What Is in the Power of a (Ski) Model Name?

What is in a name?
The power of a model‘s name is tough to measure. This difficulty doesn’t just apply to ski models, but also to automobiles. One case in point is the Acura Legend. At the time, an owner of said car did not say they had an Acura, or even an Acura Legend, they would just say “Legend.” For this reason, the biggest word with the largest font on the ass end of the car was “Legend”, not Acura. And then they arguably made one of the biggest missteps in automotive history by changing the flagship Legend to RL. People lost their identity with their Acuras, and to this day Acura sales have never been the same. This is the type of blunder that make ski manufacturers’ marketing managers lose sleep and wonder, why risk change at all? Because when you ask skiers what ski they have, they will just say Mantra, Secret, or Laser Aye-ex.

There can be as much power in a model name as the brand name itself. When that’s the case, the right model name is like capturing lightning in a bottle. The question is, when do you let go of that name, and when do you double down? Or when do you bring back a previous model name to recapture that momentum? We will address these questions and more, so keep reading.

The more things change, the more they stay the same … or do they?
When a brand dramatically changes a ski, should they keep the same name or change it? When does a model name lose its place in the market? We will use Rossignol as an example. When the original Rossignol Experience collection arrived in the early 2010s, they were a unique series of skis. With its broad shovel and flared tail, Rossignol brought the Cascade tip technology over from their race skis. The Experience collection, ranging from 78-100 mm underfoot, was a collection of wide carvers with a distinct personality and limited, but loyal following like SkiTalk reader UTskier, a high level instructor.

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When Rossignol redesigned the Experience in the mid 2010s, they dramatically changed the design to make the shape more relaxed with a longer tip rise and a rounded tail. UTSkier was excited to try the new version, only to be disappointed. Not that the ski wasn’t good, it just wasn’t the Experience he expected. That disappointment could be compounded if a skier made the purchase based on name only, with no demo. This past season Rossignol again redesigned the Experience, and in its third generation it incorporates the best attributes of the previous two generations. But, will the consumer who liked one of the previous two become a fan of this melding of characteristics from both generations? Time will tell.

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The Völkl Mantra is now on its 6th generation. To commemorate that, the newest version is called the Mantra M6. It is not uncommon for me, when in the shop, to hear a customer say, “My buddy has a Mantra and says I should get one.” (Note, he just said his buddy has a Mantra, not his buddy has a Völkl Mantra). If he’s asked, “Which Mantra?” then he will look at me like I am an idiot and say, “The Völkl Mantra!” I will then reply, “There were 6 generations of Mantras, each with their own personality.” Völkl is smart enough to know that, even after two decades on the market, the Mantra name is a tremendous calling card. On the women’s side, Völkl had the Aura. Völkl recently abandoned the Aura name in favor of the Secret. According to Völkl’s Barklay Rappaport, it was time to rejuvenate the women’s segment by creating a Secret 92. This was not just a narrower Aura, so it was worthy of a new name.

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Welcome back my friend to the show that never ends

Bringing back a model name can be tricky business and this is where the ski industry does better than the automotive one. Do you remember the new versions of the Chevrolet Nova, Pontiac Le Mans and Ford Maverick? Many people don’t. We have seen the resurrection of previous ski models with much better acclaim. K2’s Four, Dynastar‘s Legend series and Head‘s Monster series are examples of success. Why? Because the characteristics of these models/collections fit people‘s perception of the name. We have seen this trend in boots too: Nordica‘s Grand Prix or GP boots and Lange‘s Banshee, which was resurrected for a second tour of duty. Lange was also successful with their limited pink XLR (Due to copyright, we cannot call it the Pink Panther) and purple haze XR9.

I wouldn’t be surprised if we witness some brands go back in time to recapture their youth. Most brands have iconic model names like Bandit, Explosiv, Recon, and X-Scream waiting to be rekindled. (Notice I didn’t even have to say the brand; you knew exactly what manufacturer I was talking about). Please feel free to add some of your favorite names in the comment section below.

When a model is so strong that it takes over a collection
The Blizzard Black Pearl was, for a few years, the number one selling ski in the world out of both men’s and women ‘s skis. Let that sink in. There was a time when there were women’s skis just to appease the market. The Black Pearl was not one of these. At 88 mm underfoot, it was part of the Blizzard women’s freeride collection which consisted of, at various times, a 78 mm Cheyenne, 98 mm Samba and a 108 mm Dakota. All of these were great skis that were far from sales successes, and I would venture to say, combined didn’t sell half of what the Black Pearl 88 sold. What did Blizzard do? Blizzard doubled down on the Black Pearl’s momentum and changed the Cheyenne to the Black Pearl 78, added a Black Pearl 82, of course kept the wildly popular Black Pearl 88, and changed the Samba to the Black Pearl 98. Now, not unlike the Mantra, when a woman is interested in the Black Pearl, she needs to be asked, “Which one?” But this time, the waist width needs to be distinguished, rather than the model year.

Evolution or Revolution.
When a brand does change a model, are you excited or unsure? Open or apprehensive? Did you, like some readers on SkiTalk, react with gloom and doom when Fischer introduced the newest Ranger collection? Were you one of those who were exclaiming, “Oh my God, they changed the Ranger! Ihave to stock up on the old ones because the new one will be awwwwful!” All that blood-curdling damnation before even clicking into a binding is unfounded because it isn’t a new Ranger, or the old Ranger, it is a completely different ski. I talked to Brian Landrigan, National Marketing Manager for Fischer, and asked if there was any consideration in changing the name of the series and maybe bringing back an old name like the Watea. Brian said because of the momentum the Ranger had, that was not a consideration.

What does all of this mean for you?
Simple: caveat emptor. Know before buying or even demoing. Also understand while some things stay the same, many things change. With this in mind, you may need to do an extra level of research before your purchase. So with all of the real time information you have access to on Skitalk, just ask. As we say, there are stupid questions, but those people who don’t ask questions often get stupid results. Or think about it this way: You are not just asking the question for yourself, but for the thousands of eyes reading who might have the same question but are afraid to ask. So, take one for the guy/gal out there, you are also helping them. And for the reader who does not have an account, sign up, so you also can ask these questions. It’s free.
About author
Philpug
I started skiing in the mid-70s in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania; from then on, I found myself entrenched in the industry. I have worked in various ski shops from suburban to ski town to resort, giving me a well-rounded perspective on what skiers want from their gear. That experience was parlayed into my time as a Gear Review Editor and also consulting with manufacturers as a product tester. Along with being a Masterfit-trained bootfitter I am a fully certified self proclaimed Gear Guru. Not only do I keep up with the cutting edge of ski gear technology, but I am an avid gear collector and have an extensive array of bindings as well as many vintage skis.

Replies

Some ski names are more successful than others. For every Dynastar Mythic Rider, there is a Nordica Blower :). Both were very good skis by the way.
 
The automotive analogy leads me to the Porsche 911 a product of consistent evolution over 60 years at least and a great example of evolution over revolution. Yet, the 911 almost died in the 70’s as the plan was to replace it with the 928 , a car which was a radical departure from the traditional Porsche platform. Consumer reaction was generally negative towards the 928 despite itt being easier to drive precisely because it was easier to drive. It wasn’t a “Porsche”.The quirky, somewhat antiquated nature of the air cooled 911 was what most people wanted -and expected -in a Porsche. Porsche listened and another 40 years of evolution ensued yet the latest model shares the DNA of every 911 before it. Like a lot of premium skis , the 911 is an aspirational /status acquisition and is rarely utilized to its full potential . So, I wonder , what is the closest skiing equivalent to the 911?
 
So, I wonder , what is the closest skiing equivalent to the 911?
For me it has always been the Kastle MX series. With a collection ranging from 70-108mm at times, it was like the 911, 911S, 911 Turbo, GT2, GT3 ... The FX collection was like the Boxster/962, lighter, more playful and some will now argue, better 911's.
 
Interesting industry branding article. This is more on the boot side, but do you think in 2-3 years people will have brand recognition for the K2 Revolver\Method\Diverge ski boots that are part of the K2 Fl3x collection? Or will they still refer to them by the former brand (Full Tilt)? It takes a long time to build brand awareness. I tend to prefer continuity. Everybody knows what a Corolla, Tacoma, and 4Runner are and their purpose.
 
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Interesting industry branding article. This is more on the boot side, but do you think in 2-3 years people will have brand recognition for the K2 Revolver\Method\Diverge ski boots that are part of the K2 Fl3x collection? Or will they still refer to them by the former brand (Full Tilt)? It takes a long time to build brand awareness. I tend to prefer continuity. Everybody knows what a Corolla, Tacoma, and 4Runner are and their purpose.
Great Question. FullTilt has created a ton of momentum and a brand, it was a marketing mistep in dropping the Full Tilt name, at this point we are on the fourth name for these boots, Raichle Flexon>Kneissl Flexon>Full Tilt>K2 FL3X. All of this just adds to consumer confusion and risk that you might lose your customer to a Dalbello or even Roxa 3-peice.
 

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