Growing a brand. It takes a village.

I’ve always been a believer in setting goals. It's generally something I try to do personally in the week between Christmas and New Year to get something out of those days that will give you direction for the next year.  This year has been an interesting one. At the beginning, we set out our strategy and laid our plans as the year unfolded, but we kind of shifted course based on the winds ahead of us.  For Db, this year has been a wild ride and we wanted to thank everyone who has helped us through the year as it's been a huge learning for us. Since creation we’ve always been a digital-first business; from the Snowrollers we launched online 10 years ago to the most recent social platforms we’re on.  We’re so thankful for the community we have on social; the ability to be able to ask everyone to go comment and blow up a post from Real Madrid or High Snobiety is nothing short of mind-blowing every time we do it.

However, for a while as a company we’ve always said that the world will be better if people get out and experience it.  So, in January we kicked off by doing just that. We got a mobile workspace and sent our social and retail team out into the wilderness of Norway (well, Tin, Hallvard, Sandra & William, it’s people, not huge departments).  Why? Well, we wanted to meet people but we also primarily wanted to go skiing and this seemed a good way to combine the two.  Whilst we enjoyed this, we learnt a lot here about the right time, right execution and whether the people are ready to show up.  January in Oslo is quite cold and yep, sometimes we need to remember that when planning outdoor events. 

Soon after that as we regularly do, we planned and overpacked for a photoshoot in LA. It was 12 days of shooting, and for anyone who has organized a photoshoot, you’ll know that 12 days is waaaaaay too much.  The 12 days included traveling, organizing ambassadors to join us, new photographers, filmers etc. It was so much work and 12 days straight meant that, like our iPhones dropping down to 10% battery, we would be returning home kind of like that.  This is a great note to self: restrict shoots to a few days at a time.

We’ve always said that sometimes we wanted to get our ambassadors together for a once in a lifetime trip and take them up to Lofoten.  Hallvard used to live up there and so knows it like the back of his hand and so under the watchful eye of Wes and Lasse we brought over Sage Erickson, Estelle Pensiero, Petra Ohlson, Sophie Odelburg, Markus Kleveland and Craig Anderson.  Ah Craig.  He didn’t love the cold one bit.  

From Lofoten,  the year somehow took us to Madrid. We’ve worked with Marecelo Vieira for a couple of years and love all the insights he brings and the team he brings along.  Working with the crew at Crown Creators to launch his line, Marcelo made it clear that he really wanted a friends and family focussed event at his favorite store in Madrid - La Marca.  We’d never really done a store takeover but hey, there's a first time for everything.  So, we wrapped the windows, built out the store, ordered the food and drinks, set up the music and Marcelo and the team did the rest.  

It was a pretty surreal night; one minute Marcelo and his family walked in, the next we had Vinicius Jr, Rodrigo, Luka Modric all roll up and before we knew it, we were standing in the middle of a Real Madrid team get together.  We were also joined by Carlos Seinz for the night, as well as our founder Truls - everyone was blown away by what we pulled off and above all, it felt good launching a new product in person.

That evening with Marcelo kind of showed us that we could do the ‘events’ thing. It also meant we were able to grab tickets to the epic semi final between Man City and Real Madrid so we could welcome Sage Kotsenburg to the team by giving him a Db experience in Madrid.

When you look at a brand from the outside, it may seem that everything is buttoned up and plans are executed perfectly.  However, you wouldn't believe the first meeting of the year that we had with Marcelo.  It had taken a lot of planning and we even made him his own bag; a Hugger 25L with a built-in speaker in the top pocket.  Epic. While we were in Madrid, we also met up with our partners on the ground; Crown Creators. We went for dinner and before we knew it, 2am rolled around and we were asking the restaurant for “decaffeinato espresso martinis”. Needless to say it was a bad idea. 

The next morning, we headed off a little worse for wear to our meeting with Marcelo. The taxi dropped us off and as we walk up the stairs to the meeting room, we noticed that Marcelo’s bespoke bag was no longer with us. Someone shouted that we left it in the taxi, but of course after attempted contact, do you think the taxi company had seen a one off Db bag with an inbuilt speaker? Of course they hadn’t. Cue meltdown and embarrassment from all involved, yes, it happens to the best of us.

After we wrapped up in Madrid, we didn’t have much down time. We had a new color coming down the pipe that we needed content for. If you’ve followed Db for a while, you will know we try to approach things differently. Randomly, one of the team challenged us to make a boat out of the Midnight Sun collection, and not being ones to say no to a challenge, we booked an AirBnB in Portugal and off we went.  This was also the first time we met two of our new team members.  Ebba and Linn.  Ebba joined as an intern and quickly showed in Portugal that like many of the marketing team here she’s up for any challenge.  Running PR campaigns, sending product out, organizing events she handled everything like a pro.  So she went from intern to full time and then Linn joined us as the next intern.  Downhill skier, student and creative on many fronts including drone, a drone that she managed to fly into a cliff that we had to mount a rescue mission for.  Linn is now finishing up her studies and so we look forward to her next move.

After spending some days on Google Earth, we found the perfect location for our boat/raft/pontoon idea/challenge. Thankfully we met Bram DeFoort - the local king of creativity - who helped us bring our idea to life.  We met at 6am and started building and by 11am we had ourselves a boat.  It looked ready to set sail but one of our talented creatives William, who in summer runs only linen and recently just adopted the beanie look, announced to 12 dehydrated and already sunburnt Scandinavians that “this light just wont work. We need to wait until around 7pm”.  That led to an 8 hour wait in 35 degree weather, each of us taking turns to look after the boat until it was ready for sail.  Thankfully the result was worth it and when our friends at Natural High accepted our offer to build it at their store in Holland, we couldn’t wait to test it on open water so off we went.

A couple months later as spring turned into summer, our friends at Wasted talent opened the doors to us and invited us for a shop-in-shop.  Hossegor is kind of ‘the place’ in Europe in mid summer.  It’s a place of great surf, amazing weather (maybe a bit too hot this summer though) and a ton of new bars and food spots have opened around Wasted Talent store (probably in testament to their pull).  We invited Matt and the Looking Sideways crew to host a conversation about creativity in the outdoors with Timothy Myers, Sage Kotsenburg, Kepa Acero and Christa Funk.  We surfed, launched some products with the surf totes and socks, ate our own body weight in mussels and drank some cheap rose.  What a summer.  The only downside this summer was the sheer temperatures.  Over 40 degrees everyday was a bad reminder of the potential reality ahead of us.  It made working, partying, even sleeping just a real mission and made us focus our efforts as a company about being more responsible.   More to come on that in 2023 and 2024.  Wes organized us a house right over the dunes from the beach so he endeavored to show us up with his surfing everyday whilst also navigating the french rental housing market place with our landlady.
This trip we also met Ole for the first time.  Part of the student ambassador network Ole is a german guy living in Innsbruck who puts out amazing videos on both ski, snowboard and is part of the legs of steel crew.  Tin (the social media lead) had asked if he could come and help and a week into the trip Ole had already done the Bilbao airport run 6 or 7 times.  Again, the dedication to doing whatever was needed on the ground pretty quickly made us realize we needed him on the team so he joined part time whilst finishing his studies.  The band is growing by the minute as it rolls on.

As the days started to shorten and the weather began turning after a couple weeks of summer downtime, we got the gang back together in Annecy for what many see as ‘L’rentree’ (or ‘the return’ to the English speakers amongst us).  High Five is a 3 day festival for snow sports and since Snow is our root, we decided to use it as a relaunch into the Snow world moments ahead of dropping updated Snowrollers and the new Fjäll backpack.  However, we didn't want to just show up with our tent and call it good.  So after a few calls we re-connected to the crew at Club Sandwich or Perly, Matt Georges and decided an art gallery idea would be the way to go.  So with the team at Wrks we took over a gallery and hosted many of the world's best skiers and snowboarders for 3 days of coffee, giveaways with Korua & faction, drinks & dancing till the small hours.  

High Five was also where we debuted the “bureau De change ''; an idea to get customized bags into the hands of the community in Annecy by taking back their old bags and donating to riders for refuge.  The impact that Club Sandwich has in Annecy is amazing and we’re so happy they welcomed us in.  This was also the event where we first started working with Ella, our new French marketing lead.  Within minutes of the event starting you could tell she fit right in with the team and we had another good one amongst us.  We also handed over the social channels to our new favorite ambassador Luis Medearis.  We’d only met on DM’s until then but he became family overnight.

Around that same time that all this was happening, we got an email from Chris Burkard saying he would be in Sweden in September and asking us if we wanted to get together.  A few phone calls later and we had the team at Scandinavian Photo ready to go to host “A Sunday afternoon with Chris Burkard”.  We heard numerous people saying that Swedes don’t like going out on a Sunday, but pretty quickly the community showed up with RSVPs and we hosted a talk about his journey as a photographer and filmmaker.

We’d also been working on a new pack for a while which thankfully after various supply chain issues was ready for the world.  “The Makelos”.  Designed based on the female anatomy looking to where our design DNA is headed.  We partnered with Ane Gyllstrøm from Girl Shred and with Gorp Girls to launch this one which was amazing to spend time with two communities doing great things for getting people into the outdoors.

Rolling into autumn, the colder weather and excitement for snow also brings with it the better months for surfing in Europe too. Believe it or not, there’s warm water, longer periods and heavier swells, so when the crew at Magic Quiver and Stab asked us to work together we whipped out the tape measure and away we went.  The collection with Stab is going to debut in spring ‘23, but in the meantime we wanted to harness the energy in Ericeira with the WSL QS in town with two weeks of films from Stab, ambassador meet ups and a store takeover.

So with energy high in Snow, Photo and Surf communities we knew that we had to go back home to Oslo to launch our long awaited hardcase luggage.  It felt like we had been waiting for this for 2 years but hey, Covid, supply chain etc etc you know the story.  We’ve worked with Olav for a couple of years on the development of this product so, as we’ve done for a lot of our work this year, we asked him how we should do it.  “YME” was his response, so knowing the position of the store we went to the team there quite humbly and just asked to work together.  A few weeks later, a bunch of calls, emails and yes, Slack and we had a launch event.  We didn’t invite a single person, we let Olav and YME take the reins and we just provided the product and a team eager to help along the way.  Olav’s reach and energy is something to behold.  That partnered with the design obsession that we have with Vincent who designed the entire collection it was an amazing moment.  For Db to have the window and this group of people for a product launch was a high point for the year.

Through the year we’ve also continued our partnership with Cake Bike, the Swedish brand disrupting the urban mobility market.  From Selfridges to Printemps to Smets they’ve been an amazing partner.  Talking of Printemps, we also built our 3rd Igloo this year.  We’ve had the White, Sage Green and now have one in Midnight Sun.  Of course, building it is one thing but Marcus decided to take it one step further and decided he wanted it on TripAdvisor as a must see attraction in Paris. 163 reviews later and we are nearly in the top 100 things to do in Paris.

This year also saw us get into longer form content.  I know, usually we need content for Tik Tok or Reels that's 90 seconds long max, but we got a phone call at the end of last year that piqued our interest. 

“Hey, it's Sam, I’ve been working with Stab and like what you guys are doing, wanted to see if you want to work together”.

Next thing you know, Sam is on a plane to the US and along with lead designer Vincent, has come up with a series that we’re going to stand for : Pack Heavy, Chase Light. Much like all these events we hosted in the summer, this wasn’t something that we set out for. However, I suppose if we think of Db as the brand that gets you from A to B or the vehicle for travel and expression, this is the perfect example.  We’re here for your ideas, it's up to you to create them, we’ll do our best to support them.  Check out the DB Fund for more ideas in this space.

In the first week of December we hosted another couple of events to launch luggage in Paris and Amsterdam at L’Exception and Baskets respectively.  Both are stores that two years ago we could only dream of approaching but now it's all happening quite naturally.  I suppose that's the thing for us.

We’re launching products in places where we are still building our name and so each time it's an opportunity to introduce the brand to a new group of people.

We’re so thankful for the reception that we’ve received everywhere we go.  Maybe it’s because we’re small that people like our approach.  No one was hired at Db to work events, yet it's the thing that suddenly everyone seems to want to do.  We also don’t have the budgets that the huge brands do - usually on a big event some brands can spend half a million euros without batting an eyelid. That doesn’t matter though as the return we’ve seen by just getting out in the world, having a conversation , meeting a new friend is worth so much more than a ‘like’ on a social platform.  This year has been a learning in building plans, shifting as we go, learning and adapting.

This year has been a wild ride.  We’re so happy to have met so many good people on our travels and can only thank everyone for opening up their store, shop, bar, brand to us.  We’re here to work with great people.  If you’d like to come work with us, apply here to the student ambassador program or stay up to date on LinkedIn for any roles that we might have.

Damn, this has been longer than the 2 minute read it was supposed to be, but it warrants it.  For the hard work, for the effort put in and a good learning that for all the great strategy or plans someone can have in place, sometimes building the plane whilst flying can also feel pretty damn good.

 - Jon

Thank you for believing in us :

Marcelo, Olav, Luis, Chris Burkard, Sage Kotsenburg, Benjamin Ortega, Kepa, Timothy Myers, Sage Ericksen, Christa funk and the rest of our ambassadors.

The brands we’ve partnered with including Stab, Club Sandwich, Korua, Faction, Slowtide, Crown Creators, looking sideways. 

The other people who have driven, collected, built, played music or whatever else has made for an unforgettable year:

Sam Moody, James North, Mai Ikazawa, Matt Barr, Florent Di Maria, Guillaume Salmon, North PR, ACM, Bram DeFort & Coastom.