Today, REAL Skateboards is unveiling its very first mobile app, InstaREAL, which the crew is backing as the advanced first version of an ongoing fun way for skaters to add filters and effects to their photos, then share with friends. The whole concept for the app came about while Co-Founder Jim Thiebaud and the marketing and art crew were working on the first ad for the new REAL Mellow Construction decks, he explains.
“It felt like it needed a good line or two, and I just wrote Mellowthefukout on it and Andy (REAL artist) and Damon (Marketing) both laughed, and that was it,” says Thiebaud. “We began brainstorming, went stupid with it, and jumped in with both feet. We don’t really think too far into these type of things—we tend to be a bit ‘look shiny object’ or ‘dog and ball’ in our actions. Generally if we have an idea that sounds fun, hopefully would be good for skate shops, and stokes the team out, then we’re in.”
Following a jolt of inspiration, the crew has spent the last several months developing the campaign around the tag line, and developing the app which features different filters including the signature #Mellowthefukout design. Of course, no project is complete without a few trials and errors, and in this case the crew learned the hard way when they made a key discovery about hashtagging profanity.
“The original ad was spelled #mellwothefuckout, and we had 288 T-shirts done and 3,000 stickers,” he says. “The night we posted the first photo with it hashtagged it didn’t show up…. best to look before you jump sometimes. We pulled the ad before it was printed, redid the shirts and stickers, and went back to it. I still have about 250 shirts if anyone wants one…”
All in all, though, Thiebaud says the fun factor and overall learning experience makes the project well worth the time and effort. And the luxury of being able to put a #mellowthefukout sticker over photos of security guards and anyone or anything else, is priceless in the eyes of the REAL crew. We checked in with Thiebaud to hear more about the app, the Mellow Construction boards, and the learning curve involved in creating your very first mobile app.
From start to finish it was about three months. We worked with the app developer Know Projects, who are a new company building apps for skate companies. We were their first client and it was a good learning process for both of us.
They had an existing framework done and together we designed the app around that. Doing it that way definitely sped the process up but it also brought it’s own set of challenges for both of us.
We come from a history of hard goods development where we are hands deep, know the product inside and out, have tested it extensively and are sure we have the best product a skater could use. With an app – it’s way different. You can tweak, change, improve, and iterate non-stop—even after launch. That was a new mindset for us to learn and embrace. Know Projects came through and didn’t hate us too much, my nails are gone, and now we can take everyone’s feedback from V1 and work on V1.5 and 2.
How important has social media been in growing REAL’s audience and brand awareness?
Back in the day I used to make ‘zines, and write short stories. I would share via copied books through the mail and at demos. I believe in connectivity in the skateboarding community. Sharing our experiences, exchanging information, thoughts and opinions-it is a huge part of what makes skateboarding and skateboarders special. I don’t focus on what that method of connectivity is—zines or Twitter —that’s not as important to me as just doing it, doing something. In my opinion Social Media is just a technological advancement that allows us all to connect easier. I fully back it, embrace it, and believe in it’s strength both from REAL to skaters and thankfully, from skaters to REAL.
What has been the most successful way you have found to interact and communicate with your audience via social media?
From my perspective, it’s simple – just be yourself. Realize that the playing field has finally been leveled. No one’s voice is any more important or louder then anyone else’s, no matter who you are. Give a shit and don’t be a fucking kook.
What was the reasoning behind making the app free? How will you measure ROI on this sort of project?
It had to be free. It was all about having fun with it. Our ROI has already been met. The learning experience of diving into something new like this, using technology and a silly idea to connect us, and see where skaters and skate shops take it will be a fun ride. Hell – I would pay to see what some of these kids are going to come up with and where they post #mellowthefukout and the other filters over… as far as our ROI – its been a blast.
Tell us more about the Mellow Construction boards: when did they launch, what’s the idea behind the construction, and what sets it apart from other technology out there right now?
We have been working with a slightly Mellow Construction for a while. Some of the guys like Ishod and Kyle wanted a deck that had a bit more flatness to it then the R1 Constructions but that was still snappy and quick. Both those guys are extremely hard on decks which is good in the testing process as we get great, really heavy results that we can be confident with. We were very determined to get them the mellower deck they wanted but not at the cost of having the decks sog out and lose their pop quickly like most mellow decks do. The finished Mellow Construction decks came out really great. They are mellow, with more flat area for full board feel and they last like any other deck we make. There is a complete breakdown of them on the REAL site for more info.
Has it hit retail, and if so how is sell through? What other ways are you aiming to create hype around the boards?
The decks are just now hitting skateboard shops for sale.
We sent out close to 100 advance Mellow decks to some of our friends who work at shops about two months ago. That way they could ride the decks themselves and feel how good they were and when they did finally come into the stores they could honestly say how good they ride and feel good handing a skater one of them. It’s ultimately still about just making great decks and getting people stoked on skating.We have many levels of support to help any shop that brings the decks in. From Instagram tie ins and contests using the app to full digital, print and video ads everywhere – we’re trying to help anyone who backs us, buys and rides one of our decks.
What sort of tweaks and additions are you coming up with for future versions of the app? How do you hope to build upon this and get more creative with the marketing and usability?
We have a few ideas in the works right now. Laser beams, coffee delivery service, grip tape cutter… we’re working on ’em.
We are excited to see what skaters come back to us with – what they want to see and how they want it to work in the future.
We also realize how fast things move and if this thing ends up having a short lifespan – well it was a lot of fun and we’ll take what we learned and build off it.