Flatspot recently made a very racy post about Caliber’s profound lack of helmet use in their advertisements, and as a result Flatspot’s Caliber, Volante and Blood Orange accounts were closed (not that we ordered any blood orange stuff anyway). If you are confused as to what that means, Flatspot is not allowed to order any more of caliber, volante or blood orange (CVB) products because of what has been deemed a “misrepresentation of their brand” and “violation of the retailer contract.” It would be unfair of me to speak to why caliber markets the way they do, in fact my bias probably makes it impossible to do their marketing strategy justice. What I will speak to is what we feel are the implications of calibers decision, and the effects of CVB’s marketing on the community.
To ensure that everyone is familiar with what we did to offend Caliber enough to cancel one of their two main accounts in Vancouver, you may review for yourself.
Flatspot was given the ultimatum that either we remove our post, or our accounts would be closed and all Canadian distributors would be notified. There was no willingness to discuss the matter. We were told we were attempting to censor skateboarding, something Caliber does not believe in (whilst a gag order was being waged on us using our income source as leverage, I smell irony!). It was simple enough for us: Did we believe in making our accounts happy or backing our principles—Principles that were the staple philosophy at the heart of the scene that raised us. To quote the famous Dr. Zeuss, “we said what we meant and meant what we said.”
But back to the post. Is it self-righteous, slanderous and harsh? Absolutely. Should retailers represent the brands they carry in purely positive light? If their goal is purely to sell the product they carry, than yes. . . . Wait, what?
The purpose is NOT to sell piles of shit, the purpose is to enable and facilitate all forms of skateboarding and the community it creates. Of course we need to be financially viable to do those things, but profit is merely a means to and ends, not an end in itself. If we make less money because the most popular truck company wont allow us to be critical and have a voice to speak with the community in mind, than so be it.
Our post did not slander the product, but the aspect that affects the community the most: the marketing. Choose to face it or not, but marketing has more effect on the community than the community has on the industry. Caliber’s marketing is amazing. Its designed to capture the imaginations (and sex drives) of groms. Caliber’s marketing is so strong groms are more likely to purchase caliber trucks based on color than baseplate angle. If a grom can hardly resist form and function over color, they will just as easily fall for status over safety.
The impact of that marketing goes beyond colors and boobs, and extends into the basic principles that our community used to sustain itself on. I have never been to a longboarding session where bucketlessness was acceptable. That includes the marritimes, the interior and the west coast of Canada, aka the whole goddamn country. Its irrelevant if you are in downtown Toronto hitting garages at 2 am or in west van shredding alleyways, helmets are mandatory. For the simple reason that the effects of not wearing a helmet are the same everywhere: If you die while participating in an already stigmatized activity ie. Longboarding, the activity will receive intense public and media scrutiny, which has a very real effect. Unfortunately, once through the media machine skateboarders are made into adrenaline junkies, whereas cyclists are martyred as self-sacrificing commuters.
Downhill longboarding has had helmet wearing as a strong tradition, a basic principle of its culture. But currently the strength of marketing is stronger than that of tradition (hence color > angle). So yes, we misrepresented Caliber, only to try to make the point that Caliber is misrepresenting downhill longboarding when they release helmetless adds. Sex sells. Sunglasses and fashion sells. But nothing it worth selling at the expense of the community. So we owe CVB a great big thank you for helping us stick to our principles, because it quickly became clear that CVB product should stop flowing through our hands.
At the risk of beating a dead horse, lets play devils advocate for a second. Doesn’t CVB closing their own revenue stream for the sake of their principles and values/marketing also show that they are ideals oriented, and fully support their riders decisions? Did they not also make a sacrifice for what they believe in? Good question imaginary caliber fan! It can certainly be interpreted that way, but what are those things that caliber believes in? And what are their riders choosing to communicate?
Author: Mischa Chandler Farivar
PS. All CVB product has been priced at cost to get it outta here asap