After enjoying two of its best years since the world-renowned performance eyewear company was acquired by Italian megabehemotholithic ubercorporation Luxotica, Oakley trumpeted its strong sales and growing market share with a dramatic corporate restructuring. Long-time CEO and engineer of the brand’s smashingly successful Prizm brand, Colin Baden Powell, has been restructured to the position of Chief Design Engineer in recognition of his important work in developing this benchmark product.
CitSB got a chance to sit down with “Scoutmaster” Colin and talk with him about the exciting prospects for Oakley’s future.
CitSB: You must be pretty excited about this demotion, I mean, restructured up-leveling.
Colin Baden Powell: It’s the highlight of my career and I’m so appreciative that Luxotica has shown me this level of confidence.
CitSB: Can you tell us a little bit about your work with the Prizm and how it has helped revolutionize the performance eyewear market?
CBP: Absolutely. We decided to start from scratch, clear the slate, and come up with something that has never done before.
CitSB: Which was?
CBP: Develop a reverse-breakaway product.
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: In bicycling, a “breakaway” is where you “break away” from other riders and then pedal off quickly to be the champion winner. So we wanted to “break away” from our competition. It’s a bicycling sport term. That was our concept.
CitSB: Pretty cool.
CBP: Yes. So in order to “break away” from our competition and pedal to the championships we decided to do that in reverse. In other words, instead of trying to get ahead of everyone we would drop behind them and do something innovative that they couldn’t see and copy.
CitSB: Because you’d be behind them?
CitSB: And that’s the Prizm?
CitSB: Pretty neat. Then what?
CBP: As was part of our plan, the first two years we’ve been far, far, far behind the competition, tucked safely way behind them. In bicycling sports it’s called riding off of your back.
CitSB: Being off the back?
CBP: Whatever. So we successfully did the reverse breakaway off of your back and the main office in Milan was blown away by the execution. They are crazy for bicycle racing sporty stuff in Italy. They went crazy when I showed them what I meant by a revers breakaway. I don’t speak much Italian, but they were excited, I can tell you that. Who is Fausto Coppi?
CitSB: Coppi? He’s, uh, Italy’s most famous standard breakaway rider. So they probably really did appreciate the reverse breakaway concept. Maybe you could call the next generation the “Fausto.” They will love that. So how has this concept been received by the market?
CBP: The response has been incredible. We managed to keep sales way down from the date of launch ’til now. In fact, we’re doing 1/10 the business of our competitors.
CitSB: Sounds like you have this riding off of your back stuff down.
CBP: I don’t mean to brag, but I’m a pretty hardcore amateur bicyclist myself.
CBP: Fifty miles a week, consistently, six or seven months out of the year.
CitSB: So tell me more about the restructuring. That really sounds exciting.
CBP: It is, and the folks in Milan recognized that I didn’t just do it on my own. They’ve given Ted Li, our incredibly innovative senior vice president and general manager of the North American market, which is globally the biggest for Oakley, an amazing opportunity to work as a sales manager at Quiksilver.
CitSB: The surf underwear company?
CitSB: I didn’t know that was part of the Luxotica corporate sausage machine.
CBP: It isn’t, but he had so much success here with the Prizm and our other authentic products especially the bicycle racing market thing that Luigi Florentino dello Cappucino, the CEO in Milan, decided to give Ted the opportunity to go innovate somewhere else. What is it that the surfer people say? “We are like stoked dude, mahalo.” Right?
CitSB: Um, right. Other exciting promotions?
CBP: Well, our senior VP of products, and formerly strategy, Chris Donnelly, has always been a key part of what has made Oakley the following-edge company we’ve become, exemplified by the Prizm, and Luxotica gave him the dream promotion.
CitSB: What was that?
CBP: He has always wanted to do high-speed corporate turnarounds, so they gave him an hour to clear out his office and “turnaround” out the back door. Proud to say he got ‘er done in 59:00 flat. Taught that boy everything he knows. Josee Perault, SVP Global Sales, and Link Newcomb, SVP Retail, were already restructuring for a major promotion into a free market job search position scheduled for September, but they were told they don’t need to bother coming in the building ever again as a kind of going away “thank you.” They were touched, really touched. Carline Starner, SVP of HR, was given an exit package that she probably had to create herself. Awkward, perhaps, but it was the highest compliment if you think about it.
CitSB: Sounds like Oakley’s on a tear. Any thoughts about the future?
CBP: Yes, once we get finished with our reverse breakaway project we are going to segue into “Project Sprunt.”
CitSB: What’s that?
CBP: It’s another pro bicycling term, sprunting. It’s where you go lots faster than everyone else at the very end of a race but actually they all pass you. There is a really cool blog we all follow here at Oakley that has lots of deep insight into the pro cycling world. The writer is an expert on bicycle stuff. Inside tip here — he’s the guy who we get our best ideas from.
CitSB: What’s this, uh, blogger’s name?
CBP: Not sure. He goes by the handle “Wankmiester,” or “Wankmeister,” or “Wanky” or something like that. Say, mind if I show you our latest glasses? The Oakley Spruntmeister, engineered for reverse breakaway artists.
CitSB: Thanks, I think I’m late for another appointment.
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