Product launch season is an exciting time around the world of golf. We love shiny new equipment and the golf industry enjoys sharing their projects with the world. Over the last few years, lots of questions surround product launches from marketing to inventory and everything in between. Few companies have had the success that Callaway Golf has had as of late and we wanted to dive a little deeper into the story.
The Rogue line of metal woods were announced yesterday, and that means another episode of Quick Six, where we get to the bottom of the news with the six questions you want answered most. Harry Arnett, Senior VP of Marketing and Brand Management at Callaway and President of OGIO, agreed to share his knowledge.
THP: Launch time in the golf industry is always fun and Callaway has been at the forefront of unique ways to do that for the last couple of years. How do you manage to keep it fresh and different, and what direction have you provided the team to bring the creativity?
Harry Arnett: The most important aspect of this happens well in advance of what you might see on the launch day. It has to do with the environment we try to create where great ideas can materialize and be improved upon. We call this “value based innovation.” Everyone is bought into a common set of values that we embrace and from which we think the best collaborative ideas come. That’s the foundation. We then spend a lot of time agreeing to what we think are the most important aspects of a product and what we believe golfers will derive the most benefit from. This is constant feedback loops among our group, our customers, golfers, and R&D. From there, we constantly challenge ourselves to do things golfers haven’t seen before and create vehicles where golfers can curate their own learning experiences with the product. No templates. No conventional wisdom. No blindly following a path that we think has worked before for us. It makes it very challenging, but also very rewarding and fun. And it requires excellent coordination and a genuine trust in and respect for our teammates.
THP: Following up a monster hit like the Epic line is never easy, taking how good a product is out of the equation, do you have to head in with trepidation in any form?
Harry Arnett: “Trepidation” is a word Mean Gene Okerland used to use on the old WWF broadcasts, so I respect it’s use here. But no trepidation at all. None whatsoever, honestly. We take a lot of pride in the challenge of doing things better than we did it before. When the bar is raised, as it certainly is with Epic, we are extra motivated to do even better. Starting from a place where we are the number one driver sold in the United States and around the world could seem daunting. But at the same time, it’s a great starting place and we are convinced the best is actually yet to come.
THP: How hard is inventory management of a sequel to such a huge success that was Epic?
Harry Arnett: It’s hard if you start thinking about managing the levels mid way through the launch, but that aspect of our business has been a point of emphasis since day one when Chip Brewer, our CEO got here. And it’s certainly the downfall of a lot of companies in our industry, both big and small. We aren’t perfect by a long shot, especially considering how much Epic exceeded our and anyone else’s sales expectations, but we are exceedingly well positioned for our next big launch, which is Rogue.
THP: It is getting harder and harder for launches to take place the way they used to with firm embargo dates. Being that tour players and the USGA are posting images, along with your usual blurry bad picture from a store somewhere, have you had to change the way you view the official launch of a product?
Harry Arnett: Somewhat so, yes, and I think golfers, especially ones in the digital communications arena have seen that. We have more fun with the leaks than others do, I think. This Rogue launch, for example, we had fun with the THP folks calling it the “Redacted” driver. I think we even used that a few times in official Callaway social posts. People enjoyed that because we were obviously acknowledging that it can sometimes be absurd. The main reason these embargoes exist is to protect the retailers and green grass professionals who are still selling the current product line when these kinds of leaks take place. Nobody wants to buy something if there’s something they know about on the horizon. So we try our best to maintain the integrity of the existing product line. We also know a ton of work goes into how the media covers these launches. We believe we owe it to them to try to coordinate the efforts so that they can be best rewarded for their comprehensive coverage. It’s never perfect or air tight in any multi-channel environment where we have to show customers the product months in advance so they plan their businesses.
THP: Callaway has come back with the Big Bertha names. Brought Epic last year. Steelhead returned, and now we have Rogue. Shaft companies have continued to bring fun and creative names to the products as well. As a golfer that reminisces about the good old days of the Warbird, The Judge, the Howitzer, Tommy Gun, etc, and seeing some companies go the alpha-numeric route, what do you think the reason for that is and will Callaway continue this way? I have often said it is less about lacking creative talent and more about trademarks, but many disagree.
Harry Arnett: There are a lot of different concepts you’re talking about there. On one hand, we like bringing back classic, historically important names from our history and modernize it with new, exciting technologies. Products like Big Bertha and Apex are good examples of that. But we also like going in the other direction too with brand new names like Epic and now Rogue. We like to keep it fun and interesting for golfers with each new launch and we think golfers like the unpredictability of it. It’s true that a lot of generic names can’t be trademarked, but there’s still a lot of runway out there. Though wouldn’t it be cool to re-launch the Howitzer?!!! We don’t own that one, so maybe whomever does can let us have it.
THP: Here we are in January, fresh off the heels of a big launch week for Callaway and the Rogue lineup. The Grandaddy participants that have the product have been raving about the entire lineup, and golfers are excited to take some swings. If you were to grab your Magic 8-Ball and say “What does 2018 have in store for the brand and team?” what do you think it would offer as an answer?
Harry Arnett: This won’t fit on the little pyramid inside the 8-Ball, but I believe we can and will continue to set the standard with respect to how brands communicate, educate, and engage. I know we are going to continue to use an expanse of multi-media content to do so. That’s been our focus from day one and we do more of that than all other brands combined, essentially. We’ve invested a lot in the ability to do that. I also know we will have more fun doing it than any of our competition will!
And I know our products are going to outperform whatever is out there. As always I know it because the performance data continues to show that. So everyone should go get fit and they’ll see that for themselves!
What do you think about the answers from Harry Arnett? Have thoughts or opinions? Join us in the THP Forum where golfers are debating and discussing this interview right now.
If you would like to learn more about the Callaway Rogue drivers, here is THP TV with Dave Neville from Callaway Golf HQ giving you the rundown on all three models.