Branding Masterclass — Trucks

Words by Frozen in Carbonite
Collages by Requiem For A Screen

Few choices in life communicate as much about their owner as the skateboard truck. Board companies vary by woodshop, clothiers get bought out by global conglomerates, shoe brands come and go at the mercy of the vicissitudes of fashion, but the Big Three (plus one?) truck brands remain with consistent brand narratives that — for whatever reason — synergize with the most mindblowing slogans in the culture.

With that in mind, and with no end in sight to the #trend of starting brands, we will deconstruct the marketing tactics of the Big Three (plus one?) truck companies, focusing on their most iconic and immortal slogans.

Join me, won’t you?

Venture – “AWAKE”

Is it an adjective, describing the mental state of the riders of said truck, or a command, imploring the reader to join its ranks?

In any event, “AWAKE” encapsulates the mental possibilities of lighter trucks, when the thought process of most skaters was something like “Fuck, maybe I could noseslide double-flip out that curb if my trucks were three grams lighter.” Furthermore, former Venture team manager Greg Carroll’s decision to literally flood the Embarcadero with product remains one of the most brilliant marketing masterstrokes in history.

One can only imagine the discussion at the Carroll household in 1992…

GREG: “You’re riding Ventures now, bro.”
MIKE: [exasperated, head in hands] “fuck, man!”

Regardless of how Carroll landed his brother on the team, the decision reaped benefits as featherlights remained the de facto truck of choice for the rest of the #90s. In addition, the “AWAKE” logo shirt with the big “V” remains one of skating’s most iconic brand images; good look bringing the shirt back recently.

Ace – “Loose Trucks Save Lives”

Ace is the veganism of trucks; its disciples never hesitate to expound on its benefits. Indeed, in spaces such as the “truck setups” thread on the SLAP messageboard, a virtual clearinghouse for truck-related obsessive compulsions, one can find dozens of Ace converts singing the virtues of the newest truck brand to make a dent in the highly saturated truck #marketplace.

The Ace branding strategy is twofold: one, referring to teamriders as “pilots,” thus constructing a brand narrative that echoes back to the glory years of America’s Greatest Generation™ and all that entails.*

Second, a slogan to rival those of its competitors: “Loose trucks save lives.”

The phrase brings to mind the legendary Twitter mantra “thick thighs save lives.” However, based on research conducted with the world’s most robust search engine — Twitter Advanced Search — thick thighs might actually ruin one’s life.

The message inherent in the Ace brand narrative is clear: ride these trucks or you might just fucking die.

Thunder – “[Insert Pro’s Name Here] Knows,” “Know Control,” “Know Future”

Similar to Ace, Thunder’s brand narrative deals in paramilitary imagery: skulls, grenades, lightning bolts. By purchasing this brand of trucks, one joins an elite group — similar to the Green Berets or Delta Force. Its primary logo, a heart-shaped grenade, says to the prospective truck buyer, “These trucks are good…how good? THEY WILL CAUSE YOUR HEART TO EXPLODE.”

Slogan-wise, Thunder emphasizes a zen-like state of knowing the unknowable. Does free will exist? Do humans have any control over their fate? These are questions that philosophers and poets will agonize over until the end of time, but if you desire to control what you can control, as every basketball coach says in every halftime interview ever, then Thunders will help you control your skateboard’s turning radius to the greatest extent possible.

OR, as depicted in this mid-Eighties ad, assist in bizarre freestyle-related mating rituals:

Independent – “#@*%!!! Hot!” “Fuck the Rest”

Tradition. Stability. Self-reliance. These are the pillars of the Independent brand. Along with their iconic logo (which, based on some rudimentary internet research, originated from some knights in the Crusades or some shit), Independent’s marketing tactics include some of the most fuckin’ #alpha slogans in the history of advertising. This is the manly man shit Denis Leary wishes he could say in those F-150 commercials.

First, “#@*%!!! Hot!”

I always interpreted this as “these trucks grind so well that the friction created by the aluminum and pool coping will create spontaneous combustion.” Like a tail devil. Has this ever happened?

ANYWAY, the power of this slogan lies in its nonsensical, almost impressionistic nature. Maybe the “heat” refers to the heated sessions powered by the superior grinding and turning properties of Independent Trucks? Note: Independent also has, by a longshot, the most branded merch of any truck brand, including a “fuckin’ hot” (*hint* Father’s Day *hint*) apron and an Independent logo spatula — er, I mean “grill flipper.”

Perhaps you have seen a recent Mercedez-Benz commercial featuring the slogan “The best or nothing.” Well, that’s a eunuch version of “FUCK THE REST,” the final slogan we will discuss and maybe the most powerful slogan in the history of branding and marketing. This is some real caveman, lizard-brain shit, and it gets to the core of both the skate zeitgeist and the power of marketing. The ad wizard that thought that one up that one makes Don Draper look like Richard Simmons.

*******

This has been Branding Masterclass: Trucks. Because if you can #brand a ⅓ kilogram piece of aluminum, you can #brand anything.

*Of course, I’m assuming that the reference is to WWII aces, as opposed to The Korean War or Vietnam.

Previously: Branding Masterclass — Hubba Wheels

21 Comments

  1. Should’ve just combined the Thunder and Venture sections since DLX has been spitting them out of the same factory for years now. Not surprised that Krux, Royal, Tensor didn’t make the cut.

  2. ^Independents are lovingly crafted at the same famioy. They get #branded elsewhere though. Same factory doesn’t mean same product.

  3. Thunder logo is so bad that it isn’t even 2018-ironically-good. Catch me in a heartagram way before that thing.

  4. Venture for life over here. The only hip-hop trucks….on the grind. Can’t stand indy. Corniest wannabe biker image bullshit. People just get peer pressured into skating them. How dope is it to make your slogan the F word then censor it?

  5. I agree about how bad the thunder logo is, while I always liked the grind kind one.
    Shout out to grind king

  6. Skate Ace’s, but incredibly sad about being the “vegan” of the truck world.
    Incredibly.
    Sad.

  7. Late 90’s Scratch n’ Sniff

    Arachnophobia: Webb
    Alien Workshop: Titan Ti-Lite
    We Are The World: Crail Brasilia

    If they work for TX. . .

  8. shoutout theeves. theyve got no marketing at all it seems. i think jkjhnsn was on. hows that for branding

  9. royal is best truck company, as rider-wise.
    at least they never kick out riders without no proper reason, out of the blue like companies under DLX done…

  10. Some technical analysis would be nice, as in which trucks perform better under what scenarios and why. For example why are Indy’s so much heavier than Ventures and how will that affect my skating? Does the extra grind clearance on Destructos translate to real cost savings for the consumer? Is the tensor slidepiece just a gimmick?

  11. there have been legit breakdowns of truck performance before, I feel like in skateboarder or maybe Strength?
    indy’s are best all around
    ventures are best for ledge skating and flatground flip trick centric skating (dudes who skate in straight lines)
    thunders have the shortest radius, so good for manuals
    ace’s are just dinky looking indy’s but they work well
    most everything else is just a shitty copy
    Orion’s were alright, mostly cuz their team was sick

  12. Tensor was ALL marketing. The Ricta of trucks. Put a useless piece of shiny plastic in the truck and claim they are indestructible.. No mention of shorty’s doh dohs which were a popular truck accessory when I was a kid. I also remember riser pads being sold as something that made your deck un-focuseable.

  13. @bushings I would say ventures are better for manuals, they are the sturdiest and have the least amount of turn so you can really lock in. I cant describe it in detail, but the big 3 all have different angles on where their axles sit in relation to the bolts, so on ventures you have the longest wheelbase, indys medium, and thunders have the shortest wheelbase. not 100% on that but its close. Ive skated the big 3 quite a bit and drove myself crazy, i cant stand indy but feel like a dork skating ventures that have a delayed turn. thunders are so low they just wheelbite every trick.


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