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 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