UGG: The Birth of a Brand

How do you build a billion dollar brand if you have no marketing experience?

Brian Smith is the man whose vision created the boots that you know and have seen around the world. He is a former accountant who founded UGG Australia and sold it to Deckers Outdoor.

I invited him here to tell the story of how he did it and to teach us how he built this mega brand.

Brian recently wrote a book about his experiences in business called The Birth of a Brand.

Brian Smith

Brian Smith

UGG
Brian Smith is the founder of UGG Australia and sold it to Deckers Outdoor.
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Full Interview Transcript

Andrew: Hey there Freedom Fighters. My name is Andrew Warner, founder of mixergy.com, home of the ambitious upstart. How do you build a billion dollar brand if you have no marketing experience? You know these boots right? These are my wife’s, she calls them UGG’S, she loves wearing them. Brian Smith is the man whose vision created these boots that you know and have seen around the world. He is a former accountant who founded UGG, Australia and sold it to Deckers Outdoor. I invited him here to tell us the story of how he did it and to teach us how he built this mega brand.

Brian recently wrote a book about his experiences in business and Brian, can you show the book cover. It’s a well written book called, “The Birth of a Brand.” It’s available everywhere. Yeah, let’s get it towards the center a little more, I want to make sure that people see it. So if they happen to be in a book store or see it online, recommend it to them, they’ll recognize it. We’ll talk about some of the stories from that book. It’s all sponsored by Toptal. If you’re having trouble finding the right developer, one who is not just a great developer but also a good cultural fit with your company, I want you to check out Toptal, Top as in the Top and Tal as in Talent.

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Brian: Hey, thanks for having me Andrew. It should be fun.

Andrew: Brian, of all the celebrities and people who you have seen wearing boots like these with this on the back, your logo, who are some that stand out and that you are proudest of?

Brian: Okay. The first time I ever saw a celebrity wearing them was in Rolling Stones magazine. It was Neil Young sitting in a photograph and then very soon after that was Tom Petty and I realized that this had a life in the entertainment industry that I had no idea of how they got them. But the pinnacle was many years later, like 17 years later when Oprah had them on the best picks for Christmas for like 25 minutes on national TV. That was the pinnacle.

Andrew: I read in the Wall Street Journal that that turned sales, actually it didn’t turn them around, they were growing, but boy, did it jump-start those sales, it took off.

Brian: It really did. She has an amazing power, yes.

Andrew: Interesting that Neil Young, a musician was the first person who was a big celebrity that you saw wearing them. Music seems to play a role in the creation of the business. In fact, you were listening to a Pink Floyd album when your life was changed. What was the Pink Floyd album?

Brian: It was Dark Side of the Moon and I was an ex-accountant. I’d quit because I didn’t like it. I graduated and then quit the same day and I didn’t know what to do. So one time, I just discovered the Pink Floyd, Dark Side of the Moon and I ripped the covering off and I put it on and the second song said, “Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain, you are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.”

I went, “Oh my gosh, he is talking to me,” and then it went on and said, “But then one day you find ten years have got behind you, no one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.” And I just got goose bumps and I’m like, “Ten years I’ve been trying to graduate as an accountant.” I hated it the whole time and all my friends they’re tracking along nicely and I’m standing still. So that spurred me to go to America because all the new trends were coming out of California and I was going to go find the next big trend and bring it back to Australia.

Andrew: What’s the trend that you saw coming from California or the United States and hitting it big in Australia, that helped inspire this decision?

Brian: Well, lots of diverse things like water beds and Levi Jeans, all the surf brands that were coming down were really influential for me because I was a really big surfer at the time and it just seemed like California was such a creative place.

Andrew: Surfer Magazine actually was another reason why UGG was created. What happened with Surfer Magazine, what did you see there?

Brian: Well, I had been in California three months and still had not found the really big thing and one day, my buddy was coming over and he came over and we were going to surf Malibu and he brought Surfer Magazine with him and I was just flicking through it and I suddenly stopped at one photo. It was an image of two pairs of legs up in front of a fire place and they were wearing sheep skin boots and I just went, “Oh my God!” I had goose bumps again and I’ve come to think that’s my spirit telling me, “You’re on the right track” but I just went, “Oh my God, Doug, there’s no sheep skin boots in America,” and he said, “Well, of course, it’s so warm here.” I said, “No, you don’t get it.” One in two Australians are in some sort of sheep skin foot wear. We’re going to do this and we’re going to make millions.

Andrew: And so, it was the reversal of what you anticipated. You thought you were going to the US, to America and bring back a brand, bring back a product to Australia and make it big there, Now, you’re thinking, “Let’s take something from Australia and spread it throughout the United States.”

Brian: Exactly. It’s funny how the universe works, yeah.

Andrew: You know what, you’ve said that a couple times that you’ve made references to the universe to bring things to you. It seems that, that’s one of your beliefs, that when you have an intention, when you have something in mind, the opportunities will coalesce. Am I right?

Brian: Always, always, yeah. It’s a fascinating thing and it’s like, here’s a good story. If you were asked how many refrigerator advertisements you’ve seen this week, you would go “None.” But the minute you start to need a refrigerator, you will see the damned things everywhere. Everywhere there is an advertisement for a refrigerator and the point is, all the information is out there in the universe but until you tune into one aspect of what you want to do or what you want to buy or what you want to have for your life, only then, does the universe sort of kick in and put in front of you everything you need.

Andrew: Brian, how structured are you about that? Is it the kind of thing you write down, that you organize or is it just a pop thought that hits your head that says, “You know what, it would be good to find something to bring back to the US and build a big company.”

Brian: It’s really, the lines blur, you have to have the intention, number one. You don’t have to know the answer but you have to have the intention and if you do that, then the information starts to flow your way and it solidifies what direction you are choosing.

Andrew: But do you write in down? Do you tell other people? Do you do anything else to make the intention more real and to keep it top of mind?

Brian: I have done a lot of journaling in the past, I do write lists of priorities every month and that’s what keeps me on track. So every month I get my daily planner and I bring forth all of the stuff that has to be done but most of all, I do my priorities and it’s those priorities that sort of bring me back into alignment with what I’m trying to do.

Andrew: The first reaction to this idea that you had was, “I don’t get it, boots? Who wears boots?” Who said that?

Brian: That was my surfing buddy Doug and when we started out, he went on the road with our samples. We brought some samples and he came back after two weeks with a manila folder full, probably had 200, 300 business cards in there of all the retails stores that he had visited and not a single order. And he’s saying, “Everybody’s saying its California, nobody’s going to wear sheep skin in California.” But I said, “Look, California is exactly the same market as Australia,” but we listened.

I found out there was a trade show on in New York and I thought, well, maybe they are used to colder weather back there, so I bought three pairs of boots with me and went to a little trade show in New York City and not one person spoke to me in three days and it was disheartening. I might as well, they were looking at the pumps from Spain, Taiwan on one side and Espadrilles, Spain on the other.

I may as well have had meat or cow parts there because nobody even got that I was in the footwear industry and it was very demoralizing to have no interest in three days. But on the plane back to California, I started to think, one of my close buddies back there raved about how good these are and it came to me that they were all surfers and in California, all the surfers who went to Australia for their weekly or monthly surfing trip came back with four or five pairs of boots. So it was really well known in the surf market.

Andrew: I see. And so, instead of going broad and competing against people who are selling Espadrilles or buying pumps, you decided no, this is our market, surfers and I’m not a surfer but I know what you’re talking about. I have swam here in San Francisco Bay, when I come out, my body is cold but my feet are colder than anything else and if I could warm my feet up properly and it takes a long time, then I feel good. Is that what it’s like for surfers?

Brian: Yes. I mean, the sheep’s skin wicks moister, so you can put them on with wet feet and within ten minutes all the moisture has evaporated and your feet are warm. It’s just the most amazing product.

Andrew: We should also talk about how you made these shoes. In fact, you didn’t make these shoes. They already existed, a company called, what was it called, Country Leather.

Brian: Yep.

Andrew: How did you get Country Leather to allow you to sell these shoes in the US, to sell these boots?

Brian: Well, they, the ones that ran the ad in Surfer Magazine, so I called them up and the owner had, had several requests from California, from all over America really, wanting to import them. But I think because I was from Western Australia, we had some connections which was sort of a fluke in the Australian Trade Commission where one of my rugby buddies was talking to him. I think that swayed the vote, so we were the ones given the right to import his product.

Andrew: I read in your book that you just laid thick the whole Australian connection and he-

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: But if he was already selling ads, if he was buying ads and selling boots, why did he even need you at all or anyone?

Brian: It’s a difficult product to mail order from a tiny little town in Australia and I had a bigger vision. I really saw this as a category within the footwear industry that I thought I could build into and I used to own a pair in Australia. So I just knew the comfort and I just wanted to get a pair on every single person in America. So that’s the reason I set up the business in America and started importing.

Andrew: So I read in your book that he gave you the go ahead and you decided that you would test the market in Southern California. It seems like the test that you ran in California came up a failure, the test that you ran at the trade show said no. Why continue? How did you know that this idea still had legs if your tests seemed to have failed?

Brian: There two answers. One is that I had convinced some investors to put $20,000 into this little venture and bought 500 pairs of boots. My first year’s sales was 28 pairs. That’s the time a rational person would have given up. But I had 490 or 480 pairs left in my spare bedroom and I owed a duty to my investor to try and get rid of them. So I sort of got stuck by either staying in business. But the other part of it is, that, I knew that one in two Australians seemed to own some sort of sheep skin footwear.

So I knew that the product was good, I knew it was viable for America because the climate’s the same. I just had no idea that American’s perception of sheep skin was so different from Australia. Australians know it’s rugged and you can get it wet you can wash it. But Americans, “Oh, it’s too delicate, it’s hot and sweaty, you can’t wear them outside,” and so the perception was what I realized I had to change.

Andrew: I see. So you had a sense of what you needed to do to fix it? It wasn’t it clear, it wasn’t clarity but there was a sense of it. You also understood that it worked in other markets. You also had all those shoes at home and so you had to find a way to make it work. First year’s sale, we’re talking about 1979, you sold 28 pairs. Do you remember how much revenue that was?

Brian: Exactly $1000 but here’s the irony. There’s not a billion dollar company out there today that didn’t start with $1,000.

Andrew: That’s a great way to put it.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: So it was $1,000, how did you sell them? How did you sell those 28 shoes?

Brian: Well, we first went to all the shoe retailers in the surf industry and they said, “Oh you guys are going to make a fortune if you bring those in.” I’ve got a pair of buddies brought them back from Australia so that’s why we bought the 500 pairs. But when we went back on the road it was, “Oh, well, we know you’re going to do really well but we could not sell them out of this store because we just sell surf boards and shorts and sandals but you’re going to do great.” So that’s where we really hit the wall that first year but I started-

Andrew: So let me just be clear about that, sorry to interrupt but you were literally getting in the car driving out to stores that you never knew before, essentially cold-calling them by walking in and saying, “Here’s this strange thing that you think is not going to be right but I want to convince you that it is going to be fine.”

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: And so, if that didn’t work what were you going to say?

Brian: Well, I started filling my van full of all the size runs and every time I went surfing in Malibu I would open up the back of the van and I’d be open for business. Every person that bought them raved about them so much that I got one or two people come back. So the word of mouth business was really, really strong. And I also started doing the swap meets in California and on an average weekend, we could sell 20, 30, 40 pairs a weekend. So that’s how I started to dwindle down all the inventory that I had.

Andrew: Let’s talk a little bit about brand. The name UGG, it was short for Ugly right?

Brian: Nobody knows, everybody’s got a different version of where that name came from. It was the sort of generic name in Australia is UGG and I just registered the trademark in America because nobody else had done it here and legally, I could do that. And so it’s a question I get all the time but I really don’t have a definitive answer-

Andrew: So it wasn’t Ugly let’s be clear. That’s what I read online but you’re saying that’s not necessarily it, nobody knows where it comes from. It’s just a phrase. In fact, nobody knew how it was spelled. I’ve seen it spelled, UG, UGG, UGH. You spell the company name UGG.

Brian: Yes. I just chose UGG because it was very simple and clean.

Andrew: That’s what it was. Why not come up with something that was less, something that wasn’t in the dictionary, something that was more unique because for me, the name is what I associate with all those shoes that I’ve seen. The name is such, it might even be a bigger part of, here if I look at the shoe, it’s a boot. This, right here, is more important to me and my wife than the rest of it.

Brian: Without a doubt.

Andrew: So then, why did you come up with that? Why did you go with the name that had already been in the dictionary?

Brian: Number one, I knew that it was a really good name from a marketing viewpoint. There’s two ways to look at it. If you were a young kid and you developed the swoosh mark in California and you spent $1,000 and then you got out of business, nobody would know what that swoosh mark was. It’s the billions of dollars that Nike put into it that really established the brand.

I always thought UGG was sort of a word that we could sort of stylize it with a really good logo, that it was simple, clean, it’s very memorable. It’s unlike anything else. It’s not descriptive of a feeling or anything, it’s just a word and I thought that would be the strongest brand. And it wasn’t until many, many years later that we spent hundreds of thousands of dollars and millions of impressions that it finally took on its own life and that’s the same with any brand that is put into the marketplace.

Andrew: I see. Did you test it in anyway, talk to surfers, see that they’re referring to it later on after you’ve used the word?

Brian: No, they all knew of UGG in some way before I even started it. That’s really why I did it, it already had a recognition in the surfer market.

Andrew: I see, okay, all right. So now, you’ve got this brand you start to get shoes, the first shoes I read were, had ugly brown smears on them, talk to me about that.

Brian: Quality control was horrible. I mean, in Australia, it hadn’t even become a business yet, it was just a craft industry with lots of little sheep skin factories turning out all different types of products. I did a lot of work with the manufacturer to clean up the soling, the gluing, the stitching, the overall look of it. But the what really sort of kicked it into the big market was, I always had a problem with, people did not know how to wear them, right. So I started advertising with these really cool models on the rocks at wind and sea beach had perfect hair and perfect boots and perfect sunset and everything and the sales for that second year was $30,000.

The following year I got more expensive models and better photographers and perfect boots and again $30,000 and I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t reaching the market and I was trying to get into the malls and it wasn’t until I got to Montgomery Wards in Chicago. The buyers said, “Brian, why are you here? And I said, “Because I want to get an order for the California stores,” and he said, “Don’t you get it?” We are elephants, we don’t move till the mice are running around under our feet. And I instantly knew that what he meant was, if I could get all the specialty stores in a frenzy, then they would come on. So when I got back to California, I had a beer with one of my buddies who owned a surf shop and he just sort of leaned back in his chair and called in the young grommets from the back-

Andrew: This is Rob Aard?

Brian: Yeah. What do you guys think of UGGS? And they just went, “UGGS, they’re just so fake man. Have you seen those models, they can’t surf and instantly, I knew I’d been sending the wrong image to my Target market because these were the kids I was trying to get to. So the next day, within a week I had signed on a couple of pro surfers and started running ads with them in the next month or two and the sales jumped from $30,000 to nearly $400,000, like in one season, purely because I hit the right image. And that to me, was when I, the first day I understood what true marketing was about. I had to get everybody who was reading the ad to want to be in that ad so badly that they were going to buy whatever it took to get there.

Andrew: And by being in the ad, you don’t mean literally being hired by you as the next spokesperson for the shoe? You meant, they want to be like the person who’s in the ad?

Brian: Absolutely.

Andrew: And your customers did not want to be models, they wanted to be surfers.

Brian: Exactly. They wanted to be hardcore and they wanted to be in those ads. They wanted to be walking that same path to Trestles or Blacks Beach like Mike Parsons was.

Andrew: So when I look at your past and think boy, this guy’s going store to store that’s drudgery. Yeah, it’s tough but you wouldn’t have been able to have a conversation like the one that you had where the sales people told you these shoes are fake because the ads are fake. You would not have had that conversation without understanding, unless you went through each store.

Brian: That’s right, you’ve got to pay the dues.

Andrew: What about your co-founder? I thought it was Doug Jensen who’s supposed to be the sales person and you, the former accountant who’s supposed to be in the office, accounting for things.

Brian: I did sales.

Andrew: You did sales too?

Brian: I was terrified, I was terrified of sales. But when we split up and he went into the San Fernando Valley and started selling and my territory was the coast. I stayed home for three days and finally the guilt got to me that Doug’s on the road and I’m not and that forced me to go and make my very first cold-call. And it wasn’t until like the third or fourth store, where they go, “Oh man, they’re great those sheep skin shoes.” Then I started to get some confidence. But yeah, it was a stretch for an accountant like me to become a salesman.

Andrew: Did you ever come up with the formula for getting a sale or for starting a conversation with a store owner?

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: What was it?

Brian: The first the thing is, I wanted to establish just a connection, regardless of the product I had in my bag, I just want to establish a connection, “Hey, how you doing? How’s the store doing? Tell me a little bit about it” so I can understand what their issues were and then I could bring out my product. Obviously, at first, I get “Oh, sheep skin boots in our shop, get out of here.” I was, I got that a lot. But eventually, just by being, coming back and coming back I got to be friends and that friendship lead into a, “He’s trying so hard, let’s give him a try in the store.”

Andrew: So that’s what it was?

Brian: It was. It was purely on a human basis and I think that’s what all sales is. If you can humanize it to the biggest extent possible, that’s when you’re going to have your most success.

Andrew: So if we’re looking at your growth, your ability to sell as a company, it started out with driving to surf shops, swap meets, that was in the early days then you moved on to buying ads, the ads were beautiful people, constant beautiful people. Then it moved on to ads with real surfers and that’s what helped the brand really take off.

Brian: Credibility, yeah.

Andrew: Was it more expensive to get the, how much more expensive was it to get real surfers to pose for the ads?

Brian: Oh, it was cheaper than the models, yeah.

Andrew: Interesting.

Brian: I just gave then a couple of pairs of the, well, as many boots as they wanted plus a couple of hundred bucks and they were fresh coming in being a pro anyway and it actually saved me money.

Andrew: Here’s another one that I see, that, one of the reasons why you got into it was actions sports retailer, volume number one. How did that factor into your growth?

Brian: That was pure luck, that’s the universe sort of dropping in my lap. What I needed, I was in the lawyer’s office, finalizing the details for our investor and the very first volume one was on the desk of the receptionist and I looked at it and I said, “Do you mind if I scan this?” And it was a magazine targeted towards the surf shops and the action sports shops and I went, “That’s who I’m trying to target.

And so, had I not figured out who my target was or if I had not bought any boots in and I was in the same lawyer’s office, I never would have looked at that magazine. It would have been there, I wouldn’t have seen it. So that’s an example of the universe just putting in front of you or you becoming aware of information that’s in the universe that can help you.

Andrew: For you to care that much, you have to be hungry, don’t you? Because you could have given up for so many reasons. Yeah, you had those shoes but you could have just sold them on the cheap and moved on. I keep calling them shoes, I should call them boots. For me, any footwear is the word shoe, which is not technically correct.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: Where does the hunger come from for you? What is it that drove you?

Brian: Well, I was driven by the fact one in two Australians had some sort of sheep skin foot wear and I knew because I’d worn them so long that it was a brilliant product. So that was really what drove me.

Andrew: But I see lots of brilliant products that I don’t end up buying the companies for. I love race ready shorts because for long distance running, I could put my gels, I could put my phone in the pockets and not feel weighed down. I’m not going to buy the company or work hard for it. There’s something about the drive. Is it going back to that song time that you said, “I need to leave my mark on this world,” or was it just the momentum of having started and the rational belief that, of course, everyone in the U.S. should wear this or at least one in two, the way they are in Australia.

Brian: Well, there’s a rule that I’ve come up with, which is, “Every good entrepreneur has to have a certain amount of ignorance or even innocence” because in my mind, this was already a million dollar business, not a billion but it was a millions and millions of dollars business. I just didn’t know how to get it there at the time. So that was the passion that drove me. Yeah, sure I wanted to improve the planet but that wasn’t the UGG story.

Andrew: What about, you’re a fan of Napoleon Hill? One of the things Napoleon Hill says is, “Be aware of your goals,” in fact he says, “Write them down so that the universe can start to bring the resources that you need in order to get them.” But the other thing he says is, “Be aware of why you want it, what is it about the goal? What is the motivation?” Did you have something like that, a big why?

Brian: The why was, I wanted to be in my own business. I had spent those ten years as an accountant, so now the next question was what business? Oh sheep skin boots had such incredible potential, this is going to be my goal. And you can imagine why I didn’t give up being an accountant for ten years because I had to graduate first. That same thing took over in the UGG business, which is, I’m not giving up on this because I see the potential and I’m going to make it work.

Andrew: What a statement and one of the thing you did to make it work in the early days if stores would call you up and ask you for one pair or two pairs, you would fulfill that order. I would think you’d say, “You know what, let me send you a dozen or nothing. I can’t work this hard to send you one pair. I’m not in the mail order business, I’m in the wholesale business.” Why did you do that?

Brian: Yeah. that’s a really key point Andrew. I had a very long-term view of this and in my book, I talk about every business goes through a cycle. My theme is, you can’t give birth to adults. Every business has a conception and some action is taken which gives it birth and that was me buying samples from Australia. That was a birth. Then you go through this horrible infancy, where, like every little infant just lies in the cradle, just wants to be loved. It gets fed, it gets diapers changed and there’s no amount of urging that can get that infant up out of that cradle and go to college.

It has to be an infant. But eventually, it will toddle and then get into the youth and you know the teenage phase. Well, I was in this infancy period with the UGG boots and I just knew it was a long time process, just like having a baby. It’s not going to get old overnight and so I figured how can service my retailers with the least amount of pain for them and the best long-term benefit. I knew that if I loaded them up with 50 pairs of boots and they had 45 left on hand by the end of the season they were going to hate me and hate UGG boots.

So I went into this deliberate customer service routine, where even if they wanted one or two pairs to fill in like I need a pair of sevens, I need two pairs of nines, that’s what I ship them. I never over sold them and I went even as far as during the season, this is like five, ten years later where they all had 50, 60 pairs of inventory in their stores. I would go into the stores at least weekly, sometimes monthly if they were smaller and I would do all the inventory for them.

I’d take back sizes that weren’t selling and I would fill in sizes that were, all with the goal of leaving them empty at the end of the season and guess what happened? Come the trade show next year, they’re all going, “Shoot, should we sold through all of those, lets buy some more.” And that was really, the customer service I’ve got to say is the biggest factor in the early years of the survival of the business.

Andrew: I’m seeing on my screen here a later version, a Jimmy Choo UGG boots, which has all kinds of design on it. That is not the kind of design that you had when you ran the company. It was consistent year after year, similar… was it even the same, year after year?

Brian: Yeah, very similar our product development was slow but it was deliberate because we would introduce product at the trade shows which were usually in January, February, March because then, we would have to deliver September, October November. And I was always out there first with the new colors and the new styles and the new trims. Everybody else would see them at that first show in March, so by the time we shipped that season, we were the only ones shipping. But the next season, all the stuff we had done was copied and it was on every other competitor’s thing but I had already come up with new styles and new colors and new trims. So my mantra for the business was “Don’t obsess about the competitors, just get out first and then run faster.”

Andrew: How would you come up with the designs? If we’re talking about apparel, if we’re talking about shoes, design is critical. How does an accountant come up with the right design that everyone is going to want?

Brian: Very slowly. The evolution was in small steps for the first five to ten years but then we were very successful in California. But we had a lot of resistance in the ski areas and back East like Minneapolis through New York, where we have mud, we have slush. We don’t use those little sole, we need real boots. So that was a big step in product development where I had to get rubberized soles that cupped up so the puddles, you could walk through water and puddles where it didn’t actually get into the leather itself. So that was the beginning of our product development. We changed colors and we changed trims and stuff like that, which was very easy but the real development came, trying to get into the cold weather market.

Andrew: What about the colors and trims, who does that, did you hire someone to do it?

Brian: No, not at first. We used to have braids up the back side. I would get in touch with the braid company and look at their selections and I would select two or three braids from 50. And the colors of the skins, I would get swatches from the tannery to see what colors they could do and then I would select different colors that I thought would be applicable. So it was pretty basic at first. Nowadays, though, the product development is so… since I sold the company to Deckers who are really in the footwear industry, they have a very sophisticated product development thing now that goes out, they have a staff of designers that-

Andrew: Is it still fair to say that when you ran the company, design wasn’t paramount. It was the authenticity, it was about the comfort, it was about the utility with design being secondary for the brand.

Brian: I’d say that’s a good statement yeah, a casual comfort is what I was after and the look had its own sort of unique thing, lots of people hated that. That’s where the ugly comes from. Lots of people hated them but those people who wore them just fell in love with them. They didn’t give a damn what people said to them about how ugly they were.

Andrew: They were so proud of it and what I remember, when I first heard about them, there was a pride. It’s of course, I’m not here for design, I’m not here to look great, I am here to be comfortable, of course, they know that they look good in it.

Brian: There’s a counter culture the look that goes…

Andrew: That’s one thing that I have learned from your brand. I always assumed that brand has to be the most designed, the most polished, the best looking out there. No it has to be a aware of what it is.

Brian: It’s the image that you put around the brand and that comes back to marketing.

Andrew: That’s what it is and the name, I understand why you came up with the name now. At one point, I almost considered calling it, am I pronouncing it right? Jackaroos.

Brian: Yes, yes. That was a funny period. We had a competitor in the market that called their product UGHS and they sued us, claiming that they owned the trademark. Anyway I was going to at one time, thinking that it would be easier to change the name than it would be to fight this law suit. And so, it was a long discussion with me and all my other partners and the point came where I said okay, let’s not go to court, let’s change it the Jackaroo’s. But I had, the son of one of my friends was writing for what we call the UGGS surf team and I told him one day, we going to change the name to Jackaroo’s and he goes, “Oh no, that’s a dumb name.

We’re not going to write for Jackaroo’s.” We want to write on the UGG team and that was the day that I realized the power of six or seven years of marketing and product development and imaging. All of that really paid off with brand loyalty, that was when I decided to fight the law suit and stick with the brand.

Andrew: Yes. It’s really hard to change a name after people have gotten used to it. Frankly, I want to change the name Mixergy. What is a Mixergy? Nobody knows, yeah, I have to own mixer and M-I-X-E-R and the letter G dot com and mixergy.com M-I-X-E-R-G-Y dot com. There were all these variations because no one knows what it is but you kind of, once you go with it, it’s hard to change. People get used to it. people start to form a connection to it.

Brian: They will and ultimately, it doesn’t matter what the name looks like or means. If you’ve got enough impressions out there from your advertising and enough followers, they’re going to follow it just because it’s Mixergy and it’s a really good name. I love the name.

Andrew: Thank you. Retailers, you wanted them to be aware of this because they were the front line, they were the people talking to customers about it. One of the things you noticed, was if a salesperson wore UGG, he understood what it was about or she was able to communicate to the customer why they should care and why it wasn’t going to warm up their feet too much. How did you deal with that? Because most salespeople at stores didn’t wear your boots.

Brian: Nobody did. Being modest, or immodest, that was one of the most brilliant marketing things I ever did. I knew that if somebody walked into the store and said, “What are these UGG boots like?” and the store manager or nobody there knew, they were not going to get a sale. So I came up with a plan, okay, if you buy six pairs for your store, I will give you a free pair of your own size to wear while you’re working. And the sales went through the roof.

It was because the managers of the stores, when somebody asked what are these UGGS like? He the first thing he said was, “Oh they are the most comfortable things, you should try them on,” and when that happened, bam, instant sale. It was a very, very… it was so simple but probably one of the best marketing tricks I ever did.

Andrew: I am so surprised that microphone makers don’t say to themselves, you know what, let’s, and I don’t want them to give me this, give all the top podcasters who do video or in fact, if they don’t do video, our microphones because they’re the ones everyone’s listening to, they are the ones that people are turning to for advice. But most people aren’t aware of that. What did you call it, I forget it. It was…

Brian: The six pair stocking plan.

Andrew: Yeah, basic.

Brian: Really basic.

Andrew: Here’s another one that I love from your story and I don’t know the name of this one, displays. You came up with an idea that I think you saw it in a supermarket if I remember right.

Brian: No, it was when I realized that every square foot of flat space in a store has a value, like a dollar value, the store has to get a return. Let’s say $20 per square foot from a store, the UGG product took up a lot of space on the top of a flat shelf and the boots were so soft, they would fall over and they’d get displaced. It was a real nightmare keeping the inventory looking good. So I had to figure out how do I display these without taking up any shelf space. And the other thing was, nobody really knows how to wear them so I need models, these surfers showing, just every day scenes on how they’re worn them. And I came up with idea to make a flat wooden display piece, which I hung from the ceiling and then I had all these plastic chains and plastic clips like clothes pegs, where I would actually put the product hanging from all these chains.

So it was easy to store them on top of the shelves taking up no floor space, no shelf space and a great image. And that was another really good breakthrough for retailing. But merchandising is a whole industry unto itself and I just scratched the surface of good merchandising. But that’s one of my cleverer attempts.

Andrew: You can see it. So if is such a whole industry unto its own, full of experts who do this non-stop who you are frankly competing with because you’re competing for the same square footage in a store, where do you come up with an idea like this and how do you know that it’s going to work before you start investing in it?

Brian: That one came from the universe. There was nothing I ever saw like it. But I knew the problems, I knew space, image and that, that sort of result just came from thinking, thinking, thinking.

Andrew: So here’s the thing though. You’re now making retailers so happy, you’re giving their salespeople shoes to wear, excuse me. Why do I keep calling it shoes?

Brian: No, no they are. UGG has so many shoes in the range now, you’re quite okay.

Andrew: Right, all right. So you’re giving them shoes, you’re showing them how to display it and giving them the displays and so on and still, when it comes time for them to pay you, they think well, “We need the surfboards for next season, let’s pay the guy who sent us surfboards. We need this for next season, let’s pay that guy.” Do we really need these boots? Do we really need this footwear? Nah, let’s wait before we pay Brian, right?

Brian: That happened a lot, especially in seasons where it didn’t get very cold or there was very light snow. That happened to us a lot and it really crippled my ability to grow the business.

Andrew: Is that one of the reasons why you sold?

Brian: Ultimately yes. There were two reasons why I sold. One is that I love starting new businesses. I don’t really love being in big companies because I think outside the box. I love trying new things, very high risk things while companies are very risk averse, and I knew I was getting stifled when the company got up to $10, 12 million in sales.

I was called into committee meetings and everyone would sort of talk it around and around and then they would come to a decision, a sort of a mellowed down mix of everybody’s mediocre ideas. So there was nobody willing to take a risk and that’s when I realized I’ve got to get out of here and start something new.

The other part of it though was financial. We grew so much, the cash flow was such a critical issue because we were seasonal that I needed to get out and find a really, really, big investor to be able to handle the seasonality.

Andrew: You started to look for investors, what happened?

Brian: Oh that was, that was the saddest part of the business, was every year I was growing, like doubling, it wasn’t a big deal, half a million to 1,000,000, then 1 million to 2 million. But as it got to 2 to 4 and 4 to 8, I needed the cash flow to come from investors from outside because we couldn’t grow from our retained earnings and especially being seasonal, we needed to cover a whole down cycle of six months.

But the problem was, when I did business plans and went to the banks, it was, “These are a fad man, yeah you’re lucky this year, but they won’t be around next year.” And that happened for probably 10, 12 years in a row, and even when it got up to 8 million to 10 million, it was still “Yeah, you got lucky last year but it’s a fad, it will never be around.” And you know, I sold the business with that mentality in the banks and the investment bankers and the venture capitalists.

Andrew: Fair to say that wasn’t something you’re especially strong at because Doug Otto, founder of Decker who you sold your business to, he was able to raise money. He even took his company public, it feels like he has some special skill for it or talent for it.

Brian: He was much more analytical than I was, where I was more, more of a marketing and advertising, customer service type. He was a lot more analytical. But he had the same problems. He had tried to buy me, you recall in the book how he and I were selling products out the back of the vans at Malibu Beach, right?

He suffered tremendously until he took on a line called Teva, you know the Teva sandals? And in my book I talk about societal shifts. I don’t know if you remember that? Well, there was one point where there was a little running shoe company making running shoes in Oregon and it wasn’t until the sport of jogging took off that this running shoe company had to get sucked along with it and sold hundreds of millions. That was called Nike.

Then another societal shift happened in Southern California that there was a little company selling these little white kid leather shoes to dance classes and Jazzercize and cheerleading teams and it was really a good soft dancing shoes. But then the sport of aerobics took off nationwide and that little tiny company got sucked along, hundreds of millions of dollars. That was Reebok. Well, Teva got sucked into the outdoor market when the outdoor market took off and that was how they were able to go public.

And by a fluke of really bad mistakes inside my company, when I had new investors, we missed that sort of boom and so we got left behind. And so Doug had always tried to buy us a couple of times. I used to joke with him, “Doug you know you can’t afford us,” but ultimately, he was the one that took his company public on that, on that boom but he still had the seasonal problem.

Andrew: Because he was selling Teva and he needed something in the opposite season-

Brian: He was always…

Andrew: And that’s how it came in?

Brian: He used to die every winter, we used to die every summer.

Andrew: Yeah and meanwhile you were putting it all on your credit cards. I think you mortgaged your house in order to run this business?

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: I want to talk a little bit more about what you did for branding. One of the things that you did was hired a PR company and you said that’s one of the best decisions that you made. Why?

Brian: That was funny. By now, we were doing about $8 to $10 million, so we could afford to hire outside help and I knew I wanted to get into the casual comfort sort of imaging, and surfing was a great niche but it was just California. Skiing and snowboarding was a great niche but it wasn’t mainstream. Ice hockey rinks was great in the Midwest up to the Northeast but that was a very localized, I wanted to get into the mainstream. And so I figured if I needed a national newspaper like USA Today, then that would be a national statement that now, we’re in the casual comfort business.

So we set up a PR firm that took me on tours through Boston, New York, Philadelphia. But the pinnacle for me was Chicago at USA Today. And we walked in, we had an appointment with Margaret, who is the Fashion Editor and when we got there at 2:55 in the afternoon, she came out and goes, “Oh Brian, I am so sorry, I’ve double booked and I have to be on a conference call at 3:00, I’ve got five minutes.”

Well, I mean, I had the perfect pitch deck, I had brochures I had the press releases, I had everything ready, and I went “I’m not going to have a chance to show that.” So I reached into my file, my briefcase and I just had a file full of photos of celebrities of Neil Young, Tom Petty, Sting, Patrick Swayze, all these celebrities. And then there was one of Pamela Sue Anderson on the Baywatch show wearing white UGG boots in a red swimsuit and I quickly flipped past that because I didn’t want to show her that and she caught it and said, “Go back what was that?” And so before I knew it, she’d photocopied that tabloid thing from a London newspaper and written down the name of the photographer and she said, “Brian do you have a press kit? Good, I’ve got to go.”

So that was less than three or four minutes and I just went, “This whole public relations too was for nothing.” It was, we got all this little regional stuff but we missed the big one. Well, the next day I was flying back to San Diego from Chicago and I did my routine of buying coffee and the USA Today and I flipped back through to the lifestyle section and there in the front middle, full page, well, not a full page, the main head photograph of Pamela Sue Anderson and the best story about UGG’s as a category, as an industry, as the history and future. And she must have stayed up all night researching that because it was just a hit.

By the time I got back to California, I found out that the phones had been going all day from retailers wanting to buy the product and all day from consumers wanting to know where they could buy them. So it was one of those flukes that really made me realize PR can be a really good thing.

Andrew: What was the reason why you, what was the news part of you going out and talking to the media? What was the story?

Brian: The story was new casual comfort.

Andrew: That’s what it was?

Brian: So casual comfort, yet still rugged enough to wear where you are, yeah.

Andrew: I see, and for the fashion world and for the apparel world, that’s enough of a story.

Brian: That’s what, well what I needed to get across, yeah.

Andrew: I see, all right. So that’s one of the things you did. The other thing you did concurrently that I didn’t understand until I read your book, in fact the Wall Street Journal I read about this in the Wall Street Journal. They didn’t understand it. Now I get it, Rush Limbaugh. I wouldn’t think of all those celebrities and Rush Limbaugh being in the same world. How did you end up with Rush Limbaugh as a spokesperson or doing spots on his show?

Brian: Well, there’s a great story in my book, can I show you the cover again?

Andrew: Yeah.

Brian: There it is.

Andrew: The story really is fantastic, you’re really open about what happened…

Brian: It’s, it’s…

Andrew: Including that private meeting you had with her.

Brian: It’s full of, everything we’ve talked about is in the book. It’s full of stories of overcoming these things. I can tell you because it’s now in the book. I fought that initiative to use Rush Limbaugh. My investor was like a Rush Limbaugh fan, and Rush was really being just like [inaudible 00:50:14], had a huge reach back then in the Clinton era, and it was him against Clinton. And I knew that that was going to polarize our audience, and Rush is not a casual comfort person. He’s a starch shirt, tie.

Andrew: Today, he wears golf shirts, back then he refused to be seen on camera without a tie.

Brian: He was very stuck in his own image and it was not the image that I was trying to promote for casual comfort. And the interesting thing is that yes, he was incredible in bringing customers to us, but in my mind they were not the right customers. We had a casual comfort market building and suddenly it went all to Rush Limbaugh.

I’ll tell you the very first day it came on the radio. He said “Hey folks, tomorrow we have a new sponsor. It’s called UGGS and they’re sheep skin boots out of California, and I swear within 60 seconds, our phone went, we had 20 lines into the company. They all just lit up red and they didn’t go away till Christmas. And so all of the customers who were trying to call in with re-orders couldn’t get through and all these new people coming on board, “Hey Rush told us buy UGGS, where can we go to get them?”

And the number of stockbrokers that were calling “Hey, is UGG public, can we buy stock? You’re going to go public soon?” and consequently yeah, we sold out that year. But we would have sold out without Rush, in my opinion and it’s just one of those flukey things where, the good news is, it didn’t damage us. The following year everybody still loved UGGS, they still wanted to come back and buy…

Andrew: It didn’t become a Republican brand, it still was what it was?

Brian: It still was just-

Andrew: Why not get more phone lines then if you were still, if your regular customers could not get-

Brian: We put in twice as many phone lines. But then we put answering machines on every line and then it was like every night there was 50 messages to answer from 50 lines. That was 2,500 messages a day.

Andrew: You know Brian, I can’t believe you had that kind of a reach. Now, I know, I can’t believe you had that kind of power to sell. I know that people loved him, I used to listen to him in high school. I loved him, I went to watch him do his television shows.

Brian: Right.

Andrew: So I get it, but you never know what’s for free…

Brian: But it wasn’t…

Andrew: And what’s not…

Brian: He wasn’t selling us, he was selling brokers were calling us, truckers were calling us.

Andrew: Truckers because truckers used to listen to Rush Limbaugh…

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: And they’d want to wear what he was saying.

Brian: That wasn’t adding to our bottom line, it was just like a huge amount of activity that really didn’t do anything for us extra than what we could have done-

Andrew: Because once the ads stopped, they didn’t continue to buy.

Brian: Yeah. Now, this is nothing against Rush personally, it’s strictly a marketing issue that I think if we spent the same amount of money we spent on Rush in Elle Magazine and Glamour magazine and US Magazine, we could have established a much, much bigger image that would have long-term benefited… in fact, that’s what Deckers did after they bought the business. They had the money to advertise in those venues. That’s how come its became a billion dollar company from a 20 million dollar company, which is when I had it.

Andrew: Here’s what you say in the book. The total cost of one minute spots, five times a week for three months, nearly half a million dollars for radio.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: This is more than the cost of running full, full page ads in Glamour and Elle Magazines for an entire season.

Brian: Yep.

Andrew: That’s what it was. You know what, you’ve got to tell the story about the little old lady who became one of your customers because of Rush Limbaugh. What happened?

Brian: That’s how ridiculous the Rush campaign was, but again, it shows how it generated sales. This little grandmother, I heard this from the owner of Spider Surf Shop, which is like the most hard core skull and crossbones skate type store in Hermosa Beach, calls me up and says, “Yeah, this grandmother came and bought six pairs for her family.” She’d never seen them before but she saw the UGG sign out front and said, “Oh, Rush told me I have to buy these things.” So that’s how blind his followers can be.

Andrew: How do I get followers that blind? I would like to have that kind of power, where I say to my audience, “Hey, you know what, go check this out,” and they all flood the stores.

Brian: Well, I guess you’ve got to get controversial and polarizing as Rush.

Andrew: That’s an important point, I mean honestly, if you’re going to build a brand as a speaker, it has to be polarizing it seems.

Brian: It’s sad because people love sensationalism.

Andrew: Brian, who should I hate?

Brian: They love to hate you as much as they love to love you and that I don’t have any answer for you. I love the stories that you and I are talking about now because it is a message and it has a great reach to people who are looking for information. Again, the people in the universe who are looking for what we’re talking about are listening to us right now.

Andrew: They are. I would still like people to be able to go into stores just because I tell them what shoes to wear. That would be awesome. Can you imagine that?

Brian: Well, maybe you’re doing it right now, who knows.

Andrew: What did you sell for, how much?

Brian: Many, many, many millions of dollars more than I-

Andrew: How much of the business did you own at the time of the sale?

Brian: I owned about 25% of the business.

Andrew: And the investor owned how much?

Brian: Between them all, they owned the other 75%.

Andrew: And your partner?

Brian: Doug? You’re talking about Doug who started…?

Andrew: Doug Jensen.

Brian: Yeah. He only lasted that first year because when we realized that we were going to have to get jobs through the summer, he sort of said, “Brian, it’s been a good adventure, but I’ve got to get a real job” and so he quit being a partner and he went off into the movie business, being in L.A. He went into the video business. So it was just myself and my investors.

Andrew: Well, I thought I had a number here, I usually get at least an estimate of what the business sold for. I can’t believe why can I not get a…

Brian: I never put it in my book.

Andrew: Well here’s what I got, “Acquired UGG for an estimated $14.6 million.”

Brian: That was the newspaper report, yeah.

Andrew: Is it understated?

Brian: Yeah. There were royalties on top of that, so…

Andrew: I see.

Brian: Yeah.

Andrew: What advice do you have for someone who is listening to us who says, “Listen, I like your story, I’m glad that Brian did well. But I don’t want Brian to do well, I want to do well.” So if they, what advice can you pass on to them about how to build a brand that allows them to sell for at least $14 million? I’d like it to be more but at least that.

Brian: Okay, okay, harking back to my advice that you can’t give birth to adults, right. You’ve got to get it through that toddling stage, build it through the infancy, sorry the infancy and then build it through the toddling and if it’s a really good product that you have, the only way to get there is through perseverance.

I’ve got these four statements that I’ve written in the front of my daily and it’s on a card and I put it in front of my daily planner. I transfer it every single year, I’ve done it for 25, 30 years and it’s these four simple statements. And it’s in the book so you don’t have to write them down right now.

Feast upon uncertainty, fatten upon disappointment, enthuse over apparent defeat and invigorate in the presence of difficulties. And I found them from a philosophical book 30 years ago. And those four principles have been my mainstay when I’ve been on the point of losing a business, when I’ve been on the point of giving up, when I’ve found my manufacturer had abandoned me and gone with a competitor and I didn’t have supply, when I had found out I had lost the business by bringing in new investors and they said, “Brian, you don’t own the business, you’re just a sales rep.”

I mean, disaster after disaster after disaster happened in the course of the 17 years that I owned the business but those four principles, feast upon the uncertainty. Now, I look back and I think the most disappointing, disappointments that I had were actually my greatest blessings because-

Andrew: Give me an example of one that was a disappointment that turned out to be a blessing.

Brian: Well, one of those instances, I brought three new partners into the business because I’d outgrown my old investors, and I didn’t get my 25% stake. We were all going to be equal quarters but I didn’t get mine until I had finished off that UGHS lawsuit. But I became a sales rep for the California territory. So I went on the road and we moved the warehouse up to Anaheim, which I didn’t have to run anymore.

So I’m on the road, the very first call I made was to Huntington Surf and Sport and he said, “Hey Brian, I heard you sold the business” and I went “What?” He said, “Yeah, I heard you don’t own it anymore.” I called an order in and the new owner told me that you don’t own it.” I went, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

And I couldn’t wait to get out to go to the Shell gas station next door because this was before cell phones and I called up from the gas station, “Neil, what are you telling people?” He says, “Well, it’s true, you don’t own the business.” I was just crushed because I thought these were my three new partners and in their minds, they owned the business and I didn’t. I didn’t even work anymore for that day, I went back to San Diego and I pulled out the contract and I read it and I’m going, “Strictly I’m not an owner until I do the lawsuit.”

And so I went through the worst three days of my life because I had visions of building this giant corporation and being the CEO of this humongous corporation where everybody on the planet wore UGGS boots and now, I didn’t even own it. And so, it got so bad that one night, I was like lying on the floor after watching TV with my wife and we turned the TV off and I rolled over on all fours, I started crawling to the bedroom and she said, “You don’t, don’t you dare crawl to the bedroom, get up now and walk like a man.” And I did and just the act of doing that and her shocking me so much was like, okay, shrug it off.

What is the situation right now, I can either be… what do I want to do? Do I want to be a business broker, do I get another job? And I thought, I’ve come to love sales, believe it or not. I’m an accountant and I’ve come to love sales and all my friends are on the road. And so I decided I’m going to go into sales. What’s the best product I could possibly sell and it came to me, UGG, why not? So I abandoned all my thoughts of ownership and just sucked it up and went back into being a salesman.

Well, a month later, I get back into the warehouse and Neil hands me an envelope and I open it up it’s a check for 5,000 bucks. And he says, “That’s your commission for the month. That was the first money I’d ever pulled out of the business and the next month it was a check for 10 grand and the next month another 10,000. I started to realize that I’m on the road, I’m working with all my friends, I’m having a blast, there’s no hours of the day, I can work whenever I want.

I’m not doing any receiving, any shipping, any invoicing, any accounting, I’m not doing any of the office stuff, and I thought, this is, this is a pretty damn good situation to be in. And that’s an example of how my crushing, my most crushing disappointment turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. And a couple of years later, I owned the business 100% again through a fluke, so…

Andrew: What’s the fluke that lets you own the business 100%?

Brian: Well, the three guys that had bought me out, they got into a dispute because two of them couldn’t come up with the money to bankroll it. So one of them bought the others out and then I got to be really good friends with him because I used to come in and work the business all the time with him. And then he died in a motorcycle accident, but we’d taken out life insurance policies for the business beforehand. And I’m not going to bore you with how hard it was trying to keep the company afloat for that season while I was trying to figure out where the company was after his death. But the insurance policy allowed me to buy the business back from his wife, his widow.

So who could have predicted that? The universe just has a way, because I didn’t give up. I could have walked away that day when he died and [inaudible 01:03:01] the business I’ve lost it. But no, something made me fight and realize this is something I want to get this out to everyone in the world has a pair of UGG boots and that was it. So anyway the universe just keeps coming on and that’s all through my book because I’ve got so many examples of things that are not coincidence. They’re just literally, had I not been working in that direction, I never would have seen that coming.

Andrew: That’s one of the things that I love about your book. It’s full of great stories, it’s not just how to, it’s stories like that, that illustrate what you’ve learned along the way.

Brian: Yeah. I didn’t want to be a 12 ways to better profitability or 5 ways to be a better leader. That is the last thing I wanted. This is a real hero’s journey, it’s a guy who comes from Australia, borrows 500 bucks to buy samples and sells out for millions. That’s the heroes journey that I wanted the book to be. But it’s just totally laced with all my philosophy and business lessons.

Andrew: Yeah and it’s, you just watched the business rise. I’m looking here at sales stats that are from the book. You just talk about 79, you’re at 1,000 bucks, 1980 3,000 bucks, 1981, 35,000, a year in sales, ’82, 40 and so on and then it goes to 200, 500 and we’re just watching you figure it out and progress along the way. It’s so helpful to have you here share those stories and what you’ve done. What I’m listening to here, if I could wrap up the brand lessons that I got from this conversation.

Tell me if I’m missing anything. “Look for people who hate your product.” You walked in and you heard people say, “I don’t love this thing, it feels that it’s fake and you listened to them and you understood the reason they thought it was fake because they were all models. Boom you replace the models with real surfers, reduce your costs, increase your credibility and suddenly, your sales go up.

Second, the name, look for a name that’s not like Mixergy, though thankfully if you have a name like Mixergy you better stick with it but look for a name that actually has some connection to it. Maybe don’t spend any money on Rush Limbaugh, if you don’t have enough to spend on Rush Limbaugh. You should be aware of who your audience is and spend money there.

Brian: Yep.

Andrew: Put, be aware of the celebrities. Did you guys give shoes to celebrities?

Brian: That’s a great story too. I was on an airplane coming back from Minnesota and the girl next to me was reading like People Magazine and US Magazine and that’s when I was trying to figure how do you get into that casual comfort Hollywood thing? And so my friend Doug who I started the business with, we always stayed friends, he’s the one who said, “Why don’t you try the stylists in Hollywood?”

I’d never heard of them. But it’s like the makeup artists and the hair stylists and the wardrobe people, they’re working with the stars all the time. And so they’re the ones that, I found a mailing list of about 400 stylists and I sent a letter said, “Hey, if you want a free pair of UGG boots give me a call,” and about 45 of them did and I just sent boots for nothing. And within six months, we were watching TV and there’s UGG boots showing up on a sitcom and then they started coming out with the movies. And then suddenly, so and so is walking around the streets of Hollywood and get snapped by a paparazzi, and before you know it, UGGS are all over People Magazine.

I’m not saying that it was quick. It took two or three seasons. But it’s again, you can’t give birth to adults, it, when I launched that celebrity thing, it went through its infancy, the birth, conception infancy and it wasn’t until two or three years that it started toddling and man, it just became a teenager overnight, so…

Andrew: It was huge, huge.

Brian: Yeah. That’s what really got, got us into Oprah and the rest was history once we got to her.

Andrew: Congratulations on the success of the book, and I am also going give out the website. The book is the Birth of a Brand. It’s a fun read, full of great stories. You’ve heard some of them here today. There it is right up on your screen and your website for anyone who wants to check it out is briansmithspeaker.com

Brian: That’s correct.

Andrew: All right. Thank you so much for doing this interview.

Brian: Andrew, it was a pleasure. I hope your listeners really picks something up from it.

Andrew: I do too and I hope they get to see you somewhere in person.

Brian: Great thanks a lot.

Andrew: Thank you. Thank you all for being a part of Mixergy, bye everyone.


5 thoughts on “UGG: The Birth of a Brand – with Brian Smith

  1. vidinotes says:

    A remarkable story, well told. So much great information and lessons in this conversation. Very entertaining.

  2. Imran says:

    Great interview :-)

  3. Brian, you’ve cost me a lot of money over the years! I’ve bought my wife more pair UGGs than I care to admit. So thank you for that….

    All joking aside, this was a great podcast in terms of giving us a deep dive into what it takes to build a huge brand like UGGs. I, for one, would have never in a million years thought it started out for surfers. Also, what you said about a business starting off as a newborn growing into an infant, then toddler, then teenager and finally an adult makes so much sense. I’ve been guilty of wanting to give birth to an adult and if that doesn’t happen, losing interest along the way.

    Lastly, I want to tell you to stop producing products so I can stop spending money on them, but if your book is anything like your boots, I know it will be an awesome read! Thanks!

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