FOUNDER’S STORY

The 1777 Company is the culmination of four decades of my exploration into products, marketing and branding on both sides of the Atlantic. Being born and raised in Heidelberg, Germany at the height of the Cold War, I viewed America from a different lens. My first business, as a high school tennis player, was selling the radical new aluminum Head racquets from the U.S. I quickly learned what having “the best from America” could do and how important a technical understanding of product design was to my future. As it turned out, I was able to parlay buying all those racquets into my first job out of Bowling Green State University working as the pro tour coordinator for Head Tennis Marketing.

Working on the ATP Tour led me back to Europe where I spent the next seven years selling sports sponsorships and media deals to European companies. While I moved from Paris to Dusseldorf and then to London, I circled Europe to better understand how to sell ‘the best from America” and to observe branding from a Euro-Centric perspective for my employer, Time International. Based on Bond Street, I worked during the amazing “Diana years” when Time in Europe had a readership of a half million of the world’s most influential finance, political, industrial and scholarly individuals. I’ve learned that 100-year-old brands dominating the market while ideating with tech companies such as Seimens AG to uniquely present their entry into fiber optic cable that catapulted communications across the Atlantic at light speed. I wanted to fuse “traditional brand practices with technology” but at the age of 30 and a third son on the way, I didn’t have a clue how.

Selling the leading American media to international marketers and agencies was a priceless experience. It became clear that marketing was much more science than art. That ‘data driven’ decision-making emboldened smart marketers while limiting the downside exposure to brands. Today, there are 23 square feet of retail space for each person in America. After 20 years of marketing leadership for Sara Lee, VF, Dorel and Yankee Candle, all big corporations driven by their quarterly need to fill our drawers and garages with their stuff, it didn’t take long to figure out that a dressing room pod of retail for each American was going to collide with the emerging eCommerce engines that exist in our smart phones. With decades of global lifestyle brand and sports marketing under my belt, it was apparent that “big was the opposite of cool” and big was not the future. The fact that smaller brands directly connect to their fans and to the community on an organic vs. corporate or wholesaler level emerged as the pillar of The 1777 Company’s strategy.

As I developed into a more astute brand marketer, I was convinced that marketing sciences fused with structured creativity were most likely to produce consistent winners. As a CMO, I tended to invest in sound brand ideas that could evolve over time and were grounded in consumer-centric decision-making. Engaging in ‘kitchen research’ was not a viable option while I invested hundreds of millions in apparel marketing for VF Corporation. Being the marketing lead in a very technical category like intimates meant I was either right using data, or else everyone’s personal opinions would often drown out strong ideas. I learned that in order to build brands ‘beyond our imagination’ we had to be willing to fail early, fail often and fail cheap. It’s a view on innovation that is ill-suited to large, quarterly focused, corporations.

I came to realize that, while great ideas are abundant among many of us, start-up brands require better leadership – specifically, leadership that has the technical understanding to concept, design, engineer, source, distribute and market new brands. A good CEO doesn’t make a great start-up brand leader. We’ve learned that wise leaders are boring and smart leaders are exciting. We’re certain ‘The Smart-Talk-Trap’ doesn’t work; that leaders taking smart actions vs dreaming up wise things to do is one of the keys to launching healthy, growing brands. I soon understood that, with proper innovation stewardship, “my one thing,” could become “our big thing,” and that start-up stewardship isn’t for everyone.

Along the way, I started to recognize that two opposing forces generally take shape around how each stakeholder regards the concept of ‘our’ and to what level he or she is accepting of ‘failure.’ We believe that ‘our failure’ proceeds ‘our success’ and that alignment of ourselves is the bedrock of creativity. We know harvesting great ideas requires breakthrough receiving and the suspension of judgment of who’s idea you’re about turn into the next success. I learned early on that everyone loves their own ideas and that the concept of generous collaboration among teams is eluding most big corporations.

FOUNDER’S STORY

The 1777 Company is the culmination of four decades of my exploration into products, marketing and branding on both sides of the Atlantic. Being born and raised in Heidelberg, Germany at the height of the Cold War, I viewed America from a different lens. My first business, as a high school tennis player, was selling the radical new aluminum Head racquets from the U.S. I quickly learned what having “the best from America” could do and how important a technical understanding of product design was to my future. As it turned out, I was able to parlay buying all those racquets into my first job out of Bowling Green State University working as the pro tour coordinator for Head Tennis Marketing.

Working on the ATP Tour led me back to Europe where I spent the next seven years selling sports sponsorships and media deals to European companies. While I moved from Paris to Dusseldorf and then to London, I circled Europe to better understand how to sell ‘the best from America” and to observe branding from a Euro-Centric perspective for my employer, Time International. Based on Bond Street, I worked during the amazing “Diana years” when Time in Europe had a readership of a half million of the world’s most influential finance, political, industrial and scholarly individuals. I’ve learned that 100-year-old brands dominating the market while ideating with tech companies such as Seimens AG to uniquely present their entry into fiber optic cable that catapulted communications across the Atlantic at light speed. I wanted to fuse “traditional brand practices with technology” but at the age of 30 and a third son on the way, I didn’t have a clue how.

Selling the leading American media to international marketers and agencies was a priceless experience. It became clear that marketing was much more science than art. That ‘data driven’ decision-making emboldened smart marketers while limiting the downside exposure to brands. Today, there are 23 square feet of retail space for each person in America. After 20 years of marketing leadership for Sara Lee, VF, Dorel and Yankee Candle, all big corporations driven by their quarterly need to fill our drawers and garages with their stuff, it didn’t take long to figure out that a dressing room pod of retail for each American was going to collide with the emerging eCommerce engines that exist in our smart phones. With decades of global lifestyle brand and sports marketing under my belt, it was apparent that “big was the opposite of cool” and big was not the future. The fact that smaller brands directly connect to their fans and to the community on an organic vs. corporate or wholesaler level emerged as the pillar of The 1777 Company’s strategy.

As I developed into a more astute brand marketer, I was convinced that marketing sciences fused with structured creativity were most likely to produce consistent winners. As a CMO, I tended to invest in sound brand ideas that could evolve over time and were grounded in consumer-centric decision-making. Engaging in ‘kitchen research’ was not a viable option while I invested hundreds of millions in apparel marketing for VF Corporation. Being the marketing lead in a very technical category like intimates meant I was either right using data, or else everyone’s personal opinions would often drown out strong ideas. I learned that in order to build brands ‘beyond our imagination’ we had to be willing to fail early, fail often and fail cheap. It’s a view on innovation that is ill-suited to large, quarterly focused, corporations.

I came to realize that, while great ideas are abundant among many of us, start-up brands require better leadership – specifically, leadership that has the technical understanding to concept, design, engineer, source, distribute and market new brands. A good CEO doesn’t make a great start-up brand leader. We’ve learned that wise leaders are boring and smart leaders are exciting. We’re certain ‘The Smart-Talk-Trap’ doesn’t work; that leaders taking smart actions vs dreaming up wise things to do is one of the keys to launching healthy, growing brands. I soon understood that, with proper innovation stewardship, “my one thing,” could become “our big thing,” and that start-up stewardship isn’t for everyone.

Along the way, I started to recognize that two opposing forces generally take shape around how each stakeholder regards the concept of ‘our’ and to what level he or she is accepting of ‘failure.’ We believe that ‘our failure’ proceeds ‘our success’ and that alignment of ourselves is the bedrock of creativity. We know harvesting great ideas requires breakthrough receiving and the suspension of judgment of who’s idea you’re about turn into the next success. I learned early on that everyone loves their own ideas and that the concept of generous collaboration among teams is eluding most big corporations.