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Branding at the Confluence of Heritage and Innovation

How does a century-old canoe maker adapt to a hi-tech marketplace without losing its identity? That’s the topic of our next Collective Conscience on Monday, October 25 (6 p.m. Pacific, 9 p.m. Eastern).

More than 100 years ago, inspired by the birchbark canoes hand-made by the Penobscot Nation, an entrepreneur named A.E. Wicket built his first wood-and-canvas canoe behind Gray’s Hardware Store in Old Town, Maine. The year was 1898.

Wood and canvas proved a durable, low-maintenance alternative to birchbark, and Gray’s and Wickett’s canoes were instantly popular. The hot commodity turned into a company that incorporated in 1903 as Old Town Canoe.

That heritage remains an integral part of the company’s DNA. Today, Old Town is the nation’s oldest watercraft maker, beloved by anglers, recreational paddlers, and summer-camp enthusiasts. The classic canoe anchors an ever-evolving product line that marries innovation—pedal-kayaks that keep hands free for fishing, GPS anchors that hold a boat stationary in a current, and other advancements—with the brand’s 123-year-old legacy.

For next week’s Collective Conscience, we welcome Ryan Lilly, a marketer and the Brand Evangelist for Johnson Outdoors Watercraft, parent company of Old Town Canoe. Ryan’s career spans 17 years within the outdoor industry, where trends can change course faster than a canoe in a Class III rapid.

Ryan is passionate about building brand identity, launching innovative products, and storytelling – all of which he’s done for brands like K2 Sports, DeLorme, Garmin and now Old Town. Ryan lives in Hampden, Maine, with his wife, Denise, their two young boys, 3 kayaks and 4 canoes.

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