A Righteous Fiasco

Fiasco is a cool name, but what does it mean? Chaos. So what's in a name and does it really matter? How do customers and employees engage with the BRAND, not the name?

James Boettcher joins The Chad & Cheese Podcast again to dive deeper into BRAND and also the RIGHTEOUS stuff that's just around the corner.

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Joel: This Chad & Cheese Cult Brand podcast is supported by SmashFly, recruiting technology built for the talent life cycle and big believers in building relationships with brands, not jobs. Let SmashFly help tell your story and keep relationships at the heart of your CRM. For more information, visit SmashFly.com today.

Announcer: Hide your kids. Lock the doors. You're listening to HR's most dangerous podcast. Chad Sowash and Joel Cheesman are here to punch the recruiting industry right where it hurts. Complete with breaking news, brash opinion, and loads of snark, buckle up, boys and girls. It's time for the Chad & Cheese Podcast.

Joel: Oh, yeah. What's up, Chadbots and Cheeseheads? We're back. The cult gathering series marches on. Today, we have quite the treat for everyone. We have, from Fiasco, James Boettcher, hopefully I'm saying that correctly-

James: Yeah.

Joel: ... with the right Canadian accent, probably not, but James, welcome to the podcast, love that you set aside some time-

Chad: Welcome back.

Joel: ... and wanted to chat with us for a second time, which makes me think you're either drunk or need some psychiatric help. But yeah, welcome to the show. We missed you.

James: Yeah, probably a little bit of both.

Joel: So for those that didn't hear the first episode or don't know about you guys-

Chad: Shame on you.

Joel: Which let's be honest, are most Americans have no clue who you guys are. So give us a little bit about you and a little bit about Fiasco.

James: Yeah, sure, Fiasco is an artisan gelato company in Canada, which I acquired about 10 years ago. It used to be one shop and now we're available in all major grocery retailers across Canada, and for me, the question always is, why gelato? And the reality is, it kind of chose me, and we can get into that a bit later, so it's all kind of a happy accident. The thing I love about it is day in and day out I get to build a company that great people come to work and it's kind of on the premise that I build the company I'd want my dad to work for. So it's pretty cool stuff. You could also use some puns there, like it's sweet as well, sweet and cool. But yeah, we're only in Canada now. We're about to venture down south to visit some friendly Americans who like Canadians, so yeah, lots of amazing

things happening.

Chad: Yeah, it's pretty simple when you're bringing gelato south, you're going to have happy Americans is no question. Now you say that you wanted to build a company that your dad would be happy to work at, and that's actually the case, right?

James: True story, yeah. It's been an amazing adventure. He'll celebrate six years with the team, worked for a company prior to us that was a pretty good company, but I think they didn't have a great focus on developing what we'll call senior talent in a weird way, because he is a senior. And he came to me one day and said, "I'd love to be your janitor," and at the time, we couldn't afford a janitor, so I asked him if he'd be our shipper/receiver, and came over, some days back then we'd yell and scream at each other, but I'll tell you one of the best worst decisions I made, but the cool thing is I get to work with my dad day in and day out and as you get older, I'm in my mid-30s, it's pretty special to get to connect with him as much as I do.

Joel: So dude, I'm going to jump right into a conversation that we had started before we pushed record, because I was doing a little bit of research on you guys and turns out there's a Fiasco Gelato in Maine.

James: Yeah.

Joel: And apparently that's a big thing and you guys are making some big changes, so I wanted to just dive into what's going on there and how that can impact a company's brand.

Chad: Well, it's actually Gelato Fiasco, isn't it? Didn't they just take your name and then they just bastardized it? I mean, isn't that what happened?

James: Yeah, you know what? The timelines are a little bit spooky. Fiasco here in Canada, we were founded in '03. We did all the trademarks across Canada, the U.S., Mexico '06, and then about '07, these guys rolled out and I'm not sure if they have Google or Bing or Ask Jeeves, but I think your fiduciary duty when you start a company is Ask Jeeves, Jeeves, is there a Fiasco anywhere? And he would have told you yes, yet they decided to set sail and around 2012, we got a nice letter that basically said you can no longer hold the marks down here, and the reality is, and I don't think it's a bad thing in terms of law, but you can't hold a trademark in the U.S. unless you operate there and we just weren't ready. We were still getting Canada right and figuring things out, so...

Joel: Do you think it was a blatant shoplifting of you guys and your business, or was this a weird accident?

James: Well, I think the word is too weird for it to be a weird accident, to be honest, but I've spoken to the guys. There's not a lot of anger or animosity, there is frustration. The ironic part though is when I took over Fiasco in 2010, part of the deal was acquiring some of these marks and names and I wanted to change the name. I was sort of steadfast on this is a terrible name. It means imminent failure. It doesn't really align with growing....

Chad: Which doesn't go with gelato, because never have I had gelato and it's been a failure. Let's just put it that way, right?

James: Totally. So it was a weird time, and I fought it for a while and then really the only reason I kept it then was because I had this illusion that I owned the marks for Canada, U.S., and Mexico, so then in 2012 when all this stuff happened and had to give it up, it put me in a tough spot, we're growing this really sort of prolific cult, employee-centric brand, and then we end up down the road where we're across Canada and a lot of requests for us in the U.S., not only for our great product but also for our purpose-driven mission that aligns with a lot of the mindset of folks that want to participate in the brand.

James: So it's kind of a weird spot to be. They just went through a packaging change that I don't mean to talk shit, but it emulates another great brand in the U.S. that I think it's a little just too close to home I think, so I wish them well and hopefully the Fiasco name works out for them. I'll tell you, the last 10 years has literally been a fiasco for us. We've been through hell and back several times, and now in my mid-30s I want a name that maybe aligns with peace and sanity is maybe the new name for the brand, Peace and Sanity Gelato.

Joel: So are you in a place to talk about the new name and how you came up with it, or is that going to be under wraps for a while?

James: Well, you know what, I really admire what you guys do and I have a lot of respect and we can probably layer it in here a little bit, and I think it'd be kind of special for the listeners to hear it here first.

Joel: Nice.

James: So yeah, the ethos of the conversation of what the name could be really came back to first of all, a brand name really doesn't mean anything. You look at so many great brands and it started as nothing, right? Starbucks is a siren and this mystical tail, or Blue Ribbon Sports [crosstalk 00:07:38]-

Joel: Google.

James: Yeah, whatever. No one really cares what your name is, they just care what you stand for. And so that kind of gave us a lot of latitude to do some discovery. Where we came to was my dog, who's actually with me today, he's 17, and his name's Shaka, and I got him when I came back from Hawaii in 2002, I think it was, and he just had this chill attitude, sort of surfer, this righteous energy to him, and so then we were like, "Well, let's go with Shaka Gelato, and so we asked 100 people to pronounce five letters, and it was Shaka, it was Choka, it was Chaka Khan, it was... Chaka, Chaka, Chaka Khan.

Chad: And one of the gelatos could be I fell for you.

James: Yeah. Exactly right. Oh, that's good. That's good. So yeah, we kind of were like, fuck, this is not exactly the way we want, we don't want to spend time explaining how to say our name. We'd rather just tell people about

what we do, you know?

Chad: Right.

James: So we've danced around it a bunch and ironically, whether it's surfer culture or the energy of the Hawaiian islands, there's a lot of cool words that come out of that, so that's where we're going with it. It's going to be a word that truly stands for building a company the right way, the company that you'd want your dad or mom to work for, doing things right, all of that good stuff.

Joel: I'm going to predict Mahalo Gelato. I'm on record.

James: Oh, that's pretty good. That's a good guess.

Chad: Mahalo Gelato.

James: But it's never the word you think it is.

Chad: Huh.

Joel: Of course.

James: It's too obvious. That's like Aloha Gelato. We couldn't go wrong with either of those, but I think this one will stand the test of time, be highly identifiable with and the word play a little bit for us gets us a little bit more excitement, like brands like Kinder Method that we look up to that have a word that really explains what they do.

Joel: Dig it.

Chad: Nice. But so, you spent a good amount of money in branding Fiasco, and it is a brand that people feel. You are a cult brand because people love your brand, they love your product, and you've been building that brand for so many years, even though all the catastrophe, the floods and everything else that you guys, the rocks through the windows, those types of things. This still has to be a big move for you guys, right? Or was it really just one of those things where you know what, this is refreshing because I've wanted to do this for so long?