No. 284: Not Just For Publishers

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A frame from: Fullsterkur (full strength), a Rogue film debut on Youtube – August 26

Between the months of May and July, 5.75 million consumers visited an online retailer that strength and conditioning enthusiasts know as Rogue (No. 11 DNVB). And that’s just the Ohio company’s American site; the company also operates out of Canada, Europe, and Australia. Every SKU sold has been through their native eCommerce channels. They’ve quietly and successfully competed with the old guard of strength and conditioning while holding off well-known retailers like Sports Authority (RIP), Dick’s, and Academy Sports.

It’s quite the operation with an astounding number of online visitors for a company that you’ll rarely hear about. And from what I know about Bill and Caity Henniger, that’s fine by them. The company is eleven years old now, operating out of a single 650,000 square foot installation. Rogue employs over 500 people: from front end development to welding. And, anecdotally at least, the company seems stronger than ever.

There’s very little tech media and pop business notoriety for Rogue but, it suits the company just fine. They’re a well-oiled machine, from what I know. And machines don’t really need the affirmation of public relations mentions. They’re so quiet that, if you want a list of venture capitalists that track them (out of admiration), it’s GGV’s Jeff Richards and Indie.vc‘s Bryce Roberts. And, for the record, Rogue is where I cut my teeth in the sophisticated world of online customer acquisition. Back then, it was just Google SEM, Facebook spend, and daily ROI audits.

Today, for retailers, that’s not enough to efficiently grow a business. CAC is rising, knock offs are abound. And Amazon, Alibaba, and the industry seem to alter the battlefield quarterly,

There’s a point of diminishing return in brand-first eCommerce. At some point, you have to begin to think outside of the box or sales begin to slow, awareness tanks, and the old guard regains their footing against your early years’ momentum. This is the story facing numerous brands across consumer packaged goods (CPG), digitally vertical native brands (DNVB), and marketplaces. But there aren’t many companies in America operating at the level of complexity that Rogue seems to be.

For brands looking at how to navigate Porter’s Five Forces, look no further. It’s the basic understanding of positioning, competition, and other market forces that influence the best and brightest leaders throughout the eCommerce landscape. Not only is the company forward-thinking in manufacturing IP, tech development (in-app, one-click purchasing), and marketing (Youtube is now 21% of all organic social traffic). They seem to understand that for many consumers, there is an important question: “Will a brand be around in ten years?” The answer lies here: “Well, are they respected? Is their product an institution?” The last two questions will determine the answer of the first.

Rogue is quickly becoming an institution. This latest production, live streamed on a Sunday night, was a great introduction to a project that they’ve been working on for years: The Index. For the casual industry observer, it’s a content x commerce play. And it is. But deeper than that, it’s a bridge. You can watch, through the evolution of their videos and academic archives, as Rogue became more and more respected by those at the top of their crafts.


Issue No. 267: On DNVB Branding

For heritage brands, presenting an aura of staying power means that the products and channels will present as forward-thinking for a millennial-driven, omni-channel age.

Meanwhile, vertical brands work to establish their products as an evolution of heritage products, while maintaining as many of their technological advantages as possible. For digitally vertical brands, longevity is projected by tethering to history and tradition.

The next wave in DNVB branding will be focused on developing history and tradition. Brands will deepen their roots by way of product collaborations, messaging, and unique origin stories of their own.


The film was impressive. Directed by a talented videographer named Todd Sansom, who’s been there forever, the film was executive produced by the owners of the company, and influenced by their closest peers. It was a passion project as much as it was a way to address how buyers decide and consume on the internet today.

Content and commerce isn’t just for publishers anymore. And quiet old Rogue, is at the leading edge. The ability to reach new consumers by becoming a destination for their enrichment is often theorized but rarely executed by eCommerce brands. While some go for virality, this is not the intent here. The latest film is part of a collection that draws you in. And while I may be biased here, it works. Rogue’s equipment isn’t exactly inexpensive compared to foreign manufacturers or bargain options, stateside. But for tens of thousands of people who run, jump, and lift – Rogue is their source. Not only for products but for inspiration, education, and the great examples of strength’s golden era. By the time that visitors conclude their rabbit hole viewing of content, they’re reminded that there are tools, apparel, and heavy equipment available to them by freight or overnight mail, depending on the tonnage sold.

Read more of Issue 284 here.

By Web Smith | Edited by Meghan Terwilliger | About 2PM

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