This is a Part 2 of the conversation with Andreas Bennert, the man who made his mark in winter sports with One Way and now goes on with his new brand, 4KAAD
– 4KAAD – where does it come from, who’s behind it and how is it going to be different from One Way?
– 4KAAD is actually the name of the production holding in China. Already 2015 we decided to register the name as a trademark and offer waterproof bags under the own brand to the markets beside all other private labels.
During summer 2018 we decided to use our knowledge and technology to boost 4KAAD into the cross country ski poles business as well. From this fall we have been introducing the XC collection build on new standards and designs to major chains with great feedback. First products are already in stores from November this year.
4KAAD runs own productions in China for ski poles and bags. All the productions have been built during the last 15 years. We have two large operations in China, where we produced for 3 years and keep on producing poles for several well-known pole brands and bags for international labels in sports and cycling.
We concentrate today on improving the production for other brands for poles and bags. We managed during 2018 to win even more brands producing within our factories. Technology and several patents are still in the hands of our factories.
– What’s the range of products? Will it match that of One Way?
– We do under 4KAAD brand different type of bags ( waterproof, urban back bags, cycling bags), xc poles and Nordic Walking poles, XC gloves and fluor ski wax. Textiles we are planning, but a release date is not confirmed. Many people ask for bringing back again young and colourful XC textiles as we did earlier. Skis and boots we will not do. The market is very difficult and decreased almost 40% in the last years.
– A lot of people are wondering about origins of the name 4KAAD . Phonetically it sounds a lot like the family name of well-known biathletes that used to use One Way poles. Coincidence?
– 4KAAD is the name of the Chinese Holding company. It represents the 4 founders with initials of their first names. Since 2015 “4KAAD” is an international registered trademark. As the European office of 4KAAD is in Finland, people usually speak the brand in their home language, which means the number in the brand name as well. Maybe in the English spoken countries could be with some imagination a similarity, but still you pronounce it different as a known French athlete.
Maybe there is a coincident phonetically with the name in English spoken countries, but we have no interest or intention to be linked to that biathlete.
– What are the most important lessons/ideas/know-how you carry over to 4KAAD?
– 4KAAD is a production organization specialized in bags and poles. The main business is OEM production for other brands. We are strong in this field as we understand beside technology the markets and retail business. It will be a modern brand in bags, urban life style products and, due to our passion, in Nordic Sports as well. The fast-changing market offers us great opportunities to create a new benchmark again.
Another aspect: we will work different with 4KAAD due to the changes in retail and online business. We also consider not to do those extensive sponsorship programs. Consumers have changed their opinion and interest in medals and results related to a consumer product. For instance skin skis are hot today but they have nothing to do with a World Cup victory or any athlete in person.
But we love racing and performance and we will work with few skiers as our ambassadors. With all the know-how of our team with 15 years creating an existing Nordic brand and product we take with all we did.
– One Way was best known for excellent poles that built a name for the company – and surely helped to sell other stuff. Are you planning to follow the same model with 4KAAD?
– We built over 15 years a very strong development process with several partners in China. This technology benchmark offers us moving to the next level in carbon technology. There is nothing we need to find again.
– Your new flagship product, Black Code X poles, do look a lot like OW SLG 10. How close are they technologically?
– Black Code X is the next generation of what we did for last 5 years with the SLG10. Our carbon suppliers from Japan created a unique raw material especially for such kind of product, super light and strong.
Blackcode X is yet 4g/m lighter ( than SLG 10) and has improved strength/ breakage resistance by 15%. In addition we were able to bring the balance point some 7 cm higher which means a better swing of the pole. The race pole is half made by our Japanese carbon producer and then only finished in our factory in China. All other poles are 100% made in China.
We continue using the Change-IT basket and other components which we developed over the last years.
– You used to do a lot of highly visible athlete sponsorships – but now you say you are planning nothing of a kind. How do you then plan to connect to your potential consumers?
– Social media does the communication today. Even funny or surprising posts are doing good marketing. earlier the news was only a result of a race – today it is more individual information. We have always been very active in social media and for years one of the largest platform in FB etc. News are like that OW Bikini Girl that you mentioned, they are creating more interest to stop than just the Race Results List. But best is of course, if an athlete is successful – it brings interesting posts. But there are many good skiers who are not “visible” even if they are on the podium week by week.
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