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Electric’s Eric Crane Leverages His History With The Brand As Its New CEO

Since unveiling its new logo and brand identity in January at Agenda trade show in Long Beach, Electric and its crew—lead by Founder and CEO Bruce Beach—have created a buzz around one of action sports most endemic and long-time iconic companies. The Electric Volt logo, which has become one of the most well-recognized ones within the market, has “grown up” along with the entire vibe of the brand, and as the company gears up to have several new product categories land at retail for the very first time, another major change was announced last week when Beach passed the torch to current Chief Creative Officer  Eric Crane.

Eric Crane, Electric’s new CEO

As Electric’s new CEO, Crane is taking the helm during a critical transition for the brand. As one of the original members of the team who helped build the brand in its earliest stages, Crane is confident that he has the right combination of passion and knowledge to continue leading the company in the right direction. In the following interview, he provides some key insight into the reasoning behind Electric’s new identity, the expansion into watches and helmets, and his take on the evolution of the ever-changing market.

Congratulations on the new role Eric. What does this mean for you?

Being named the CEO of the company means that I will have direct access to our various teams worldwide to be able to set strategic direction and collaborate with them to ensure we have the resources and processes to execute efficiently. The brand is on a great path with a lot of potential to make an impact on a global scale. This role will be focused on realizing that potential and helping the brand to stay on track.

As one of the original founding members of the company, on a personal and professional level, how does that background and history with Electric play into how you will be able to lead the company moving forward?

My history with Electric is the source for the passion I have for the brand. Having been a part of getting it off of the ground, I feel a deeper sense of satisfaction when imagining what it can become and working to get it there than I would if I were to be at any other company. I have decade long relationships with many of the people who work with the brand which also adds to the family atmosphere that is present in the culture. I will work to nurture that aspect as we grow and add more people from the outside with complimentary skill-sets. I would love to try to keep it personal for everyone involved.

What particular strategies are you planning to put in place over the coming months and what are several goals you’d like the company to reach this year?

Most of our strategic direction has been defined over the last year and has been very well received. This year we will focus primarily on syncing up our international business with those strategies and work towards a cohesive implementation of the new initiatives we have on the table. We have some organizational and structural issues to address in order to prepare the company to shoulder the new initiatives without losing momentum in our existing business. All of those initiatives feed our main goal, which will be seeing the watch and helmet categories launch to market smoothly through collaboration with our closest retail partners and rep force.

What lessons have you learned from Bruce working with him over the years?

Too many to list. He is a relentless negotiator, and always sees the positive in any given situation. He’s also fostered a very high level of passion and excitement for the brand over the years, which in tough times will really hold a team together.

What will you do differently than him as leader of this company?

Hard to say exactly, we are such different people, I’m sure a lot. That said, the blood, sweat and tears that he has contributed to the brand will remain in the building and in the culture for the life of the brand. He is a permanent part of the brand’s history and his achievements will inspire the teams for years to come.

Here’s a look at Electric’s rebranding:

VIEW: THUMBS ENLARGE
(image 1 of 8)

Electric unveils its initial rebranding, Agenda Long Beach January 2013. Photo: Kimball

What’s your current assessment of the action sports industry and how do you see Electric as a brand fitting into that grand scheme?

I’ll be careful here, as everyone has their own opinions and to them they make sense, but I feel “Action Sports” is on the verge of irrelevance as a stand-alone concept. I think in order for the industry to survive it needs to see itself as a sport-specific contributor to global culture. Stand up paddling is very different from surfing. Or better yet, stand up paddling is very different from skateboarding…the idea that there is one collective industry that can effectively capture the spirit of both of those sports and communicate their value seems faulty. Hardgoods need more sport specificity, and apparel brands I feel need to view themselves as world class contributors to active fashion. By limiting their view to the “action sports,” the brands that are leading the way for active fashion are leaving the door open for non-endemics to capitalize on their efforts. I feel like it’s time for the brands born from action sports to compete on the main stage and take credit for their contribution to global fashion trends. Electric fits exactly in to that model, in snow, we have a sport-specific product offering that we see as remaining highly technical, using quality and performance as key drivers of value. We will work closely with our team and snow accounts to bring a product that performs the best it can while in action. For all other categories, we sell style. That style point of view is relevant worldwide, and captures the spirit and attitude of our roots.

Interesting take. There’s a lot going on at Electric with the rebranding and push into expanded categories. Which elements of the business are the most importnat to focus on at the moment and how do you prioritize your time across those broad projects?

For the next six months, the most important element of our business will be our core sunglass business. We have to fight to keep our leadership position in the market. There are some really solid up and coming competitors in the space, as well as downward pressure from non-endemics taking rack space. Our production, sales and marketing teams will be focusing on execution as we approach summer. Our design and R&D teams will be focusing on pushing our lines forward and setting us up for future success. The now definitely informs the future, so spending equal amounts of time on each side seems to be most effective.

What is the strategy behind the new product categories for the brand – is Electric planning to open a significant amount of new retail doors and if so how many are you planning to open with?

The beauty of new categories, if done well, is that we can strengthen our business with our existing account base. The snow helmets will strengthen our position as a snow brand, giving retailers more of a reason to partner with us across multiple categories. Our watches will focus primarily on our best sunglass and goggle doors for launch, which will give us a stronger year round business with our best partners. We are really looking to improve the quality of our relationship with our existing account base before considering expansion. We will add new doors and distribution as they makes sense, and only if we are prepared to manage them successfully. Most of the new distribution will come from international markets.

After going through January and February trade-show mania, what’s been the most common reactions you’ve been hearing to new brand identity from retailers and the industry in general?

Generally, its been really positive. As with anything new, it takes some people a minute to adjust, but that’s to be expected. There are a few nostalgic folks who don’t understand why we would mess with the identity, but over the last few months even the most curmudgeon have come around. The new identity has definitely created some excitement around the brand, and it’s great conversation starter for all of the refinements we are making internally.

What does the re-branding of Electric mean to you on a personal level?

Personally, its symbolic of a homecoming. If you’ve ever met a kid when he is 14 or so, and then not seen them until they are 24, there is usually a radical transformation that takes place. Their experiences, travels, and interests shape them in to a completely different person, but with all of their same looks and DNA. I feel like the rebrand is like watching the Electric brand grow up, and it’s way more interesting to talk with now.

How would you have previously described Electric versus how you describe the brand now?

That really depends on what period you are talking about. I really feel that when Electric started, it was focused on progression. In that time, it was the brand that brought newness to the market. Its tagline was even, “Powering a new era.” In that respect, I would describe the brand in exactly the same way today. In the corporate name for Electric, Electric Visual Evolution, the word “evolution” is the key. This current incarnation of the brand is just keeping up with its mission.

What went into designing the new logo? Inspiration, historical connections for the brand, ties to the industry/market?

The new logo process was really collaborative and thorough. I worked with several designers, as well as our creative director Jack Bailey and co-founder Kip Arnette. We wanted to retain the gesture of the Volt, but distill it down to is primal essence and meaning. The cleaner version is much more conducive to communicating the brand vision and looks amazing on product.

Talk about the expansion into additional product categories – which ones, and why did they make sense for Electric?

The new product category expansions are extensions of what we already are. They just round our portfolio of products out and really don’t take us in any radical new directions. Watches and sunglasses are tethered in most accessory brand platforms. Helmets are a natural extension from goggles, and again many of our competitors are already in the space. They feel very natural to us and lie within our core competencies as a brand.

How are these new categories being received by retailers? Have they already hit retail, and if not when?

The new categories have been received extremely well, and most of our retailers have expressed that they are excited to participate in their launch. Both watches and helmets will be in market in Q4 of this year.

Describe Electric’s new vibe in three words:

Timeless, sophisticated, powerful

Electric is NOT:

A clown show.