Ryan Jones of Paad Traction talks about why he chose to do a traction start-up
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 20 July, 2017 - Paad Traction is a new Australian company that's seeking to set themselves apart from the current surf pad program of team signature models and arty design offerings. Instead they are pursuing a simplified supply chain, no-nonsense business model and pushing the product out with a cheeky attitude. Owner and operator Ryan Jones sent in the below interview from the Paad blog.
PAAD? Who the hell are you and how do you pronounce that fruity name? Explain yourselves!
PAAD launched on Boxing Day of 2016 with the aim of providing simple, functional, good-looking, lower-cost traction. PAAD is, unexcitingly, just pronounced like the word ‘pad’. But, hell, people can pronounce it however they damn-well please! PAAD are big fans of the Bondi Hipsters, so, if you want to get fruity, and drag out that double-a, maan, go for it!
Choosing PAAD as the name came about as I wanted the brand to reflect the product, and vice versa; simple, straight-forward and exactly what you’re promised. Regarding the logo treatment; I’m a fan of simple, powerful design. I hate complicated. A designer pal and I played around with a few options and variations of the word ‘pad’ and chose the double-a due to its symmetry, product-integration-suitability and its visual impact.
Who are we? Well, PAAD is one guy, really. Me. Ex-Surfing Life Marketing Dude and Editor, twitchy goofy-footer, based on the Gold Coast (11 years), via 19 years of growing up in the Hunter Valley and desperately surfing between Newcastle and Port Stephens as often as I could.
PAAD simply came about because, personally, I thought it was absolutely fucking ridiculous to have to pay $60+ for a piece of EVA traction. Especially when the majority of them are covered in the most heinous of graphics and colours. I spoke to some people I trusted, both inside and outside of the industry and, they too, thought that the prices and designs were way out of line. And so, about 18 months ago, the hunt for a respected manufacturer and colour palette began.
It’s 2017 for crying out loud, it’s just not fair on the consumer for simple, semi-durable goods to be increasing in price, when the cost of manufacturing and shipping these goods continues to drop (especially for the far larger brands with their ridiculous economies of scale).
There’s a growing trend at the moment – and rightfully so – of cutting supply chains drastically, removing large swathes of middle-men and archaic organisational structures, and passing on the savings that are made to the consumer. Think other brands in the surfing sphere like NCHE Wetsuits and NEED Essentials; good, reputable, honest brands with products at a price that is justifiable.
In all seriousness though, hell, PAAD is small-time! I know that. PAAD reflects about 10% of my brainspace at the moment, in between two or three contract marketing jobs. It’s a labour of love; PAADs for myself, PAADs for the boys and PAADs for anyone else who agrees with our brand and direction.
Interestingly enough, PAAD also means ‘fart’ in Hindi. Let one rip!
And your products? What? Why?
PAAD launched with a core range of three products; a two-piece tail pad, a three-piece tail pad and a four-piece deck grip. Each product is available in four colours (Black, Sky, Mint and Fanta) and each product is interchangeable with the other pieces and colours of the same model. There are significant discounts on orders with two or more products… so customers can create the colour mix they want at a fraction of the standard retail price of other brands.
It feels like there’s a new traction company launching every bloody week. Were / are you worried about a flooded market?
When the PAAD concept kicked off and we began our product development, around 18 months ago now, the market wasn’t flooded at all, really.
At the time, the big guys were out there (AstroDeck, Creatures, Gorilla, FCS, Modom), doing their thing, almost resting on their laurels. There were a couple of smaller guys having a dig, and of course the surf brands, and some board brands, producing their own product, but really not making too much noise – especially when considering a large focus on an outdated bricks and mortar retail model. Even when PAAD launched two months ago, word of RAGE had just come out and the Necro guys had only just started making some noise.
I see the emergence of a handful of new traction and hard goods companies, at a similar time, as evidence that there was, and is, a niche to be filled. I love an industry in a state of flux, with individuals and new companies trying to rattle some cages. It’s how the surf industry with born and continues to grow. Bring on the flood!
Honestly though, AstroDeck are still the bench mark, in my opinion. The original and the best and all that. But, seriously, their price was a real inhibitor to me, not to mention certain members of the family with a penchant for going HAM on Social Media at anyone and anything who might clash with their personal or brand values. Eternal Kings, Queens and Princes of the sports, without a doubt… but, gosh, in a world where a social presence can make or break and brand, their actions are almost sardonic… which isn’t a great look.
We heard on the grapevine that the RAGE dudes took a little bit of offense at some of the PAAD brand message?
Haha, yeah, spot on! I heard that through the grapevine too. I imagine it’s probably this part, huh?
“We won’t push some pseudo-punk ethos on you, because in reality, we’re all a bunch of ponces prancing around in tight, black suits and it doesn’t even hurt when we fall off. That ain’t punk”
Honestly, I love those guys and what they’re doing. I was always stoked to run content of them when I was at Surfing Life, especially Noz and Creed. Send Shieldsy to shoot one session with Noa and he’d come back with 10 cover options. All of their team are incredibly talented and I am still hanging on any new clips they’re about to drop.
But, in reality, the PAAD message was developed about 12 – 18 months ago, long before we, or anyone else, knew anything about RAGE. So, while I’m flattered they even noticed PAAD, and that they thought it was a direct reference to RAGE, it’s a little self-aggrandising and pretentions that they think it’s all directed at them.
For now, they shouldn’t be worrying about little ol’ PAAD. Their stars are burning bright, and they’ve huge marketing power and influence on a small, yet highly valuable, segment of the market… kudos to them for spotting that niche and utilising their current status to fill it with a timely product.
I just believe that, as their customer grows older, the appeal of the punk-aesthetic and FTW vibes might grow a little old with them. In my mind, I see their market as 13 – 18 year olds who really don’t know who they are yet, but they want to spend money on gear they think is cool or on trend. Hell, we all went through that stage and we all spent a truckload of coin on trendy surf gear. The business model is sound.
But just as the RAGE crew themselves have transitioned through styles and fads to where they are now, as will their customer base. Who will they be in two years time? Will RAGE stick to their current, core values? I’m interested to watch their trajectory and how they pivot to accommodate both their personal values and their customers’ values.
I think some people take affronts to their brand or product – even ones just based in assumption like this – far too personally. Service your market, forget about everyone else.
A great example of that is The Mad Hueys. Brilliant concept and perfect activation. They understand their customer. They’ve reached a point where they understand their current and potential customer, so well, that they’re converting non-Huey types INTO Hueys. They’re the surfing industry’s Unit (remember them – the power of the bogan dollar!) - and as long as they’ve got smart, restrained, measured people at the helm, and don’t attempt to bite off more than they can chew… they’ll continue to kill it for many years to come. I don’t wear their gear, but will always give credit where it’s due.
In PAAD’s instance, the product is the hero. It’s as simple as that.
So, uh, is what PAAD doing actually working?
People might call it anti-marketing, non-selling or, to an extent, comparative advertising, especially when considering our brand manifesto:
But I’m just calling it reality. The product is exactly what it IS, as well as exactly what is ISN’T… so I’m just making people aware of that and allowing them to make their own comparisons and eventual purchase decision.
Is it working? Well, I’m not giving away any other paid jobs yet, that’s for sure! But PAAD is moving more products each week than it did the last, with a steady, consistent growth rate over the past two months of PAAD being an actual ‘thing’. Its, uh, well, gaining traction? (sorry!).
We’ve a couple of accounts opening up soon with some hand-selected online and retail stores. These accounts do considerable damage to PAADs already low margins… but they’ve been chosen due to their sphere of influence and/or alignment with our brand values, not to primarily move product.
Editing a magazine in a world of dying print publishing really forced me and the Surfing Life team at the time to be incredibly efficient in all aspects of the magazine, business and general operations. Thankfully, despite how sad it is to see a large percentage of the print mags around the world struggling, the skills I learnt at Surfing Life are directly related to PAADs growth and chance at success. I’ve learnt to do a lot with very little, nurse and grow relationships with valuable partners and pump out a lot of work in a small amount of time. I think that’s what gives PAAD the best chance of success; I understand PAADs potential market and what they want, I’m nimble and open to change and am busying myself with PAADs concerns, and not making decisions based on what the dudes down the street are doing.
What’s next for PAAD?
Thankfully, PAAD is surrounded by some really talented people; photographers, designers, digital developers and other business owners. Not only do they create a bit of an inspirational and motivational environment, but anything that I think up can be actioned super quickly, and easily, or instantly shot down by a respected and trusted opinion.
Right now, a couple of new products built around the current, core offering are on the table, as well as a pretty epic consumer-geared development that will allow a PAAD customers a stack of freedom in building their perfect PAAD.
Aside from that, I’ll be surfing out the front of home, testing products, going to work, posting on Social Media, having a beer with my mates, going on a couple of surf trips and chilling with my gal and puppy. The doing it all over again. Living life because what else is there to do!?