At the Helm: Bringing the fun back

It wasn’t intended that way, but as we were wrapping up this issue I realized there was a bit of a theme going.

Whether it’s in senior editor Tom Kaiser’s look at the latest pontoon trends, managing editor Liz Keener’s article on crafting a marketing plan or my piece on creating new profit centers, there’s a lot this month on focusing on the fun of boating.

Again, take pontoons as an example. Who would have thought 10 years ago that pontoons would be the booming segment? Why are pontoons selling so well? Because they’re fun. Because you can sit on them and have a conversation. Because they are a place to gather your friends, your family, whomever you want and spend time together.

From the tropical oasis of Parks Marina in Iowa to the living-room-on-the-water pontoon boats selling at a record pace, it’s clear that when we focus on fun, we’re connecting with consumers. It’s part of the reason Discover Boating has been so successful with its efforts the last couple years. And those tools are readily available to you as a dealer or manufacturer, too (click here to read more).

Unfortunately, we as an industry haven’t done a good enough job of that lately, selling our message of fun. It’s easy to understand why, after all: massive sales declines don’t exactly encourage a party atmosphere.

It’s telling that two of the biggest players in our industry have been spending time talking about this lately. At MarineMax, the nation’s largest boat dealer, selling the “why” of boating has become a huge part of its rebranded marketing efforts. As CEO Bill McGill has said, it’s not about the boat, it’s about the lifestyle. Instead of looking at other dealers as the competition, MarineMax looked at the competitive lifestyles – the other activities people do instead of boating.

Brunswick CEO Dusty McCoy also talked about building on the lifestyle appeal of boating as the company tries to balance the cost vs. value equation of boat ownership on Brunswick’s recent earnings call.

The best companies recognize it’s about getting people on the water. Legendary Marine, two-time Top 100 Dealer of the Year, started the Legends Boat Club. Parks and Gage Marine (two of the dealers featured in this issue) have a fleet of cruise vessels to get folks out on their local lakes in Iowa and Wisconsin. In Seattle, Lake Union Sea Ray launched a successful test ride campaign around the metro area.

All of these efforts have paid off with new buyers and new boating enthusiasts. So how are you going to show them the fun?


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