TMAG launches new irons via Webcast
At 3 p.m. Eastern time Thursday, TaylorMade-Adidas Golf CEO Mark King went live on the Web to unveil his company’s latest irons, the Burner 2.0.
Such a marketing event is the company’s first, but it certainly won’t be the last. Indeed, with the blitz-like speed the equipment maker promises to launch new products, don’t be surprised if TaylorMade Webisodes become a regular online series.
Equipment sales, in general, are down from last year, especially with recession worries clamping down consumer spending. But in a move that seems counterintuitive, King says, “We will increase the level of introductions over the next five years because we have to. That’s the game we’re in.”
He insists his decision isn’t even a matter of choice; TaylorMade simply is adapting to the market’s new rules.
“We haven’t changed the lifecyles of products,” King says. “The consumer is demanding speed.”
He draws comparisons to techie “early adopters” who seemingly never stop clamoring for better features that lead to a steady stream of updated gadgets.
“Look at TVs, phones, iPad . . . in any of these consumer-product categories, the technology gets faster and better and cheaper – and it’s the speed of that that consumers want,” King says. “We’ve seen how the technology companies operate, and we’ve modeled ourselves after them.”
Setting such a pace, however, comes with inherent dangers. King acknowledges the high cost of new product development can just as easily yield excess inventory, cluttered retail stores and consumer confusion. But King says taking such risk is far better than failing to satisfy golf’s early adopters, which he believes means almost certain business death.
“The highest percentage of sales for a new product happens in the first 90 days over its entire lifecycle,” King explains. “So. . . if we’re going to keep the market share we have – in a highly transitional category like drivers, which really drives our business – we have to come out with new drivers every 12 months. That’s the only way we can do it.”
King preached his mantra of rapid innovation during an interview Sept. 8 – exactly 10 years to the day since TaylorMade relaunched itself as “the best performance brand in golf.” His approach certainly has its share of skeptics, but King credits it for growing the company’s annual sales from $300 million to more than $1 billion during that time.
Along with its top-line success, TaylorMade is the market-share leader in metalwoods and has grown its iron business to the point where it’s running neck-and-neck with category leader Callaway. Its putter business, which was in its infancy a decade ago, now claims 12.6 percent unit market share for third best in the industry, behind Odyssey and Ping, according to Golf Datatech. The research firm’s data also show that TaylorMade’s Penta TP is the third-best-selling ball at the super-premium, $40-plus-per-dozen price point, trailing dominant leaders, Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1x.
“In the next 12 months, we’ll launch new technologies in irons, in metalwoods, in balls, in footwear and apparel that I think will obsolete the product you’re using today,” King says. “If you look at the world around you, innovation isn’t slowing; innovation is speeding up.
“Why would golf be the only category where innovation doesn’t speed up? I promise you, it won’t be.”