In the mid 90s, Arnette was the goggle. Hell, that was even the name of its first goggle, The Goggle, released in 93. Riders like Kevin Jones, Ingemar Backman, Mike Ranquett, and Daniel Franck had Arnette’s cutting edge designs with their iconic beaks plastered on the cover of every mag, in all the films, and then the brand all but vanished.
Eight years ago Luxottica Group purchased Arnette and the brand’s goggle line fell off the radar in the North American market. While the company was still doing a full array of sunglasses here, and pushing goggles in Europe, here in the States its presence all but disappeared when things got cold. Two years ago Arnette was moved under the Oakley umbrella and the brand has spent that time revamping and ramping up its snow program for a re-launch at SIA with its new Mercenary and Series 3 lines and a hard hitting roster of team riders including Devun Walsh, Zac Marben, Dustin Cravin, and Sage Kotsenburg.
We caught up with Global Brand Manager Joe Freitag to learn more about the company’s plan to bring a new vision to this once-visionary snow goggle program.
So give us a little background on what’s been going on with the brand for the last few years?
When we came on board under the Oakley umbrella, one of the first things we started doing was redesigning the goggle program. We scrapped most of what existed for Arnette in the past, but pulled forward some of the history and story. Folks that remember Arnette from back in the day will see some of our stuff and be like, “Oh man, I remember that,” but we gave it a whole new twist. We’re building an entirely new team around it, and we’re just going to come out of the gates charging at SIA.
What do you think has changed about the market that made you feel it was time to make this move? Is it more because you moved in with Oakley and are able to draw on that experience and technology?
Yeah, I think that’s part of it. Oakley has a strong understanding of the market and understands what a great opportunity exists to bring Arnette back into the market in a really strong, credible, and meaningful way, and offer something to consumers that they’re not getting—just really great full product at a great price. We’ve come up with a philosophy that less is more. Doing more with fewer athletes and doing more with fewer styles is going to make a better impact not only for the market and the consumer, but also for our retailers.
What retailers, or what tier of retailers are you guys really looking to get into? If I’m a retailer, why should I care that you’re back and bring Arnette in?
It’s certainly that tier-one retailer that relies on core snowboarding for the bulk of its business. They sell hardgoods, they sell the most credible brands, and are really athlete driven, versus volume, price, or selection-driven. That’s our first target. Why should they care about Arnette? We’re gonna come out with an amazing product backed by an amazing team backed by an amazing company. We’re not only going to come out strong from a marketing perspective and do all the things that’s going to create awareness and buzz and pull at retail, we have the longevity as a brand to draw on those consumers that have known Arnette from back in the day and pull them back into the doors.
I used to love Arnettes for sure. Guess I’m dating myself. What are your thoughts as far as Arnette’s brand equity in the snow market? I mean, a lot of times if a brand pulls out and tries to come back, in some people’s minds it’s like, “yeah, they couldn’t make it.”
Whenever you’ve gone quiet for a while, you need to make people aware of the brand and what you’re doing. I think the good thing about Arnette is that there’s still so much equity. It didn’t really go down market or do any crazy turns that would make it unappealing to core retail. Arnette was one of those brands that was really reliable for core retail early on and so there’s still a fondness, there’s still a very high consumer awareness especially among diehards that have been in it for a little bit. I think we just need to kind of re-awaken the sleeping giant, and really get people thinking of it less of a comeback story and more of awakening the brand reaching a new consumer and reconnecting with that older consumer that still wishes they had a pair.
How would you describe the new look and feel?
Back in the day, Arnette was all about going after the core, purist snowboarding market, and that’s where we’re taking it back. We’re building a really small, elite pro team that embodies snowboarding. In addition to Devun Walsh, we have Zac Marbin, Sage Kotsenburg, and Dustin Cravin— these are all guys known for their attitude, for their style, for being pure snowboarders, not just chuck and huck guys trying to win medals. These are guys that kids can look up to and really see as aspirational. I think there’s become a part of snowboarding that’s become so lofty and so out there that it’s almost unattainable.
With double corks in the pipe and all that?
Exactly. If you can do that, that is absolutely awesome, but we want to bring snowboarding back to what really inspires your regular kid and his buddies to go out there and shred.
What are the advantages of being in the Oakley family?
We’re fortunate enough to have a really great company producing our goggles, but with completely different designs. We don’t have the same technology stories. We’re a little bit more down-market then they are. Their stuff’s higher price point and ours is going to be more for the younger consumer looking for a great, cool-looking goggle that they can trust, but that’s not going to drain their pocket.
What is the price range for you guys?
Our cylindrical goggle’s going to come in at 65 bucks starting, and then it goes up from there. We have our chrome lenses, and we’re going to offer a dual lens package, but nothing’s gonna be more than probably $110, with the majority of the SKUs offered at 65 bucks. We’re also going to come out with a Toric lens goggle that’s gonna start at 90 bucks.
In targeting that younger customer, what does that look like visually in the product? Is it super bright, or what is the color palette you’re looking at?
We thought about this long and hard because so much was happening in terms of patterning and kind of one-up-manship. We’re coming out with a little more of a timeless palette. We’ve incorporated some patterns that are really brand-centric and pretty clean. One is our own unique plaid that we developed. Then we have a hard candy color story, which are pretty bright, but they’re tone-on-tone bright, not like a box of Skittles bright. Then there’s a really strong selection of your more timeless stuff—your traditional blues and reds. Our Series 3 is based on the old Series 2 goggle and it’s gonna have that true blue, cherry red, with chrome pieces on the side, and black straps.
Will they have the beak over the nose like the old Arnettes?
No, these ones won’t have the beak. We don’t want to dip too deep into the heritage. We wanted to launch with something that we thought was really iconic, which was those chrome pieces, but really relevant to what kids would think is cool today. That doesn’t mean that down the road that we might not reintroduce the beak again, but we wanted to save a bit in the back pocket.