Things I’ve Learned: Mike Gutt bleeds K2 and has for almost 16 years

Things I’ve Learned: Mike Gutt bleeds K2 and has for almost 16 years

Mike Gutt has been with K2 Skis since the beginning of the freeskiing movement. Since starting his career as a brand ambassador in southern California in 1999, Gutt has worked his way up to become K2’s global marketing director. In that time he’s had the privilege to work with some of the most influential skiers in the world, including the likes of Shane McConkey, Seth Morrison, Doug Coombs, Pep Fujas, Sean Pettit and Andy Mahre, to name a few. In this edition of Things I’ve Learned, Gutt gives us an inside look at his more than 15-year career in the ski industry.

Gutt says:

My job is a dream job for any diehard skier. I get to work for a brand that was personally responsible for getting me into the sport and later found a way to keep it cool when all my friends gave it up for snowboarding. Being able to create a career out of a passion is an amazing way to make a living. It is probably as close as you can get to the lifestyle of an athlete for all of us mere mortals who don’t actually have that much [athletic] talent.

My career at K2 has been one hell of a ride. I’m going on my 16th year with the brand. I started in southern California as a regional brand ambassador way back in 1999. In that role I got to meet a bunch of the K2 athletes at the Parkasaurus and Superpark events as well as the Vegas SIA show. Then I somehow weaseled my way up to High North Ski Camp in Whistler as a tech for the summer. I met the entire team at those events and that pretty much paved the way for an in-house position as the team manager. I still remember my first day in the offices at K2, my first call was to Glen Plake. I could not believe I got to “manage” an athlete who was actually responsible for making me a K2 fanatic. I later moved into a marketing manager position and for the past four years have taken on the K2 Skis’ global marketing director role.

K2 Skis' Jeff Mechura and Mike Gutt

An illustration of K2’s VP of global marketing Jeff Mechura and Mike Gutt from the 2015 FREESKIER Trend Book.

Being a brand director is a juggling act. There are so many things in the air at any given time and so many factors that weigh on each and every detail. It can be overwhelming. It is easy to get caught up in the chaos, but as a group we try to boil it down and remain focused on the fun nature of the brand and keep the stoke for the sport alive. This approach is not new to K2, it is what created the unique vibe for the brand back in the 70’s that’s still alive today. It really is a simple approach based around “serious fun” and the spirit of the sport that we take to marketing the brand, athletes and products.

Getting into ski boot manufacturing was a totally new experience and huge learning process for our crew. There are so many technical aspects to boots and the K2 boots are no exception. We got to start with a blank slate and were able to build a boot from the ground up to work with the modern advancements in ski design. There are so many details that we wanted to communicate about the design, but we launched ski boots in a way that was true of the brand. We had fun with it and hopefully made people smile when they opened FREESKIER magazine and saw DJ Mullet in a skin tight green suit rocking our boots.

A successful marketing campaign, for us, is one that people talk about, smirk and laugh over years after it launched. It’s the goal of every campaign to leave a lasting impression, some are more successful than others.

Keeping a brand image fresh is easy because we know who we are and stay true to our roots. That might sound odd to reference our past as a way of keeping the brand image fresh. But we are not searching to define who we are or rethink our brand identity year after year. We are proud of what has made K2 strange and mysterious, and attracts people to the brand.

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