high competitive product benchmark and a lower competitive benchmark (one that you should beat) and conduct separate parallel surveys among 100 additional snowboarders each.  So you should have 300 total completed surveys in the end, 100 on each concept board.  Try not to script the competitive benchmark concepts poorly.  They need to be true and accurate for those products to give you the best analysis in the end, otherwise you are just lying to yourself.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

All the best.


Andy Collen Producer, Director,Owner, Happy Trails Animation

September 28th, 2016

This reminds me of when I started to learn about brand building in high-school.  My personal experience comes from living in Aspen from the 70's-80's and being the very first Burton Snowboard distributor in Aspen.. out of our garage.  

The real answer is to be honest.. love your product but also be able to distance yourself as if you are new to the industry.  Truth is your product should be able to sell it's self...marketing will only incresse the numbers.  


Nofyah Shem Tov

September 27th, 2016

The only way to really know it is to put it out to your Facebook and Twitter followers, throw some stuff against the wall and see what sticks.

Josh Levitan Product & Marketing Guy

September 27th, 2016

Spend $200 on Facebook ads and A/B (or multivariate test) various messages.  Have the same picture and link back to your website and buy traffic in one or two of the countries you're considering selling your boards.

Try out a version or two of the ads featuring the hook prominently in the copy/headline and a version or two with the lock most prominent.  See what has a better clickthrough rate.

In an ideal world, you'd have your website setup where you have a purchase page (even if it just clicks through to "Coming soon" or an email form or something).  That way you can track clicks from Facebook all the way through to a purchase or purchase proxy to see which message is most effective.

Rill Hodari

September 27th, 2016

Just a few market research words to the wise.  Focus groups and qualitative research is good for identifying the range to responses out that might be possible and in-depth review and modifying the messaging wording.  Measurement of which message is best suited for a population and how it compares to the competitive and which message might steal share from which competitor is a quantitative or survey experiment.  Lastly, social media is great for some things but it does not allow you to control the sample you get back and therefore how comparable the read on a message vs another product or product message.  Poor research tells lies, people.

Don Davide Chief Strategy Officer - Victoria Fine Foods

September 27th, 2016

Adrien I would imagine you've gotten user feedback during the design process - if so start with that if not then start wit your intent You goal is to first discover how a "believer" or some jokes on the hook feels and talks about the benefit of having the hook ! Assuming the benefit is more runs per day because your legs aren't fatigued (?) Then in a focus group or one on one session with a seasoned moderator The moderator will lay out a discussion guide he'll make sure you cover all the key topics but of course it is not a survey because you want details probing and qualitative responses

Theresa Marcroft Marketing Strategist / CMO / Interim VP Marketing

September 27th, 2016

Adrian, I do positioning and messaging for a living, (see articles here), and can't say enough about the many benefits of doing in-person focus groups with your customers and prospects. You want to be able to see the expressions on their faces when you discuss these concepts, and you'll want to record them for future reference. Plus, social media might help but there's so much room for misinterpretation, I wouldn't rely 100% on that. 
Let me know if you want help with this project.
Theresa Marcroft