It’s mailbag time! I know, I’ve been a little delinquent on getting these answered and posted. And I’m sorry I couldn’t answer all of the questions. I was tempted to answer some of the more colorful ones, but I’ll save that banter for the Twitter box.
Thanks again and if you have any questions or comments for the next mailbag, feel free to send them via twitter to @callawaygolf or to me directly at @harryarnettcg. You can also post them on the official Callaway Facebook page or email HashtagChad at email@example.com. So let’s get right to it. Here’s the Summer mailbag:
What’s all this “pirate ship” talk?
Chuck in New Jersey
Arrrrggh! A few things on this. First, as everyone has noticed, we have completely changed our marketing model. I’ve mentioned before on this here web column (and just about everywhere else I go, for that matter) that we are now acting as part creative agency, part newsroom, and part morning show.
All of that gives us a way to talk about our products and brand in a much more unique and potent manner. It’s enabled us to interact and engage directly with literally hundreds of thousands of golfers all over the world. We believe that the traditional influence model in golf has changed.
It is no longer a two-dimensional pyramid, but a three-dimensional sphere, aka “The Sphere of Influence.” (which by the way, I also talk about everywhere. So much so that my family makes me drop a dollar into a jar every time I mention it. So far, we have $5,297 in the jar). The new influencers in golf, the enthusiasts, sit right in the middle of the sphere.
We take a lot of our inspiration from people and innovators outside the world of golf who have also recognized the changing dynamics in their own fields. People like Howard Stern, Marc Maron, Adam Corolla, Thornton Dial, and Lorne Michaels as well as news, entertainment networks, and organizations like ESPN, Fox, GolfChannel, UFC, and others.
We’re trying to take an outsider’s perspective on innovating in the marketing space, in the same way that Callaway was founded with an outsider’s perspective on the golf industry.
So the phrase “pirate ship” came up one day when we were planning some new activities and someone mentioned that we were actually building kind of a “pirate ship” that is changing the ways a company engages with consumers.
And we loved that phrase. And it gives Rhiona a perfect opportunity to open every conversation with “Arrrghhhh” which is never a bad thing. It’s especially fun on Wednesdays when she’ll give you an “Arrrrrgh” and a “Hump Daaayyyyyy!!!!”
And then, to kind of put an eye patch on the whole thing, Ethan, our manager of custom content, told us about Radio Caroline, or “pirate radio,” back in the 60s in England. (check it out: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Caroline) And that really resonated with us.
How about a status report on the “Five Year War?” Ahead of plan or what?
Kelly in Chicago
That particular rally-cry came in the Fall of 2012 and was a call to change. It was an impassioned plea to become a company dedicated to setting the pace and leading change in golf. So from that standpoint, we’re right on schedule. We believe we are right on target with respect to setting the standard for performance in every category.
We have a little ways to go in some areas in product, of course, but we do believe that if you pick up a Callaway club or ball, you will have the best performing product in that category. And that’s the goal every time. As @DocHock Alan Hocknell says, we want to make products we are proud of.
And to that end, we’ve gained momentum in every category around the world. We are leading with performance and consumer engagement and are well on our way in creating a different kind of golf company (I will not say anything about “pirate ships” or “sphere of influence” because I don’t want to pay another couple of bucks into the jar).
We’re never satisfied, so I wouldn’t say we’re ahead of plan necessarily, but I think we are all pleased with the results and the changes so far and are even more excited about what’s to come. Can anyone say “Mongolian Reversal?” Well, I guess I just did…and more on that phrase later…
You guys keep saying the success of FT Optiforce on Tour caught you off guard. How is that?
Robert in Los Angeles
The FT Optiforce Driver was built specifically for players looking to add speed, which isn’t necessarily a problem the best players in the world have. For them, 99 problems but speed ain’t one of ‘em. So with the rapid adoption on Tour, we really started to wonder why, of course, since we knew this would be a massive hit with consumers, but we suspected would be more of a niche on Tour.
Our R&D guys didn’t want to just answer with a “dunno” whenever asked, so they started to really look into it. What we have discovered is that there is kind of an “optimized” center of gravity location with Optiforce, which coupled with the extremely aerodynamic head produces golf nirvana: high MOI and easy to launch, low spin launch conditions.
So in other words, it’s given the best players in the world more speed, optimal spin, and high MOI. As Trevor Immelman put it, he’s never had a driver that’s so long and also as easy to hit as a 7-iron.
With every manufacturer seemingly chasing launch monitor speed, a one-dimensional approach most everyone also takes is to move the cg location down and even more forward.
This will give a lift in center impact ball speed. But this also tends to create massive problems with MOI and ball speed “robustness” on off-center hits. So in other words, you may get 1 out of 10 drives going farther, but the others will fall out of the sky or be extremely uncontrollable because of the low MOI. Not so with Optiforce and other Callaway drivers, which have a more complete performance package.
Who decides the color schemes for drivers? And who decides on the headcovers?
David in Louisville
That’s all kicked off by our head of R&D Alan Hocknell and his industrial design team, who in my completely and 100% biased opinion, is the best in the business. So they’ll present initial thoughts and then a core team of the commercial leaders will weigh in on it and they’ll go through many iterations until they put the pencils down.
Sometimes products can change quite a bit, and sometimes very little. X Forged, for example, actually went through very little modification beyond how it looked at the first presentation. But most of the time, that process delivers the best looking and performing products in the market. And in the end, Chip Brewer has the final (and biggest) vote!
The headcovers come from our accessories and gear group. They’ll take a look at the products and then try to come up with accessories that are equally as compelling and high performing. The approval process works similarly to the club process.
Does it annoy you when people on your Facebook site or on the golf communities criticize Callaway?
Jerold in Dallas
No way! We have thicker skin that! Well, I don’t, but the rest of our team does! Golf fans are always proud of their affiliations. Facebook is hilarious sometimes when you get the fans of various companies coming on our official fanpage spreading the gospel of some other company and their products.
But the smack talk makes it fun. And legitimate criticism is always welcome and solicited. We are always listening to what fans have to say so that we can get better. Even @HashtagChad has responded well to direct criticism, as he’s sped up his deliberate pre-shot routine.
I’m really liking the whole Wedgeducation thing. Is the plan to do more of those?
Nathan in South Florida
Oh yeah, definitely. We’ve been doing more wedge lessons in the Wedgeducation series every Monday and posting them on CallawayGolf.com. We call it “Continuing Wedgeducation.” Get it?
Okay, so it’s a little corny, but Matt Haneline from the ZooCrew and Randy Peterson from the ECPC choose a wedge shot from the weekend tournament play and show you how to execute it. So if you’re suffering from a little Low Jimmy or Extra Saucy withdrawal, don’t worry, because you can get more Wedgeducation every week!
Do you really think the ZooCrew can beat the Dream Team in the Grandaddy? You’re dreaming if you think so, by the way.
Dave in Wisconsin
We’ve been practicing hard, giving 110%, taking it one day at a time, taking it one shot at a time, playing the course and not the opponents, trying to get a little better every day, saying our prayers and taking our vitamins, gettin’ down and gettin’ on up, shake rattling and rolling, knowing to be the man you have to beat the man.
I think I’m done with those for now. We’ll be ready and I don’t know how it will turn out but I can be certain of three things: 1) We will all have fun 2) Chad will be tweeting about it during his round and 3) JRod will drink more red wine than all of the Dream Team combined. So #bringit
This summer has been crazy with all the price wars and mid-summer launches, etc. What’s your take on all of that?
Loren in Charleston
The industry really hasn’t seen a year like this in a long, long time. We had companies dropping their prices 3 weeks after a brand new launch. We had promotions in place in April that were usually the types of things we’d see in September. I don’t think we have seen a fundamental shift in the fundamentals of the industry, necessarily, but I think that with the market share movements we had this year, aggressive tactics by competitors are to be expected.
We knew that if we got off to a good start, and we certainly expected that with our lineup, we would probably be faced with very aggressive pricing maneuvers by competitors. But the early movement and timing was certainly unusual and somewhat unprecedented.
I’ve really been enjoying the Podcasts. What’s the plan for those?
Dan in Denver
This is another one of those things that we thought golfers would really like, but hadn’t been done by anyone, so we weren’t exactly sure how to quantify the success. So we didn’t know which direction it would go. We will continue to be talking every week to some personality connected to the game of golf.
And the #CallawayTalks podcast has been so well received and already is one of the fastest growing sports podcasts #humblebrag. So that part is great and we have an awesome slate of guests scheduled through this year and into next year.
So keep listening and let us know what you think! This is just the beginning for Callaway Media Productions and the great staff we have here. More #humblebrag
Phil’s win at the Open was awesome. What was it like around the office that week when he dropped by?
Matt in Little Rock
It was one of the most memorable experiences for everyone at Callaway and I’m certain those of us who were around for it will never forget that week. Starting with Phil’s epic 2,3,4,3,4,3 finish, to Bones popping into our office the very next day, to Phil himself coming in to show us all the Claret Jug, the place was electric.
I don’t think we have come down from that high and I hope we never do! I hope you all felt that you were right there with us, because we really wanted to share that experience with Callaway fans around the world.