Core Careers: Mike Matey, Reef VP of Marketing
As part of our Core Career series, we spoke with Reef Vice President of Marketing Mike Matey.
Mike began his career outside the industry in consumer technology before joining Surfline.
Since then, he has worked in marketing at Quiksilver, RVCA and currently Reef.
Mike talks about how he got started in the industry and shares the lessons he’s learned along the way.
How did you get started in the industry?
Mike Matey: I came from outside the industry, with a background in consumer tech with an emphasis on digital marketing and e-commerce at companies such as Microsoft, Yahoo, Intuit, and a few digital music software and services start-up companies that preceded and influenced iTunes.
Growing up in Southern California, I had a passion for surf and wanted to break into the industry. Thankfully, a good friend of mine, Jim Moriarty, who was the CEO of Surfrider Foundation at the time, introduced me to Jeff Berg at Surfline.
Jeff liked my background in digital, e-commerce and subscription marketing, so he made the intro to the rest of the Surfline leadership team: Sean Collins, Jonno Wells, Dave Gilovich and Robin Walker. They ran me through the interview gauntlet, and they were kind enough to give me my first break. I owe a lot to them for investing in me, showing me the ropes, and putting me in a position to develop great relationships with marketing leaders from around the surf industry. It was a great experience and I’m so thankful for it.
What has been your greatest success in your career?
Mike Matey: The recent re-positioning of REEF from a surf lifestyle brand to a beach lifestyle brand that is built on the fun, freedom and spirit of the beach and serves as a sincere and meaningful rallying cry for inclusion and diversity. It’s all about encouraging people of different shapes, sizes and ethnicities to experience the freedom of the beach on their terms and take that feeling with them wherever they go.
It was a process we started well over a year ago by diving deep into consumer insights, involving a lot of key stakeholders to drive it, and challenging ourselves to make several budget and resource pivots to bring it to life. Overall, it was a bold move. And the response to our new “Beach Freely” campaign has been overwhelmingly positive from our retailer partners, the media, and our consumers, and we are excited to push it forward through more storytelling and activations to keep it fresh and compelling.
“Beach Freely” also better frames our efforts to increase our positive impact on people and planet through more sustainable programs and practices. Surf is still at the core of our DNA, but this new direction opens our aperture to emotionally connect with a broader global audience – especially the female consumer base who buys more sandals than men – and drive them back to surf retail. We are disrupting surf, in a good way.
What has been your biggest failure? What did you learn from it?
Mike Matey: When I was at Quiksilver, I didn’t take full advantage of Bob McKnight’s “open-door” policy. Had I been more assertive, I could have learned a lot more from one of the most influential and legendary leaders in the industry. Never let those opportunities pass.
How much has marketing changed since the start of your career? How do you keep up with the changes?
Mike Matey: A lot remains the same, from brand positioning to consumer insights to strategic planning (where to play/how to win) to go-to-market demand creation, but the biggest change has been the rise of social media and how it has integrated branded content, advertising, PR, influencers, and commerce all in one world of 24/7 access to your audience and constant two-way conversation and engagement with them.
It’s a continual stream of test and learn that moves fast, where expectations of authenticity and transparency are high, and it challenges you to know what success looks like through setting the right Key Performance Indicators.
To keep up with the changes, I do a lot of research, ask a lot of questions, but most importantly, I hire people who are way smarter than me and empower them to go after it, be accountable for their efforts, and report back on what’s working, what’s not working and what we should do next.
How do you keep up with all of the demands on your time? What tips do you have for managing it all?
Mike Matey: This is always easier said than done and it’s a constant struggle. The key is being decisive, focusing on the highest priorities, and delegating as much as possible.
I take full advantage of what Outlook and Notes has to offer for staying organized. For meetings, it’s all about setting clear agendas and outcomes and having the right people in those meetings.
For emails, I try to be careful to not send too many of them, because the more emails you send, the more you get back.
And for travel, direct flights and no checked bags!