Parading her success

Larson Boats never expected a Minneapolis brand building experiment to have a direct impact on sales – especially sales as far away as Massachusetts.
But a few weeks after it floated a boat in the Minneapolis Gay Pride Parade, a dealer nearly 1,500 miles away reaped the rewards. A female customer decided to purchase a Larson cruiser based on the company’s appearance in the parade – a purchase that more than paid for Larson’s investment.
The event was a first for Larson – and probably for the industry – but the company wasn’t alone. It joined a host of other sponsors from other industries, including Saturn, Subaru and Target.
That willingness to try new initiatives like this is part of Mare Patrick’s success leading Larson’s marketing team. The other part comes directly from 28 years of experience with the company.
Like many people, the director of marketing stumbled upon a career in the boating industry, discovering a passion for her work afterward. Fresh out of tech school, she joined Crestliner as a billing clerk in 1976. Just two years later, Patrick moved into a position with the other boat builder in town – Larson Boats – and she’s been there ever since.
“I kept moving from department to department,” she explains. “Every 18 months or so, something new would open up that sounded more interesting. By the time nine years had passed, I had worked in just about every department.”
Then, 15 years ago, Patrick entered the marketing department and found her niche. While she credits the close working relationships between her team and the company’s other departments with her success, the intimate knowledge she’s gained from her years with Larson has also played a big part. That, and working with Irwin Jacobs.
“He’s such a dynamic person, and he tries so many things that are out of the box,” she explains.
Patrick says other companies might shy away from a strategy the industry hasn’t attempted before, but Jacobs’ willingness to try anything with merit keeps her on the lookout for new opportunities.
“You always hope they don’t find out how much fun you’re having,” Patrick says. “I question some days whether I ought to pay them to come in the door.”
— Liz Walz

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