Pralex: The New Model of Emerging Brands
In honor of the Ad Week happenings in NYC this week and all the discussions happening around the new advertising, what it means to be a brand, and how to create unique experience, I want to share some recent lessons I learned from an emerging brand.
The scene is a Flatland competition. Tires squeaking on cement floors in jerky patterns, metal tumbling over itself and bodies in (more often than not) gracefully executed falls, random circles of cheers, and electronic music feeding the energy over the loudspeakers. Telling the competitors from the crowd is impossible until they are in the 40×40 square, everyone blending together in a mix of favorite t-shirts and jeans. And then you spot a Canadian flag floating by carried by three guys in skinny jeans and v-neck shirts, Pralex has arrived…
Pralex, the brand, was born of the crowd. Prasheel Gopal and Alex Poirier began traveling to Flatland competitions together about 5 years ago and initially were known as The Canadians on the circuit, so named because of the Canadian flag they always brought with them. The Canadians started to get a reputation for their antics, the excitement they brought to the series, and soon they were christened with their celebrity moniker of Pralex. They were joined in more recent years by Mark Kuhlmann and Team Pralex was born.
Although on the Flatland scene for years, 2012 marked a breakout for them and launched their brand to the next level. Wanting to generate excitement before Voodoo Jam this June, Pralex took to Twitter. Posting daily countdowns and jokes, they unofficially renamed it the Pralex Invitational and got their followers to spread the word. T-shirts with the Pralex Invitational logo were spotted on riders (Dominik Nekolny, the winner of the pro division wore one during qualifying rounds) and in winners bags during the event. The funny thing was, Pralex had no clue about the shirts until they saw them walking around. The t-shirts were all made and distributed by a fan of the trio, who even found a sponsor.
Seeing how the Pralex Invitation had taken hold, the team took to Twitter again. Fat Tony, a legendary BMX photographer, was going to be shooting for a Flatland calendar at Voodoo Jam and Pralex wasn’t going to let the opportunity slip by. Rather than send a tweet to Tony and hope for a response, Pralex concocted a fake re-tweet where Tony threw out an invitation for a photo shoot to the team and Pralex agreed. Immediately followers started re-tweeting the fake re-tweet and passing along congratulations. Tony, seeing the tweets in his stream, replied back with a real offer of a photo shoot. Team Pralex had scored a coveted spot in the calendar.
Fake re-tweets, doctored photos, mildly to extremely exaggerated stories, and a few urban legends, are all part of the Pralex approach and their fans are willing participants in the “real or not” mystery that accompanies each posting and comment. Prasheel recently took first place at a UK event, King of Southsea, and when he posted a picture of him and his medal, most people thought it was a joke. Followers did their own investigations, even after Prasheel offered legitimate proof, before congratulations came flowing in.
What is Team Pralex selling? Themselves and the sport of Flatland. While they may be hoping to attract sponsors with their unique group persona, they are more focused on bringing energy to Flatland. Not the traditional product pushing brand, but one that has a higher purpose. It’s reminiscent of other brands that are focused on doing good first: Zappos, Toms Shoes, Two Degrees.
In speaking with Prasheel and hearing stories like the ones above and others, it struck me that they have built a solid brand by doing nothing more than utilizing social media and creating unique experiences at events. They didn’t set out with defined steps and measureable goals, crafted from focus groups and a structured needs assessment. They went into a scene wanting to enhance it, to add an extra element of fun, to make it fun for themselves. In the process, they built an active following that help them continue the Pralex experience, online and offline. What can other emerging brands learn from them?
- Authenticity is key
- Stir up excitement about what you are doing and invite fans to participate
- Play engages people
- Know where you want to go, but let the path unfold
Prasheel, Alex and Mark would love to hear from you – connect with them on Twitter – @PralexGorier, @acpoirier, @Theory4130