Valuable Content Award for Finisterre: the cold water surfing people

Sonja Jefferson

The last Valuable Content award of 2013 goes to disruptive surf brand Finisterre, for a beautiful website and a beautiful story. Finisterre are not competing in a crowded marketplace. Instead they’ve forged ahead of the pack and invented a whole new category.


The last Valuable Content award of 2013 goes to disruptive surf brand Finisterre, for a beautiful website and a beautiful story.

It’s different from usual VC Awards, as Finisterre are not competing in a crowded marketplace. Instead they’ve forged ahead of the pack and invented a whole new category.

Finisterre are the Cold Water Surfing People. Their website is elegant, simple and seamless, with the story and meaning running through every piece of content they deliver, from the sales pages, to “About Us”, to the photography and films that make you want to head for the beach in Scotland in December. Take a look: http://www.finisterreuk.com/cws/cold_water_surfing

We love it because it’s so inspiring, but we were bowled over by the interview with marketing director Ernie Capbert. He talks very passionately about the thinking behind the way the Finisterre message and content have developed. He’s great on why a business needs a why, and how far the why can take you.

It’s a clarion call for bravery and belief in business, and being rad! A great way to end 2013. Enjoy this.

Tell us about the thinking behind Finisterre and Cold Water Surfing

Ernie: “I don’t necessarily like the idea of joining categories. You can join a category and compete, or create your own category like Red-Bull has and lead. I think for us there was an opportunity to disrupt and do things differently, creating our own category.

A lot of times in any type of marketing and PR, people often focus too much on the ‘what’, whether it’s product USPs or how nice it’ll look in your house, it’s just what, what, what, all the time. I think people fall short of why you do it, why you believe in it.

Once you believe in something that’s a very powerful thing, you’re in the moment, flow state, and hours don’t seem so long and the focus is just intense.  I did a lot of work off the grid just trying to figure out that why of Finisterre.”

Dear Surf Industry

What do you mean by ‘category’?

Ernie: “It’s from Al and Laura Ries’ book, ‘The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding. The key idea that struck with me from there was that whenever you’re trying to build a business you promote the category not your brand. It can be really difficult because when people start companies and brands they want to talk about their brand, what they’re trying to do and their products, as opposed to just thinking of it more long-term.

“Promote the category, not the brand.” Al and Laura Ries

Of course it’s about Finisterre. I love this place more than anything and I love surfing, but if we want to make this thing happen we have to show the value in both the products and the places in which we use these products. And that’s very much the category. We have to promote the category first and the brand second. That’s a hard thing to do but that’s what we’ve been doing.

You need to believe in it; it’s as simple as believing in something. Then you begin to formulate how you’re going to get that why out and you get the images and you get video right and then you showcase it. Then everybody goes ‘I want to go out surfing, what’s it about?’ they ask questions, ‘what kind of products do I need?

Believe in the category; don’t talk about the brand. Never look over your shoulder, always think of yourself as an icebreaker and people follow in.

When you create a new category there is no market place, so you have to believe that there will be one. There’s often this thought process that you’re tapping into  – it’s the things that people think but don’t actually say. So when you present this new category and these new products and radical designs people go “oh my god that’s it!” and it all comes together. Great product, great content, right space, and you just start revving.”

Your website is beautiful. There’s a real theme with the photography, the film, the copy. How has that all come about?

Ernie: “All of a sudden when you get it right – products, what you believe, content and you find that space, that’s when it just goes nuts! Everyone is just cold-water surfing and it just makes sense.

People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it. I think it’s that why, it all starts from that.

“People don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek

Once you get that why you get a vision. When people get visions, probably to the most of the world around they seem very radical or deluded. But others will get pulled towards those delusions of grandeur, that blind focus, so there will be a few people who will jump on board. We’ve got eighteen people here at Finisterre that see that vision in their Cheerios in the morning!”

Finisterre Al MacKinnon

I think that there are always going to be naysayers when what you’re doing is disruptive or radical, but if you believe in it just charge man, just charge!

We believed in it and we poured all this belief into all our content – films and photography and interviews – and now people are coming to us saying, “could you please define cold surfing, when did it start?” It’s like they’re walking right into this whole thing, this whole plan is like a big booby trap!

Everybody is asking this company who had picked this category ‘when did it all start?’ We are literally writing the script!”

I know you write the copy but how about the rest of the content. Who is the team that creates all your stuff?

Ernie: “We started focusing on what it was we had to do to romanticise and create this cold-surf category that would make people want to do it.

We got Chris McClean, an award winning filmmaker to help. Chris helped us understand what we need to show visually to articulate cold-water surfing.

We’ve got David Gray who does all of our lifestyle photography and he’s in-house, he’s a graphic designer/photographer, he’s just very talented. And we bring on board Al MacKinnon who does our surf landscape photography and also shoots in the water. That’s kind of the team.

We had to convince them that they’ve got to go to Norway for eight days. Told them all ‘it’s going to be beautiful’ and they’re going to go off the chart, but there’s no running water and there’s no electricity and we can’t pay you that much money because we’re not a massive company.

It goes beyond selling them this idea. That’s when this why comes into place again. That’s the focus, that’s the passion. When you believe in something it’s so damn powerful and you can share with anybody; you’re able to bring anybody along and that’s what we were able to do.

I think that’s when it all comes together in that film. This is a real personal thing that’s going on and that’s why I think it’s coming through in the content we’re putting out.

It doesn’t matter what brand or what company; whatever you’re doing you get your content, you get your product, and you get the space right, (space being the people that you’re building the products for and the content for). When those three things come together and are delivered to a space, that’s when people rev, and everybody just kicks off, and those brands that have been trying to do it for ages start spinning stratospheric.’

What has worked really well? What are you most proud of?

Ernie: “I think all the questions in terms of what cold water surfing is, I am proud of that. I’ve always believed in the category and there’s been a lot of people in different camps telling me this isn’t a good idea, saying where’s the market? Telling me it’s corporate suicide and that kind of stuff. So I’m really proud of sticking with it and once the interviews start coming and the film goes out and people get it and they fall in love with it, I’m proud of that.”

Do you have any tips for other businesses that want to get their messages and their content out?

Ernie: “I’d say watch Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk.

Read some books – 22 Immutable laws of Branding as a start. It’s dated but I love it.

I’d say more so than anything else, be radical, be radical with the things that you believe.

If you’re trying to join a category you may not need to be so radical – you’re kind of adopting things that are already going on. But if you’re trying to create a category or if you’re trying to be a marketing director or if you’re trying to feed an idea within a business, you’re not going to be able to do that without the why and that why is going to have to be very deep, very deep and very passionate.

“Be radical with the things you believe.”

It can’t be opaque, it can’t be what everyone else is doing, or it will fall victim to a lot of noise. So it’s got to be radical.

I’m not saying this to piss people off but what I am saying is that when Steve Jobs did what he did, when the guy at Red Bull did what he did, when the guy at Nike did what he did, people loved them passionately or probably disliked them passionately. In order to do those things you’ve got to be rad about it. You’ve got to be deluded, you’ve just got to have this blind focus in this thing and then figure it all out and get it down on a piece of paper, articulate it succinctly and then walk into the office, have a meeting and then drive it down peoples’ throats. Believe in it and share it.

“Believe in it and share it.”

When the vision’s tight people start seeing the vision in their Cheerios and in their coffee – that’s when you know you’ve got it.”

Ernie Capbert, & friend

Congratulations Ernie and Finisterre! With ‘cold water surfing’ you have found your true path. Much for others to learn from this, whatever type of business we run. We’re head over heels in love with your brand and we back you all the way. Award badge and poster winging their way to Wheale Kitty, St Agnes.

Other VC Award winners to be inspired by:

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  1. Blue Men Inspiratie Blog - Golden Circle Finisterre - [...] De website Valuable Content interviewde Finisterres marketingdirecteur Ernie Capbert. [...]

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