Simon Oppold - the man behind the brand
Our international head office in Germany is the home to our R&D department but also to everybody that supports the MERIDA brand from the marketing site. While being a very small marketing team we still bring some firepower to the table with a group of people who have a wealth of experience, a sheer undetermined drive to see MERIDA flourish and a deeply rooted excitement of everything bike.
In our latest 'man behind the…' feature, we are not talking to some of our R&D department members, but to Simon Oppold, the Head of Marketing, and the 'man behind the brand'.
MERIDA: Simon, thanks for taking some time to set down with us. We believe you have been with MERIDA for a number of years. Please let us know how you joined the company and how you ended up in your current position as Head of Marketing.
SIMON: When I started working for MERIDA Germany in 1998, I was only 22 years old and the 'young gun' in the company. Now I'm a little bit older… and maybe wiser. One of my first big international projects was establishing the sub-brand UMF - United Merida Freeriders which focused on Dirt- and Freeride bikes. A little bit later I took over the lead of the international MERIDA marketing which was the job I always dreamed of. Coordinating and building a brand is what I've learned, and I'm still very much thankful that I got the chance to do that for one of the biggest bike producers of the world.
MERIDA: As the Head of Marketing you have a few people that closely work with you. Who is part of their team and what part of the 'marketing mix' do they focus on?
SIMON: It´s all about teamwork, and it´s all about respecting each other's opinions and ideas. I like the following sentence which I found on the internet: 'Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say'. I think that´s right. Our international marketing team is based in Germany, Taiwan and the UK and is working very efficiently. We have specialists in communications, public relations and media, social media, website, graphic designer and video production. Nowadays we are more and more focused on the digital part of the cake.
MERIDA: We assume that your days are rather varied and often unpredictable. Could you give us an idea what a typical day looks like for you?
SIMON: Correct… and that's what makes my job so unique. There's not one day like the other. Many challenges have to be addressed on a day-to-day basis. New ideas, wishes and demands from our over 70 distributors as well as many annual projects need to be handled day by day. Besides that, new technologies and ways to communicate the brand come… and sometimes go. When I started my job, we did not even have a website. Nobody thought about the need of Facebook, Instagram or Youtube. We had to scan our photos because we could only dream of digital photography. So as you can see, it's not that easy to give you an idea about a typical day… expect the unexpected. J
MERIDA: You are based in Germany, but with MERIDA being distributed in more than 80 countries, we assume you spend a fair amount of time away from the office. We could image that Taiwan, where our factory and the 'other' head office is based is often on your travel list. How do we have to imagine your working day when you are over there?
SIMON: To be honest, I would love to travel even more and visit each of our MERIDA Family members at least once. But time is often limited. I'm quite often in Taiwan and always enjoy the time there. Working with the team - or rather our friends - there, is a real honour and pleasure for me. The trips are quite exhausting because we usually land very early in Taipei and start working immediately after arriving at the company base in Yuanlin. After a quick coffee and a chat with our colleagues, we talk about future projects and ideas. At least once a year I take the opportunity to do a 'guided tour' through the facilities/factory as there are often changes and improvements to be seen. I always want to know as many insights as possible as that helps to understand and communicate the brand. And besides working over in Taiwan, I absolutely love the local cuisine, and of course, the original Taiwan Beer is excellent, too. J
MERIDA: As we established, you have been with MERIDA for a number of years. How has the brand and also the product changed over the years?
SIMON: To start with the products, I do think the development in the last few years has been amazing. We started being very much a mountain bike specialist and had the most successful MTB team in the World. Today we offer high quality and innovative bikes in all major categories. Our eONE-SIXTY models were launched three years ago have become the most awarded bikes in the history of MERIDA. The markets and demands in many countries are changing, and development can´t stand still for even the shortest of time; otherwise, you simply get overtaken and fall behind.
Regarding the development of the brand, I'm quite proud of what the marketing team including all national marketing managers and their teams have achieved over the last few years. All distributors are moving in the same direction, and the worldwide MERIDA brand image has improved a lot. In 2014 we launched our new MERIDA logo and our claim 'MORE BIKE' and the whole MERIDA family is trying to follow that claim. We want to offer the best bikes possible and 'more than' a bike. MORE FUN - MORE INNOVATION - … but also be an excellent partner to our customers as well as suppliers.
MERIDA: The way we are communicating is constantly changing. What communication projects are you currently working on? As we have seen, there is a new website in place, which we could imagine is a huge and probably ongoing project?
SIMON: As already mentioned, times are changing and ways of communication, too. Without considering new trends and using the latest tools, you will run the chance to be left behind. The new international website with all its features and new usability has been and still is one of the most significant projects handled by my team so far. More and more countries are using the platform, and the demands are often very different. In some countries, over 70% of the daily traffic is mobile. Surfing with a 'normal computer' seems to be old fashioned. That's why this is a never-ending project which needs a lot of working power. What comes next? Maybe I already have some ideas… perhaps I will tell you later. J
MERIDA: We believe that you are not the only Oppold within the MERIDA operations in Germany. What other member of the Oppold clan is working for MERIDA and in what capacity?
SIMON: True… and it's fair to say; it was my brother Raffael who mentioned the opportunity to start working for MERIDA. He was already at for MERIDA Germany for a couple of years. One day he came to me and told me that Andreas Rottler, who was then the national marketing manager, is looking for support. I immediately changed all my plans and started just a few days later. The great thing is, Raffael is still working very closely with me, being the national sales manager for MERIDA in Germany, and Andreas Rottler is the CEO of MERIDA Europe. All together we have a combined experience of over 65 years in the bike business… even we are still… young! J
MERIDA: Currently we have lots of attention to the development of e-bikes. We believe there is some exciting news for 2020 on that front. Are you currently working on some exciting e-bike projects for the launch of the new bikes?
SIMON: We are working on a rather big project as we speak. I can't say much, as the whole thing is embargoed, but we will have lots of exciting new technology being launched over the next few months. The first launch will happen at the end of May, and we will be able to share the news on the 29th of May. So, watch this space and keep your eyes on our social media channels as well as on www.merida-bikes.com.
MERIDA: When not sitting at your desk and pulling the various strings of your job, what does Simon Oppold like to do in his spare time?
SIMON: Of course, I love cycling. It's great to have the chance of riding so many different bikes. Currently, I prefer the SILEX, but mostly I'm riding my 'old school' MTB Hardtail (without engine) and my cyclocross bike. As a German, of course, I like football. Whenever I have the chance, I go to the stadium to watch 'my' team which unfortunately hasn't been that successful for the last few years. But when it comes to football, I'm super loyal and would never change my colours: Stuttgarter Kicker forever!
When I have the chance, I go hiking in the mountains to relax and recharge the batteries. Sometimes alone and sometimes with the whole family.
Thank you once again for your time, Simon. It has been interesting to look behind the scenes of the MERIDA marketing world. We are looking forward to hearing and see more about the 2020 e-bike news and will take some time out to peruse the new site.