OtterBox President and CEO Brian Thomas

OtterBox President and CEO Brian Thomas

We’ve seen OtterBox frequent the headlines lately, most recently for announcing at CTIA that it acquired its competitor LifeProof, and we’ve served up several hands-on reviews of their products.

I recently had the opportunity to discuss OtterBox and its vision for the future with President and CEO Brian Thomas, who is a former high school teacher turned company leader.

OtterBox, for me, is the defacto hyper-protective case maker and king of their market, but Apple and Jony Ive have increasingly thrilled us with beautiful hardware design of iPhone after iPhone. I wondered if there is room for an OtterBox product in every user’s life, especially those who most admire Apple’s design aesthetic.

Of course we all want to protect our devices and nearly anyone can think of a use-case for when an OtterBox would make the difference between securely bringing the iPhone along or leaving it behind and being disconnected from your iSight camera and iTunes music collection.

Perhaps that’s what makes OtterBox the “#1 selling case for smartphones in the US,” as noted by the NPD Group. OtterBox believes diversifying its product catalogue and embracing the design cues of companies like Apple and the like will push the company to global recognition going forward.

Its recent marriage to LifeProof is just a step toward the company’s grand vision of further innovation in the mobile space.

9to5Mac: OtterBox recently acquired LifeProof. What first got your attention about the company and led to that deal?

Brian: When you look at the stories of OtterBox and LifeProof, there are a lot of similarities. Much like OtterBox, LifeProof was a rapidly growing U.S.-based company with a strong global brand, product lineup, intellectual property and thriving culture. Their vision for industry-leading products and business practices aligns perfectly with the OtterBox brand. Adding LifeProof’s award-winning products to our lineup brings our customers the best variety of options for any lifestyle.

9to5Mac: OtterBox is effectively synonymous with hardware protection these days much like Kleenex is synonymous for tissue (wouldn’t you agree?). I’m certain that’s a huge point of pride for the company and considered a sign of success for the brand. That being said, what is it OtterBox would like to be known for? What do you want the average consumer to think of when someone mentions OtterBox?

Brian: That sort of praise and brand recognition are flattering and certainly something we strive for, but I’m not sure we’re all the way there yet.
I think a full global presence is important to reach the next level, so we’ve opened international offices in Cork, Ireland and Hong Kong over the past few years to build our international brand. There are a lot of opportunities in those regions that are important as we continue to grow and build toward that level of worldwide recognition.

As a long-term goal, I envision OtterBox as a leader not only in the protection space, but also as an innovator of new technologies. In our industry, OEMs are already looking to consolidate what partners they work with and being a trusted partner that they can rely on to help solve their own business initiatives is becoming increasingly important. Integrating technology into our products is a key step in the evolution of OtterBox and how we want our customers and consumers to think of the brand.

9to5Mac: While OtterBox is the go-to case maker for people who want peace of mind and protection, some people, often myself included, prefer to use their device without a case of any sort. What opportunities do you see with people who are not OtterBox customers yet? What appeal would you say OtterBox has with these customers?

Brian: As we’ve grown as a company, we’ve worked hard to diversify our portfolio to include products that speak to different audiences. People often associate OtterBox with the rugged styling of the Defender Series, but we also offer unique, slim cases such as the Reflex Series that accent the clean design of devices like the iPhone 5. To take it a step further, we recently started offering premium screen protectors for a variety of devices in our Clearly Protected line. These screen protectors maintain the look and feel of the device as the manufacturer intended it but provide a line of defense from the bumps and scrapes of daily use. As people become more familiar with these lines, the widespread appeal will continue to grow.

9to5Mac: Lastly, what would you say is OtterBox’s biggest opportunity or goal going forward?

Brian: There are a lot of opportunities in today’s rapidly changing mobile landscape, but incorporating technology into OtterBox products to bring added value to our customers and consumers is the biggest opportunity today. We’re already seeing the need for new things like power management, app integration and more. We’ve begun this shift with the Defender Series with iON Intelligence to address both power management and app integration. It’s the only battery case available that uses an app to manage not only your case battery life, but also the battery life of the phone. The application and technology learn how the phone is used and over time, it gets better at customizing the energy profile to the user’s individual needs. There are a lot of really exciting things our teams are exploring and these opportunities will help to define the next chapter for OtterBox.

You can read more about OtterBox on its blog and follow the company on Twitter.