Joe Prebich has a theory: Emerging outdoor enthusiasts come for the lifestyle apparel and stay for the technical goods.
As climbing gyms explode and the more seasoned indoor climbers literally seek new heights, Mammut—and the industry as a whole—have an opportunity to help those consumers reach the next level, converting hikers and campers to backpackers looking for ultralight gear and indoor climbers to mountaineers.
That’s exactly the kind of potential for growth that attracted Prebich to his new role as the CEO and managing director of Mammut North America.
“In Europe, there’s a really strong understanding of Mammut’s positioning as a high-end, premium maker,” he said. “In North America, those messages are not heard as loud and clear. That’s why I believe I was tapped for the job, to help clarify that message and deliver a strong statement to consumers and retailers, that we understand where consumers want to go.”
Prebich, who took the reins last March, says the 156-year-old Swiss climbing brand is about to make its North American presence a whole lot bolder. “I think there’s a customer in North America who maybe wasn’t ready, 10 years ago, to have that [technical gear] type of conversation with Mammut,” Prebich said. But now, they are. And Mammut is planning to reintroduce itself to this market, with a stronger focus on its heritage and sustainability mind-set.
Prebich is an old hand at growing European brands here in the United States. Before he started at Mammut, he spent three years at Fjällräven as brand VP. Under his tenure, the brand’s American presence went from little-known Swedish mountaineering company to mainstream alpine fashion brand. Thanks to marketing initiatives like a Monday Night Football commercial, a Colorado Fjällräven Classic that serves as a first-time backpacking experience for many participants, and holiday pop-up shops in Times Square, their products have gained traction as fashionable well beyond the reaches of the core outdoor market. Prebich says we’ll start to see similarly impactful initiatives from Mammut starting this fall, but declined to elaborate beyond calling out the new logo you’ll see at their booth this show (it will appear on products come S19).
“If I can say anything, it’s that I believe in big moments in great cities and locations that galvanize a customer around events and activities,” Prebich said. “You’ll see us coming to market with a confident, A-to-Z strategy, which puts us from the backcountry traverse, to the on-store-floor sell-through program, to a national media campaign.” Mammut is working on a strategy to open its first store in North America, expanding on the 70-plus stores it already operates globally.
As a technical brand, Prebich says it's vital for Mammut's customers to get in-person information about product features, safety, and performance. “It’s extremely important that you can walk into a Mammut retail experience and experience the breadth of the brand,” he said.
This article was originally published in Day 1 of The Daily (summer 2018).