Snowboarding brands, an introduction
Being a keen snowboarder for the past 10 years has allowed me to interact with these brands not just from a consumers point of view but also from the point of view of a brand builder and marketer. From Burton to Capita this is a run down of the top 11 most iconic snowboard brands. These are the brands that I think have done the best job of effectively connecting with their target audience. Some have stayed true to snowboarding’s roots, some have rebelled against the industry and some just love to innovate and constantly push the boundaries of snowboarding.
There are many more great snowboard brands that are not in this list and it doesn’t include brands that are part of that space but not specifically a snowboard brand e.g The North Face, such a great brand and logo! (Helvetica rules!).
*Side note – This run down of the top 11 most iconic snowboard brands is based off of my own opinion and is not a comment on the size or success of the brands in question. It is merely my view on the brands that I think do the best job of communicating their brand to their audience.
What does a great snowboarding brand need?
Snowboarding brands should connect emotionally with the target audience and resonate on a level that is an extension of their personality. It’s important for the consumer to relate to the companies values, positioning and branding as well as feeling like the brand is meant for them as an individual.
Recent studies show that people choose brands they feel a connection with. That help them,
“reduce discrepancies between their actual and ideal self,” thereby increasing their self-esteem;
Snowboard logos, whether this is a word mark, symbol, monogram or a mixture of these need to set the tone of the brand and connect with the audience. This connection needs to happen right off the bat as it is usually the first brand touch point a consumer comes in to contact with. Snowboard logos tend to use ideas with movement, edginess, youth, vitality, rebellion, counter-culture, subversion, strength and flow. You might also see icons both literal and more abstract based on mountains, slopes, snowboards, the outdoors and movement based symbols like arrows, speed lines, and italicized text.
The only place to start is with the industry leader and most well known snowboarding brand amongst the mainstream. Burton. Burton is snowboarding! Their iconic logo (arrow logo) is unmistakable whether it is on the bottom of a board, on boots, bindings or clothing. The concept I like about it the most is the idea of movement that it portrays, using the lowercase b to spiral in on itself and then it’s topped with an arrow almost mimicking a backflip from one perspective or a BS 180 from another.
The beauty of the Burton arrow logo is it’s scalability, whether it’s on the side of a pair of boots, as a tag on a pair of gloves or on the bottom of a snowboard. It just works and allows the company to have a consistent, uniform logo across all audience touch-points.
It’s amazing the effect symbols have in our subconscious mind (see Robert Cialdini’s book presuasion) and the Burton arrow is no exception. It is an arrow pointing up. Up arrows in popular culture mean going to the top, success, popularity and the arrow here becomes a badge everyone wants to wear. A symbol to show that you are a part of the Burton tribe, you are on your way to becoming a better snowboarder or going to the top of the mountain.
Jeremy Jones is one the most famous backcountry snowboarders, often taking on lines that most people can’t see let alone would attempt. It’s because of this that he has built such a great reputation and following over the years. Jeremy’s videos are breathtaking, he has inspired a whole generation of backcountry riders to learn to look at terrain differently, to push the boundaries and to believe in the impossible.
Jones Snowboards logo is edgy, angular and extreme, everything that Jones himself embodies. In terms of branding, consistency, and alignment Jones snowboards is one of the best branded companies on this list. Its set up is comparable to Apple, with Jeremy Jones being the Steve Jobs of Jones snowboards. He is a pioneer and visionary in his field that embodies all that the brand is. This is carried right through the branding and into the product line whereby Jones Snowboards provide some of the best backcountry gear and split boards on the market.
For over 25 years this great brand has been all about snowboarding, created by boarders for boarders. Nitro are well known, liked and have a cult-like following. The logo like Jones Snowboards has an edginess to it but also has more of a fun, rebellious side. The capital N and font used for the name is angular and has been tweaked to create a real tension and extreme feel. Like the Burton arrow, the uppercase N is perfect for scalability and use in multiple situations and on many product types.
Nitro as a name is one of the best. It’s short, punchy and makes you think of explosions, speed and extreme cold (liquid nitrogen.) It definitely packs a punch and has that cool factor that people can relate to. Nitro is also not afraid to use strong and varied colours including bright gradients to emphasize the fun, rebellious edge.
Never Summer Industries
This is one of my favorite snowboard brands. Since 1991 Never Summer Industries have created well designed and cutting edge snowboards that not only ride great but also look great. Without a doubt one of the best brand names in the industry which was taken from the Never Summer mountains in Colorado (part of the Rockies) where pockets of snow remain all year round. This name sums up the sentiments of snowboarders everywhere. No snowboarder wants the season to end and every snowboarder wants it to be knee high powder all year round. This brand sums up the attitude of snowboarders and has a movement around the joy and love of snowboarding, creating a tribe of followers who want to board all the time.
The logo ties in the movement idea with an emblem that is militaristic in feel and could be worn on a revolutionary, fighting the cause to stop summer, with the bird (I think Phoenix) in the crosshairs of a sight. This visual metaphor is spelling out the death of summer.
Since 1995 Arbor has been building environmentally friendly snowboards using sustainable materials. Arbors logo is one of the most recognizable and is very effective at different sizes. The word Abor means a grove of trees and the logo reflects this, referring back to the companies branding and positioning as an environmentally conscious snowboard company.
The logo is paired with a friendly font with the letters spaced to give a feeling of calm, tranquility and flow, this again works with the company branding, positioning, and ethos.
Ride Snowboards are another sustainably minded company that create boards ‘for real snowboarders by real snowboarders’. They are all about the ride and therefore they have a real clean minimal, anti-brand feel that embraces the non-brand position in the market. The backward R in the circle feels like a nod towards anti-establishment and anti-corporate by taking the copyright symbol idea and flipping it. This subversive logo and brand are great in their simplicity and says so much with so little, successfully creating a following by positioning itself as the anti-brand in this list. Which in itself is gutsy and great branding.
Developed by Quicksilver in 1990 as a female surf brand, Roxy has grown from strength to strength and in 2003 launched a full line of snowboards aimed at the female market. Roxy celebrates femininity, empowerment, freedom, and strength and it manages to convey this in a balanced way that is precisely in tune with their audience. The use of bright colours, bold designs, prints and patterns help to add a fresh edge to the brand that is inspiring and creative. The logo itself is a clever mark made up of two Quicksilver logos turned inwards to form a heart for lovers of all things snow and surf.
Rome SDS Snowboards
One of the younger brands on the list which was founded in 2001, Rome SDS actually began in the minds of two friends in the 1980’s. The company grew out of a frustration at the corporate companies that Rome SDS felt were taking the soul away from snowboarding and weren’t taking the sport as far as it could go. They formed Rome as a brand that was all about the community and to this day invite people to give feedback and ideas on how to improve their products. The SDS stands for Snowboard Design Syndicate. Anyone who is a Rome customer, fan or follower can be a part of their mission which is to create the most innovative products designed by the community and the act of snowboarding.
Similar in some regards to Ride’s anti-establishment feel, the Rome Logo and brand takes this idea but instead of rebellion, it brings snowboarding back to the community (SDS).
Since 2001 Capita have been rebelling, creating and pushing the boundaries of snowboarding with their brand. Similar to the Sex Pistols emerging as a response to the establishment, or Nirvana as a response to hair metal bands of the 80’s, Capita was a response to the corporate nature of the snowboarding industry at the turn of the millennium. They are far-out creatively and have a punk vibe about them, not a two finger salute kind of punk but with creativity, flair, and emotion. The brand has and continues to make snowboarding about fun, passion, creativity and re-inventing what a snowboard brand is and can be.
The logo captures all of the above by using movement, changes in size and style of letters and an abstract satellite symbol to communicate that Capita really isn’t from this planet!
Lib Tech Snowboards
Lib Technologies are the extreme innovators on this list, always pushing boundaries and trying things other wouldn’t. From Magne-traction edges and Banana technology this company is all about hard core innovation and board performance. Even from the name which sounds like a company Dr Emmet Brown from back to the future would head up, they position themselves as innovators. If Einstein snowboarded this would be his choice. Cutting edge, visionary and boundary pushing boards, methodically crafted and based on performance.
GNU has been around since 1977 back in the days when snowboarding was just a weird hobby undertaken by a few out there people looking to have fun with friends whilst tearing it up. This spirit has never left GNU and their brand reflects the experimental nature of the early days of snowboarding. Bright colours, out there artwork, and a rebellious edge make GNU one of the all-time great snowboard brands. Not many brands are still connected to the soul of snowboarding but GNU certainly is. The logo is a simple but effective and memorable geometric mark that shows no signs of conforming, just like the brand itself.
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