General Manager Dan Mason helps bring a contemporary, comedic sensibility to the marketing of a legacy outdoor adventure brand.
Mason describes the Wave Products workshop as a “fun, quirky environment.” And that trend was established long before its new owners purchased the company — bringing funny, quirky marketing to the company’s line of products. In fact, for owners, new and old, “Wave” — a word already suggestive of the outdoors — has the additional acronymic meaning “Wild Ass Adventure Equipment.”
Since 1979, the company has produced handmade, durable fanny packs, tote bags, and backpacks — and even “Puppy Panniers,” so canine friends can helpfully assist in the toting gear on the wild ass adventures. At one time, using PVC and fabric, Wave manufactured cases for fly fishing rods, which appeared in L.L.Bean catalogs, says Mason.
But the previous owner, Steve Brings, invested less energy into marketing Wave’s own products when the contract-manufacturing part of his business became a major source of revenue. Mason says of Brings, “He just loved to help people, and loved the challenge of trying to figure out how to make these customized products.”
Wave still produces items for about 30 different businesses on an as-needed basis, whether they be bags for medical monitors or canvas awnings. Mason cites Wave’s “ability to prototype and design in our shop” and produce a small run — or single item — of a product, which would be impossible via outsourcing overseas.
And, while in the past, Mason says “everyone [at Wave] was a little irreverent, everyone did party a little bit,” it sometimes had to maintain a staid veneer in order not to turn off potential customers. However, since purchasing the company in April 2021, new owners Chuck Mumford and Chris Garcin have brought a similar quirky irreverence to the marketing of Wave’s products as they have for their sunglasses and goggles brand, Pit Viper.
Here’s how they presently describe one of Wave’s fanny packs within its online store: “The toploading zipper and interior dividers will help keep your receipts and unpaid parking tickets from falling out while the outer pocket will keep your Bahn mi punch card handy for when you need to whip it out.” And a backpack includes this helpful info within the product description for people who tote Benjamins instead of credit cards: “Cash Hauling Capacity: 28770 bills x [$100] = $2,877,000.”
For now, the design and manufacturing is all done in-house within a 3,000-square-foot building in Salt Lake City. There, workers utilize basic sewing machines to install zippers and bind fabric. There are also industrial sewing machines for the primary assembly tasks. New to the business is its laser cutter machine, which will “cut out the entire pattern for the bag” with the help of a computer for the pattern layout.
Mason envisions a time when the company’s product line might be supplemented by items made through outsourced production, but it will always have its Made in the USA line. After all, that’s what made the brand renowned within Utah. Mason says people still bring into the shop their old Wave products to show off, sometimes saying, “‘It’s still going strong. It’s a little dirty, but it works still!'” Mason adds, “People are so proud of them, they still have it.”
For new owners Mumford and Garcin and for General Manager Mason — who all met while working in the past at Utah outdoor retailer Level Nine Sports — they get to take a beloved, but regionally-specific brand, and create a whole new buzz surrounding its lifestyle products, suitable for hiking, skiing, mountain biking, and concert-going.
“We get to take that legacy and make it our own new thing,” says Mason.
Challenges: “Scaling up” the company’s “production bandwidth,” says Mason: “We have a small team, and we want to sell a lot of bags, so it’s just kind of managing the output and trying to do as much as we can.”
Opportunities: Mason says the “legacy behind the brand” is a big asset, so the company’s marketing thrust is centered on telling that story. “‘Hey, we’ve been making bags here: You just didn’t know about us, so let me tell you about it!’ I feel that’s our advantage.”
Customers are generally in their late twenties and older with money to spend on durable goods. Mason describes their thinking as: “‘I want this really good Made in USA product. It’s a little more expensive, but I see the value.'”
Needs: “Growing our audience, growing our reach,” says Mason. “Getting the word out there — whether that’s [through] local events, national events, partnership with other companies.” And, also, through its humorous online marketing approach, says Mason, who describes reactions like this: “‘Wow, I can’t believe they wrote that in the description! That’s so funny! I’m not going to forget this.'”