Maxfli 'Noodle' ball a success in trial phase

There’s a fine line between marketing brilliance and absurdity. And the folks at Maxfli may be walking it. Tired of what they call the alphabet soup approach of naming golf balls – for example, Titleist’s NXT, Nike’s Double C and Callaway’s CB1 – Maxfli’s marketing team sought a simple moniker for their new product. They wanted to sum up in a single word the performance attributes of the ball, one that plays long and feels soft. And they came up with . . . the Noodle.

Really.

What may be harder to believe is that the Noodle, which is nearing the end of an eight-week trial phase, sold out rapidly in test markets in Atlanta, Birmingham, Ala. and Orlando, Fla. Because of that success, Maxfli officials already have expanded distribution to several other states, and odds are, they will unveil it as part of their official product line up at the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando early next year.

Though the name may be comical, Maxfli’s decision to put it in play underscores what measures some ball companies are willing to take to achieve success in the brutally competitive and cluttered business.

“This is a conservative industry where people are hesitant to take risks,” said Guy Peters, director of marketing for Maxfli and Slazenger balls. “But hitting singles up the middle isn’t going to do it. You got to hit it out of the park. You got to take some risk.

“If the product is very, very good, people will play it regardless of what it’s called. The MC Lady proved it.”

Indeed, Maxfli officials would love to duplicate the grass-roots sales phenomenon the Bridgestone product experienced after male golfers discovered that the MC Lady suited their games perfectly.

Peters, however, is well aware that the ball’s name may make the Noodle an object of ridicule and doom any chance of commercial success.

“It’s a polarizing name,” he said. “Some people think it’s a terrible name. Some people absolutely love it. But the important thing is, everybody’s talking about it.”

Certainly, consumers are doing a double-take when they see it at retail and more than enough are buying it – if for no other reason than to satiate their curiosity. And if golfers play it and like it, Peters argues, they’ll come back for more.

Some already are, according to Jack Hinkle, manager of the Edwin Watts store in Charleston, S.C. In one month, his location sold more than 400 dozen boxes of the Noodle – a pace on par with the MC Lady at its sales peak, Hinkle said. He’s selling a dozen for $19.99.

“This easily could have been a complete bomb,” Hinkle said. “But when people come through the door, they see it, giggle and buy it. We’re getting repeat purchases, and they’re asking for it by name. We snickered when we first heard about it, but it’s definitely standing out in the crowd.”

Whether the Noodle ultimately takes off or flops, Peters won’t be able to say he planned it. Like all new initiatives, the new ball was routinely given an internal project name when it was still in R&D.

“It was created to be long and soft,” said Peters, describing the two-piece, Surlyn-covered, 80 compression sphere. “Those were the primary attributes, so I decided to call it Noodle because that’s what came to mind. A noodle is long and soft. When it came time to naming it (for the marketplace) we couldn’t think of another name that really suited the ball as well as the name Noodle.”

“Letters, number and acronyms. They mean nothing to the average consumer. We, as manufacturers, sometime tend to forget that consumers don’t hold advanced degrees in engineering and physics. The cleaner the message, the better the consumer understands whether this is the right ball for his or her game.”

Simplicity, yes, but silliness?

“I don’t know how much of a long-term success this will be,” Peters said. “I’m just trying to dig in and figure out why it’s causing a stir so I can replicate it in the remaining 95 percent of the country.”

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