Marine Market Focus – Cleaning and Maintenance: It’s so easy

Today’s marine consumers want the very best, especially when it comes to maintaining their well loved water vessels. Boat owners and caretakers are particularly partial to the very best in cleaning and maintenance when it comes in an easy to use and easy to understand form, whether that be complimentary products packaged together, an informative label written in laymen’s terms or another way of making cleaning a boat a little bit simpler.

Marine cleaning and maintenance manufacturers across the country are making their products more user friendly than ever before. Their products are becoming more specialized as improving technology allows and consumer demand calls for.

As a senior technical service engineer for the marine and specialty vehicle department of 3M, Trace Woodward has done his best to help develop products that fit the needs of the boating community. When 3M released a product to prevent mildew from growing on the vinyl surfaces of boats, such as seats or cushions, the company got an earful from consumers. While the product worked, boat owners were looking for something more.

“One of the things people said was ‘Give me something to get the stain off,’” Woodward said. “Luckily, we were developing a mildew stain remover and could get it out [to the public] quickly.”

Like 3M’s mildew blocker, their stain remover was also a spray-on and wipe-off product. Simple things that make it easier for people to clean and maintain their boats increase the number of boats that are taken care of properly.

Woodward expressed concern about boat owners using household products to clean and maintain their boats, which is another reason manufacturers are creating more specialized products specific to the marine industry. Some household products can extensively damage a boat when all an owner was attempting to do was clean it up.

Confusing marine-specific cleaning and maintenance product labels sometimes lead boat owners to use household products they are more familiar with on their boats. Making user friendly marine-specific products is something more and more manufacturers are trying to do, Woodard said.

“Consumers seem to be demanding more easy to use type products,” Woodward said. “We can’t make things to complicated. We want anyone to be able to take the product and use it without any specific training.”

In an effort to make maintenance easier for boat owners, 3M’s marine division is in the process of redesigning its product labels. The company wants consumers to recognize products as specifically for cleaning boats and be able to use them without becoming frustrated, Woodward said.

“Customers want to be able to look at a label and understand how to use the product,” Woodward said. “We’re trying to make it as easy for the customer as possible.”

In another move to make things even easier for their customers, 3M has started packaging its mildew block and mildew stain remover as a package, particularly since demand was so strong for a mildew stain remover from consumers who had used the mildew block. Although both products have not been on the market for long, Woodard said the bundle should do well as it gains recognition among boat users.

“We’re the first to come out with [a mildew block and a mildew stain remover] together,” Woodard said. “They’re really just getting started. The two together will augment each other.”

3M isn’t the only company that’s caught on to the bundle concept. Shurhold Industries and Yacht Brite forged a partnership to cross-promote one another’s products, beginning at last July’s Marine Aftermarket Accessories Trade Show.

“We will offer a complete cleaning system,” said Barry Berhoff, Shurhold’s president.

As part of their partnership, Yacht Brite’s surface care products and Shurhold’s application tools will be packaged together for both boat manufacturers and consumers.

Although he doesn’t know if such partnerships will become a trend among others in the industry, Speros Batistatos, vice president of sales and marketing for Yacht Brite, calls the partnership a strategic alliance and said the two companies work well together because of their shared ideal of aggressive marketing. Sea Ray was one of the first OEMs to jump on board for Shurhold and Yacht Brite’s package.

“We’ve made a lot of mileage from working with OEM clients and advising their consumers that we’re used on the manufacturer,” Batistatos said. “Educating consumers is an important component for OEMs in trying to eliminate the warm, soapy water mentality.”

Batistatos, like Woodward, is concerned about the use of household cleaners on boats and wants to do something to rectify the situation.

“In talking with consumers, they’re left to fend for themselves in maintenance, so they use household products,” Batistatos said. “We’re making sure people understand [the boat] was made with our product. That’s a trend we’re going to keep chasing.”

Yacht Brite is dedicated to educating consumers on proper care, Batistatos said. The company has set up an e-mail address at where consumers can send any inquiries they may have about properly cleaning the surface of their boat.

As marine maintenance manufacturers want their customers to clean their boats with the correct products, so the federal government wants the manufacturers to make those products in an as environmentally friendly way as possible. When new environmental laws are passed, manufacturers have to adapt, sometimes drastically changing their processes along the way.

Having been in the marine maintenance industry for over 30 years, the Collinite Corporation has seen a number of changes in environmental standards and adapting to the California Resources Board guidelines over the last couple of years was something the company had to do to stay competitive, said Mike Taylor, president of Collinite.

“It’s more expensive, but for a good reason,” Taylor said. “Marine people want the best and pay for the best. Their boat is their baby.”

Above all, marine maintenance manufacturers just want consumers to have fun on the water and take good care of their boats.

“Our goal is to make boating easier for our customers and to preserve their investment,” Woodward said. “We want to help boat owners go out and enjoy their products more.”

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