Newton Running: a Case Study in Brand Revitalization

Last week, we talked about the importance of brand revitalization during challenging times and how companies must address obstacles head-on and manage their brand on a proactive basis in order to maintain their desired perception in the marketplace.

Brand Iron recently helped Newton Running, the innovative, Colorado-born running shoe company, do just that. Working as a team, with some tactical planning and preparation, we set out to show what Newton has done to reorganize and restructure themselves as a company. As part of that effort, we helped develop the brand and public relations strategy and messaging for several different publications, including an article in Runner’s World Magazine that announces the Newton brand revitalization to the world. The message is simple: “we’re thriving, and we are are going to get back to our entrepreneurial roots disrupting the running shoe space.”

Here is the article in full:

Newton Running Reorganizes Without its Original Visionary
The company promises to return to its focus on serious runners who want to run more efficiently.

Newton Running, the innovative shoe company that made a big splash when it launched 10 years ago, has undergone a major reorganization in recent weeks. As a result, visionary cofounder Danny Abshire is no longer with the company and the brand has closed its flagship retail store in Boulder, Colorado.

Jerry Lee, the company’s cofounder and original investor, has come back to lead the brand, which made its name with brightly colored shoes, unique forefoot propulsion lugs, the promotion of more efficient running form, and online-only sales.

Lee returned as CEO and the company’s primary shareholder on April 6. Newton was under the management of private equity firm Fireman Capital Partners, which is no longer involved with the brand.

Lee said Newton will return to its roots and offer a narrower product line while focusing on being a strong but small company. At its peak, Newton Running employed 47 people—and Lee credited the brand’s current viability to the work those individuals had done—but it is now operating with a staff of 15, he said.

The retail store that Newton operated on Pearl Street in Boulder closed in late March. Independent running stores that carried Newton shoes once numbered about 600, but that total has dropped to about 100 in recent months.

Lee is confident the brand will achieve profitability soon by selling direct to consumers online and also through those specialty running retailers that have served the brand well through the years.

“I have always believed in the technology and the impact it has had on so many thousands of runners,” Lee said. “The outpouring of letters and emails from our key retailers and some of our best customers is really what brought me back. When we started the company, I never dreamed of having people tell us their life experiences, and we have had thousands of those kinds of testimonials.

“Financially, I didn’t have to do this. But I looked at all of those people that we created these passions with and it would be unfair if that brand just went away. The people who are invested with me believe strongly in Newton and in me, and so it’s here to stay, without a doubt.”

Newton will primarily focus on its performance shoes and its slightly more accommodating models going forward. Lee said the company will market mainly to discriminating customers concerned with running better and more efficiently.

The company will also go forward without Abshire, and his wife, Jennifer, who was part of the original start-up team. Both were assigned to handle operations at the store and taken out of the core management team a few years ago. They were let go when the previous management team decided to close the Pearl Street store.

Jennifer Abshire posted an item on Facebook on April 2 about their departure. That post garnered a lot of support, but it also raised questions about the fate of the brand.

“I am honored to have worked side by side with my husband, business partner and running buddy,” Jennifer wrote next to a photo showing the company’s launch 10 years earlier at the Ironman 70.3 race in Oceanside, California. “We worked with a great family of co-workers, met a lot of amazing people, travelled the country and helped runners and triathletes of all levels. Our journey with Newton Running has come to an end but we are excited to see what new adventures lie ahead.”

Lee initially backed Abshire’s innovative running shoe designs in the late 1990s. Abshire, a self-taught footwear guru, took the insights he learned from improving the fit of ski boots and later from building custom footbeds for elite triathletes like Paula Newby-Fraser and Michele Jones to developing his first running shoe prototypes in the late 1990s.

Abshire had a vision to build shoes that promoted more efficient running form via a mid-foot running gait and better running posture. His shoes came at a time when most brands were putting new technology and materials into thickly cushioned heel crash pads.

The brand was one of the first to trend toward a zero-drop or level platform and also helped spur the development of lightweight shoes and premium pricing of $155 to $175 per pair. It also offered running form clinics and coaching certification to further its message about efficient running form.

Lee and Abshire first brought the brand to market in 2007 at triathlon race expos and through direct-to-consumer online sales, selling 5,000 pre-orders before its first bulk shipment of shoes reached its warehouse.

“I won’t be part of Newton going forward, but I’m still very proud of what we did with the brand,” Abshire said. “When we started it was Jerry’s money, but it was Jennifer and I who created the grassroots movement. I really enjoyed all of the things that we created. We really stirred the pot and contemplated how to be different.”

The Fireman equity group originally backed Newton in 2011 with a reported $20 million investment, hoping to take it from a fledgling start-up to a major player in the running footwear industry. The brand grew by leaps and bounds from its inception through about 2013 and sponsored elite pro athletes like three-time Hawaii Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander. That group also tried to help it grow among recreational runners

But slower growth, some distribution and manufacturing challenges, and increased competition led Newton to a plateau, Lee said.

Newton achieved double-digit to triple-digital growth for several years, Lee said, before competition from other innovative brands—including Vibram, Hoka, and Altra—slowed its progress a bit. A major industry shift from more minimally designed shoes to well-cushioned models also affected the brand, Lee and Abshire said.

“A lot of things happened after we launched that were out of our control,” Lee said. “When we started, it was just us and the bigger boys like Nike, Brooks, ASICS and New Balance. We kind of opened the door for a whole bunch of other brands to come in.”

Fireman Capital Partners tried to sell the brand, but a deal never materialized, opening the door for Lee to step in with new investors to assume control of the company.

Kris Hartner, owner of three Naperville Running Company stores in suburban Chicago, was the second retailer in the U.S. and the third in the world to sell Newton shoes. He said the innovative technology, the brand’s messaging about running better, its bright fluorescent color palette, and overall quality helped it get off to a flying start in 2007.

But Hartner’s stores backed away from the brand in 2015 after the first reorganization resulted in the layoff of 14 people from its Boulder office and the elimination of most of its outside sales rep staff.

“They kicked ass right off the bat,” Hartner said. “To be honest, I don’t know if any new company has come to the table with as good as the shoes they had. They were impressive. We would have stuck with it, but they eventually kind of went in the opposite direction of how they originally presented themselves.”

Although Abshire says he was disappointed and a bit confused about how it all came down, he insists he’s not bitter. He says he and Jennifer will maintain their Active Imprints custom orthotics business in Boulder and that they already have a few new projects they’ve been working on.

“It’s not the end of the world,” he said. “It’s the end of a business or a relationship and whether it was a great one or a bad one, it doesn’t even matter. Things are constantly changing and as we accept that, the better we are able to move on and do the next best thing. If Jerry is taking over the company again, good for him. I wish him the best of luck.”

The article addressed some growing concerns in the marketplace about Newton Running and dispelled any negative rumors about their ability to stay in business and ship their products. Due to this coverage, we were able to help Newton ease potential fear and hesitation regarding their retailers and incite a spike in sales and excitement in the marketplace. This is only the start in helping to revitalize the Newton Running Brand.

If you and your company have gone through challenging times, don’t just sit there, take action and develop a strategy for getting back to achieving your company’s goals and objectives. Learn how Brand Iron can help.

CRS Rebrands to Promote a Fresh, Bold and Community-oriented Approach to Insurance Brokering

Brand Iron teamed up with the local insurance brokerage to craft a new brand, website, and bold exterior signage that sell their relationship-driven services.

For the past six months, Brand Iron has been working with CRS Insurance on a total re-brand. As our team started learning all about the local insurance brokerage, what stuck out most was how much they care about celebrating their community. Through dedicating time and resources to charities and other philanthropic endeavours involving children, shelter and second chances, they say many of their favorite corporate memories revolve around time spent inside their community and outside their office.

This was a sizeable factor to consider when the re-brand began. A lot of businesses dictate the importance of being active in their communities, but it was immediately apparent that CRS walks the walk.

Of course, from time to time, you gotta get down to business, too. We started by matching the symbol of CRS, their new logo, with the company’s emerging bold and “active” business identity in an attempt to make it more recognizable within their field.

We followed suit with their new website, sticking with strong colors and impactful typefaces, and making sure potential customers are drawn to a visual and intellectual message.

Finally, we developed signage that is currently on display at CRS’ Denver office and proudly displays a new era for the company and its identity.

“Everyone here at CRS is really excited about our new brand.  The infusion of color and simplicity really stands out compared to our old logo and the majority of our peers.  Brand Iron was thorough in their research of our company, our processes, our industry, and our competitors when creating our color scheme, logo, and website.  Their input was instrumental in helping us clarify the message that we put out into the world; how we are different and why that is important.”
– Eric Johnson, CRS Insurance

CRS earns its livelihood by working to alleviate the pain that keeps businesses from reaching peak profitability and efficiency. This level of care toward their clients, partners and colleagues was apparent throughout the re-brand process.  We are eager to watch CRS move forward anew in an exciting and invigorating market.

McStain Neighborhoods Emerges Fresh and Strong from the Housing Crisis with a Brand Update and Capital Raise Deck

With Brand Iron’s expertise, the savvy Colorado real estate developers and home builders have a strategic plan to drive business success, raise capital and invigorate their communities.

For McStain Neighborhoods, 2017 is looking bright. They have a shiny new brand and logo, their business pipeline is strong, and they are emerging resurgent in a housing market in full recovery mode. In fact, only four years after hitting historic lows, 2016 saw the biggest increase in national home prices in nine years.

The national rise in real estate prices is encouraging the creation of more housing communities, and developers in affected markets are again beginning steady construction. McStain Neighborhoods is one such developer. Since 1966, the Colorado Front Range builders have maintained that homebuilding is more than just a business – it is a passion fueled by the belief that a better world can be built by rethinking the very nature of community.

Mcstain creates places where people feel more connected to each other, and that’s why it felt natural for us at Brand Iron to help them rebrand and position themselves for capital growth and resurgence in a recovering market.

“This was not your typical rebrand experience. It was engaging, robust and invigorating. Other branding agencies only focus on the pretty picture and one message. With Brand Iron’s process, important questions are answered and you complete the entire business cycle: internal, investors, trade and industry relations.”
-David Ware, CEO of McStain Neighborhoods

The McStain team had been working closely with Barb Anderson, president of Anderson Marketing Solutions, and they came to us in order to redefine and reinvigorate their brand positioning and stance in a sophisticated and challenging market. In order to do so, we determined that, in an industry defined by community, human capital is paramount and would contribute to McStain’s new strategy above all else. So, we crafted strategic messaging that was consistently “people-centric” in order to create business and drive revenue.

It was also crucial to create a brand that would “measure out,” i.e. not only position the company for growth, but also create a meaningful platform that every member of the McStain team could stand behind. We did this by integrating the entire company into our shared process, from internal HR to the builders themselves. We also designed a new logo and developed an in-depth, market-specific plan to raise money and position the company for growth with a Capital Raise Deck.

“When looking at your business across all avenues, working with [Brand Iron CEO] Michael Doyle is important because he is not from the creative side of the marketing industry. Brand Iron embraces the reality that there is a business to run and the priority of impacting ROI for us and our investors. The capital Raise deck created by Brand Iron was an important component of that.”
-David Ware, CEO of McStain Neighborhoods

With a holistic, collaborative process, Brand Iron and McStain Neighborhoods worked together to develop a collective strategic business strategy, capital raise presentation and an overall company brand that will continue to be an integral part to their success. We wish them the very best, and we hope that, in the future, your organization is proactive in taking that first step toward achieving your full potential.

App-X Rebrands as Altvia

Founded in 2006, App-X made a name for itself through fully integrated Salesforce-centric solutions for private equity. Within a few years, App-X was experiencing rapid growth thanks to its customer-focused approach and unique product offerings. Today, App-X emerges as Altvia and continues to solve the digital problems of private equity.

The story of Altvia’s rebrand starts at a point of critical growth. The App-X leadership team took a deep diagnostic dive into their company’s brand and decided it was time to realign the company’s message to more accurately portray their dedication to customer service and private equity solutions.

Brand Iron worked diligently to develop strategic messaging, a new logo, and an updated website to focus the brand in accordance with the company’s goals and vision.

Partnering with Brand Iron, a strategic branding and marketing company out of Denver, App-X began the transition of rebranding. They chose the name Altvia, which signifies how the company guides clients on a path to the top.  Brand Iron worked diligently to develop strategic messaging, a new logo, and an updated website to focus the brand in accordance with the company’s goals and vision. With an updated brand architecture, the Broomfield-based private equity solutions company continues to focus their clients’ experience and efficiency.

Brand Iron focused on elevating the brand’s look and feel to fit the targeted private equity audience. Altvia’s new logo displays a modern mountain design that represents each client’s ascent to success. A splash of teal blends together balance, stability, and an emphasis on forward movement. The color palette reinforces the pillars of Altvia and bring the new brand together.

On September 1st, Altvia celebrated their 10th anniversary with their new brand launch. They remain focused on growth and continuously improving private equity communications, services, and relationships.

 

The Rebranding of R&D Pipeline

Brand Iron proudly celebrates the new brand launch of R&D Pipeline. The site utility solutions company continues to lead their industry with an updated logo and streamlined company name, choosing to evolve R&D Pipeline to the condensed RD Pipeline.

RDP’s new website tells the brand’s story in a whole new way. Through their unique company history and project overviews, the family-run company shows what it takes to lead the pipeline industry.

Brand Iron’s dedicated design team went above and beyond to make sure every detail came together. The new company logo utilizes a shield background, both to convey security and pay homage to family. A distinct crest shape utilizes warm, invigorating colors to convey stability and a steadfast commitment to safety and comfort.  The resulting look conveys their strong and consistent message.

The resulting new brand truly represents the dedication RDP puts into every water, sewer, and storm project. From a family company to a multiple-crew corporation, their reputation for teamwork and quality follows wherever they go.