If you’re over 30, you can recall
a time when your phone and music
player weren’t the same thing.
Sitting on a chairlift in Park City,
Utah, in 2001, Rick Alden, a former
snowboard-binding and fishing-reel
developer, was frustrated at having to
unplug his earphones from his tunes
to use his phone. His solution was
called Link—headphones and technology that paired the two devices.
It was Skullcandy’s first product.
While in China developing Link,
Alden found himself swimming in
the achromatic sea of black-and-white audio products and quickly
realized Skullcandy’s second big
innovation had to be like Dorothy
landing in Oz: The audio market
Once positioned as a lifestyle
brand in the personal headphones
market, Skullcandy made a colorful
splash in aisles dominated by the
likes of Sony and JVC. And Alden
lived that lifestyle. He built a skate
ramp at the o;ce, defining its culture and bonding it to its young
consumers. The company, meanwhile, sold earbuds where the kids
hung out, such as skate and snow-board shops.
Then a terrible thing happened.
Skullcandy grew up, and went public
in 2011. Wall Street was suddenly
calling the tune. Jason Hodell, who
joined Skullcandy in 2013 as CFO
and became CEO in 2016, says the
move brought with it “aggressive
growth targets” that led to over-
distribution—a departure from
Going private in 2016 freed up
Skullcandy to again be a lifestyle
brand that can connect with edgy
new artists favored by its customers.
These customers include athletes
like 23-year-old Jenn Soto, who was
named to the first-ever USA Skateboarding National Team in March,
ahead of the sport’s Olympic debut
in Tokyo next year.
Soto and rapper Rico Nasty are
the first faces of Skullcandy’s color-
coordinated, yearlong 12 Moods
campaign, which launched in March
with the theme of “Bold” and a line
of tangerine-hued products that have
sold out. The mood for April was
“Elevated,” and so is the company’s
attitude. It’s taking on the big brands,
earbuds and Venue and Ri; on-
ear headphones. “We have to be
competitive and win against Apple
Beats, Bose, Sony,” says Hodell.
That’s what’s made Skullcandy a
$300 million business.
There’s a halfpipe in Skullcandy’s
new o;ces, and a kitted-out music
room as well. It’s a renewal of Alden’s
“First chair, last call” philosophy,
which is Park City–speak for “ski
hard and party harder.” Hodell, a
West Point grad and former infantry
captain who apparently serves as
adult supervision, says the kids are all
right: “We think of our culture as a
combat multiplier. We’re di;erent
from the rest because we want to be,
and that’s part of what makes us
special.” —STEVE GOLDBERG
PRIVATE TI TANS
Skullcandy Restores Its Soul
IN YOUR FACE, IN YOUR EAR
Rapper Rico Nasty channeling one of Skullcandy’s 12 Moods
lines, the tangerine-colored Bold. She qualifies.
Going private again allowed the company’s culture to reemerge.
“If you’re delivering darkness, people eventually will catch on. If you’re delivering real good value, you would be the number one company in the world. You wouldn’t have to do all these fake [expletive] bougie conferences to win people over.”
—@madamegandhi, still taking Snap to task in her Instagram commentary (which, unsurprisingly, went viral)