Skunk Ape Base

1. Circuit Interview (14 October, 2014)

Extreme sportsman Jeff Whitt has started Skunk Ape Base, a small business to manufacture and sell his innovative base jumping container.

The Circuit Review delivered one particularly important insight into Jeff’s target market, using the “Technology Adoption Curve” model, which could deliver huge cost savings for Jeff’s marketing campaign.

As a consequence, we realised that we might reach the true target market (for this phase in the product’s TAC lifecycle) with a cheap and easy PR campaign, rather than spending resources trying to reach out to the entire possible market.

1.1 Overview (MP3 | 22 minutes | Download: 10MB)

1.2 Look at the Product (Part 1) (MP4 | 4 minutes)

1.3 Product Origin Story (MP3 | 2 minutes)

1.4 Look at the Product (Part 2) (MP4 | 2 minutes)

1.5 Business and Positioning (MP3 | 44 minutes)

1.6 Market, Problem, and Proposition (MP3 | 45 minutes)

2. Circuit Review (24 October, 2014)

When you listen to the recordings above, you’ll know that Jeff and I made early progress on analysing the Circuit during the Interview call.

  • The brand is good (clear and distinctive): small, enthusiast, possibly marketable as “obsessive”?
  • The product itself is also good: exclusive, original design, should be safer than competition. The “all-in” pricing should be attractive, and SAB as a supplier promises to be responsive, quick to deliver, and happy to customise.
  • We then identified the ideal market as innovators / early adopters, and that significantly informs the other decisions.
  • Let’s consider the problem… Clearly, base jumpers are happy to jump with the gear that they’ve got, so we can assume the issue that a handful of chutes have failed to deploy is not a present and urgent problem to solve. If we take the innovator market, though, what do they crave? In general, that personality type wants: the latest and best.
  • So… the proposition should then be, “This is the latest and best: a new, innovative design that’s available only to an exclusive group of hardcore jumpers.”

Important: It is subtle insights like “We should be targeting innovators” that can make the difference between success and failure of a marketing campaign. And they’re very easy to overlook without a comprehensive questioning process.

One note I’d add: I don’t think the suggested strap line, “Your Next Base Jumping Container” is targeted well enough at the innovator market. It’s too generic and populist. Something like, “A Jump in Evolution” might work better, suggesting exclusivity, innovation, and novelty, which is what turns our innovator crowd on.

3. Campaign Design (24 October, 2014)

We can even start to make some decisions about how to take this to market.

Because we’re not going for the mass market, only the leading edge of innovators, we don’t need to cast a wide net (e.g. Facebook ads).


The first question should always be, “Where do these people congregate?” and the most likely first port of call would be magazines, particularly (as this is a small sport):

  • BLINC magazine (seems to be the leader, not a huge site in general Internet terms)
  • EDGE magazine (probably very new, barely established)

So the way forward should be to write a great origin story, which is specifically written to target the interests of the innovator sub-group. If a few of them buy, they will in turn influence the early adopters, who are the key to the early majority of the market.

That story should be offered to the specialist base jumping magazines first, probably with an interview. It might also then be offered to any other relevant extreme sports publications, and even possibly tangential publications interested in technology and design (such as Wired?). However, any other publications must have credibility with the innovator crowd.

Note: It is possible that a new, edge sport like base jumping may have a greater representation in the innovator / early adopter segments, compared to the typical technology adoption curve.

Then, any exposure should be deliberately amplified on social media, using Jeff’s network of friends (i.e. guerilla marketing).

It might also be interesting to make a video about the product and to try to get that featured by YouTube channels, such as Turbolenza (30,000 subscribers). The reasoning is that our target audience may need to be exposed to the brand/product more than once in order to get their attention (however, that factor is not such an issue when you’re looking at the early adoption market, because they actually seek out the unique and exclusive).

So, overall, we’re looking at a low-cost PR campaign with a strong personality element.

3.1 Campaign Design continued (25 November, 2014)

Here’s my circuit design whiteboard for Skunk Ape Base. We’re starting with a Step Zero market, so I have all the steps from zero to five marked out, with the major objectives shown in black. (You don’t have to read all the words, I’m really just sharing my method.)


I’ll talk you through what I’ve put for each step.

Step Zero

  • The major objective  is to Reach the target audience, who are “Early adopter / innovator base jumping enthusiasts”.
  • This depends on where they congregate, and right now we can only guess. It may be that they don’t congregate in great numbers, as it’s a fringe sport. But we should cover all the bases (no pun intended), with magazines, and YouTube in particular.
    • We also have the option of using YouTube advertising, which is great if your primary medium is likely to be video, as I think ours will be. However, I do see a problem. The number of people who like watching base jumping on YouTube is far larger than our target market: the people who participate in the sport! Jeff says there are maybe 2000 active participants in the United States. But this video alone (ranking #1 on YouTube for “base juping”) has had over 10 million views and over 58,000 likes (that means likes from 58,000 Google accounts).
    • I looked up “base jumping” on Google’s AdWords research tool, and that reports just 1900 searches per month (exact-match) on the Google search engine (which does not include YouTube!) But just that top video has been seen 10 million times in 23 months since it was posted on December 25th, 2012. That’s over 400,000 views per month, way more than the size of the active base jumping community.
    • Taking all that information, if we promote with YouTube ads (shown before base jumping videos) we’re likely only to be hitting our target market less than 4% of the time (2000 into 58,000)!
    • I’ve added “Mark’s boost method” under YouTube, because my buddy Mark Attwood has been playing with a technique to boost the rankings of videos on YouTube (and, by extension, Google’s general results as well!), by getting a group of people to search for a term and then watch and like a particular video on YouTube, giving that video a short-term relevance boost that may generate compound benefits over time (the higher you rank, the more views and likes you’ll get). So I’m favouring YouTube organic promotion over YouTube ads at this point.
  • The second major objective (which may happen anywhere) is Enlist. In other words, can we get people to give us their contact details, so that we can continue the conversation with them, instead of waiting for them to come across our messaging again?
    • I’ve written, “Email for product news + updates when we can take orders.” Right now, Jeff’s site only has an email signup box. Obviously, not many people are going to find their way to today. Why would they? So maybe enlisting could be our first conversion event, after they’ve seen our initial message?
  • Key question: What are we going to serve up as this initial experience?
    • My gut feel is that video is the best medium, partly because it’s a dynamic and very visual sport, but also because that’s how we can show how it works (which we know is much better than claiming that it works). (For evidence, we only need to consider how popular base jumping videos are compared to base jumping itself!)
    • I’m also coming to the conclusion that the best way to tell Jeff’s story will be to create a short documentary. Video is a better format than text these days, particularly when the experience can be shown visual. (Text or audio might be great to communicate abstract ideas, but are clearly weaker in this case.)
    • If we do go with video, we should be seriously considering the Facebook platform, both organic and promoted posts. There is no reason to think our target market isn’t using Facebook. In fact, you can test this by typing “Groups named base jumping” into Facebook’s search box. I spotted at least three groups with over a thousand members. That may be a great channel to reach our target market.

Step One

  • Really, our video should take viewers all the way from Step Zero (where we emphasise the problem) to at least Step Four (where they realise the benefits of the product to them).
  • We need to get people to Step One by showing there’s a problem. That’s fairly straightforward, and would happen near the start of our documentary video. The problem is well defined: “There have been several fatalities caused by flap failure.” We only need to reference the official worldwide fatality roll call here.
    • I should point out that, while there are almost 250 fatalities listed there (six in September 2014 alone), many of the more recent ones seem to be related to flying with wingsuits, which is highly dangerous, and unrelated to equipment failure. However, Jeff says it is generally acknowledged that these failures have accounted for numerous deaths.
    • (It may or may not be necessary to emphasise that base jumpers only carry one ‘chute.)
  • The cost of the problem should not need to be stressed.

Step Two

  • We don’t really need to get people to Step Two. It’s pretty much automatic once you acknowledge the problem. The reason is, there are really no other solutions (aside from Jeff’s). You either jump with the existing kit designs, or you don’t.
  • Our job at Step Two is to show why the existing solutions are not acceptable (Discrediting). That is pretty much a case of showing visually why the current dominant design of release flap inherits an important weakness, which can lead (in rare cases) to failure to deploy the ‘chute.
  • It might make sense to cite a couple of fatal accidents where this has been the acknowledged cause (all this is in our documentary video).
  • The next major S2 objective is “Visualise Outcome“. In this case, the outcome we’re selling is the feeling of being able to have maximum trust in your kit. That just leaves the sport down to your skill and judgement. I would pitch this as a statement of belief, something like, “When you’re preparing to jump, there are enough factors to worry about: like wind, trajectory, and visualising your landing… Your equipment shouldn’t be one of them.” That should resonate positively with the right kind of target customer. They should be nodding along in agreement.
  • That really leads naturally into the final major objective at S2: Set up the Ideal Solution. Jeff simply needs to say, along the lines of, “I realized we needed a better kind of pack design, which would open under all conditions without jamming.” (Could say more here, also this could be added by a narrator.)
  • Upon completing Step Two, the viewer should be experiencing a sense of dissatisfaction and need, which we will now proceed to fill.

Step Three

  • At S3, we introduce our solution, and show how it perfectly fills the space we left open at S2.
  • To Present our solution, all we need to do here is to show how the SAB design works, and why it helps to avoid the problem of failure. This should be done visually.
    • Show the product in hand, and explain in detail why the flap design is preferable.
  • I’ve put the general objective “Show authority and credibility” here, but it could be inserted earlier.
    • Our evidence is really: how long Jeff has been skydiving and base jumping; why he is a core member of the US base jumping community; and how his life is all about the sport, travelling the globe to pursue his passion.
    • Viewers should know they can trust Jeff because of his passion and commitment to serving the community.
  • I’ve also added “Why?” at this point, although it may also be established earlier.
    • This means, what is Jeff’s motivation? Why does the company exist?
    • We always want our WHY to resonate with the target market’s WHY. In this case, particularly because we’re talking to an innovator / early adopter market, we should focus on the “obsession with making the very best, high-performance rig possible“.

Step Four

  • At S4, our overall job is to Convince the prospect of the benefits of our product over alternatives. That should not be difficult at this point, but there are various things we can do to allay any doubts:
    • Show the care that goes into the build of each rig (time and materials used). (That may be common to all products on the market, i.e. a “Price of entry” feature, but it can’t harm to communicate it.)
    • We must show a video of the rig in action, i.e. Jeff jumping it. We should also show a slow-motion segment of how it deploys.
  • We should also Prove the value of our offer. Again, this should be fairly obvious, i.e. It could save your life, and what’s that worth?
    • But we can state that this is an affordable package, with all the usual options included.
  • Are there any objections to overcome?
    • We’ve seen the product works.
    • It’s affordable.
    • We should add any other reassurance, possibly focusing on the service element. For example, the care that goes into sizing and fitting, how you can return it for repair, etc.
  • After the offer has been explained, the prospect will either be at Step Five (ready to buy), or not (either they’re not in the target market, or they’re not in a position to buy right now).

Step Five

  • At S5, we should provide the Call to action, and also remove any last obstacles or reasons to say no.
  • Adding scarcity and urgency can help here, and the good news is that we have natural scarcity (which can also create urgency), because Jeff’s throughput is limited. So we should stress that fact.
  • I don’t think we necessarily need to try to invite people to buy at this point! If we’re going for a stand-off stance, saying, “We can only make one every few weeks, so they’re for the keenest jumpers who want the very best,” then we can afford to give a slightly more aloof call to action, such as, “To find out more, please visit” and offer a link to the site.
    • At the site, they can get further immersed in the brand experience: movies and photos of existing users (which should reinforce the target market segment), more photos of manufacture, and some idea of how to order and how long you’ll need to wait.
    • The more aloof, less needy, sales position could actually make our true target market more keen to place an order, because it fits in with the position we want to project: exclusive, cutting-edge, artisan, and obsessive.
  • At this point, we should be trying to get the prospect’s email address, or at least get them to follow the brand on Facebook. Then we can drip-feed news and updates that support the brand positioning, until they’re at the point where they simply must buy.
  •  One other point to make clear is that this is a position where manipulations such as discounting should never be used! That would dissolve the credibility of the artisan, challenger posture.

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