After spending over 35 years building others brands, Bill Ludwig decided it was time to build his own.
Last year, he and Lou Mettler did just that, and launched American Made Performance. The company creates gear – think sports, beach and resort apparel, and fishing gear and apparel – that is 100 percent grown, woven, and sewn in the U.S.
They were inspired after meeting and searching for American made apparel.
“Sadly, there’s very little of it out there,” said Ludwig, who is the company’s CEO.
The duo soon found themselves at trade shows looking for products that were American-made.
At one fishing trade show in particular, Mettler commented on all the fishing apparel brands out there, and wondered if they really wanted to introduce another fishing line to the world. (Ludwig said the fishing industry is worth about $80 billion.)
“I said, ‘Yeah, but look at the label, Lou,’” said the Birmingham resident. “And we did. We could find a lot of clothes from China, Guatemala, Honduras, Vietnam, but nothing, not one article of clothing that said, ‘Made in the USA.’
“I said, ‘Lou, I gotta believe at least 5 percent of the fishermen out there would prefer a product that said, ‘Made in the USA,’” Ludwig continued. “Five percent of $80 billion is a lot.”
And with that, AMP launched last August.
Since then, they have found their customer isn’t just your average fisherman. A large part of their sales actually come from the American corporate world.
“It's tough when you are a company that is screaming, ‘Made in America,’ and your union is saying, ‘Made in America’ and supporting American made, and you’re wearing hats from China,” Ludwig laughed.
AMP isn’t simply a brand for apparel, though.
“AMP is also about a movement and a cause that says, ‘Hey, we can make competitive, American-made apparel without a cost or compromise of quality,’” Ludwig said.
Ludwig – who also currently serves as the CEO at HEYOU Science – is very familiar with working with cause marketing.
During his career at Campbell Ewald – where he started as a copywriter in 1982 and moved all the way up to CEO before leaving in 2013 – Ludwig worked with many causes, such as American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the U.S. Navy.
He also played a very large role in the company’s work with Chevrolet.
“I think during my tenure there we developed some of the finest automotive advertising in the industry of automotive advertising,” he said.
Including Chevrolet’s “Heartbeat of America,” “American Revolution,” and “Like a Rock” campaigns. Ludwig said the latter is probably the most famous one he was a part of.
When asked if he had a favorite ad campaign he’s done throughout his career he couldn’t pick just one.
“That’s like asking a father which is your favorite child,” Ludwig said. “Children bring us joy on different days in different ways, and they frustrate us at other times. I think the same is true of the campaigns that I was fortunate enough to be involved in.”
Those campaigns have also gotten him a few recognitions. He was inducted into the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement and served as the U.S. judge at the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival, among other things.
“That’s pretty much how I’ve operated throughout my entire career, to focus on the work and the rewards will follow,” he said.
Throughout it all though, Michigan is the only place he wants to be.
“My heart always comes back to Michigan,” he said.
Photo: Laurie Tennent