Closer than ever

The idea of the boating industry launching an industry-financed national advertising campaign is a difficult one: everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it.
Well, through the efforts of Richard Strickler of Transamerica Distribution Finance and several others, the industry is closer to mounting a cooperatively funded advertising effort than it ever has been, as the lead article in this issue of Boating Industry illustrates.
But before we start the celebration, we must acknowledge that it’s a long way from being a done deal. And, more importantly, we must also recognize that a national ad campaign may not necessarily be a cure-all for the industry’s lackluster sales.
Of course, many in the boating industry have watched with envy the recreational vehicle industry’s success the last seven years with its manufacturer- and supplier-funded national ad campaign.
However Claire Skinner, the chairman of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association Board of Directors and chairman, president and chief executive officer of Coachmen Industries Inc., a major RV manufacturer, has pointed out that many factors are involved in the RV industry’s success.
“I think the Go RVing campaign absolutely is a factor in our industry’s ability to out-perform the whole travel industry and many other discretionary products,” Skinner said about the GO RVing ad campaign. But that said, I remember from my early days in advertising, that there is no way to quantify [its impact] that I know of.
“We know that we’re out-performing, that Go RVing is moving the needles in terms of consumer awareness and responsiveness, but I don’t know how to separate that from our very favorable demographics that we’d have regardless of the campaign and the trend that’s emerged since 9/11, where we’re seeing so many Americans being sincerely concerned about other forms of transportation and they’re choosing RVing as a way to still have family time together.”
By favorable demographics, she is referring to the huge “Baby Boom” generation entering its 50s, in other words, their prime RV-buying years. Now whether people in their 50s are too old for boating clearly is a matter for debate, but that also suggests that just substituting the word “boating” for “RVing” in an ad campaign probably will not achieve the industry’s goals.
It’s obvious that Genmar Chairman Irwin Jacobs will not support an industry-financed ad campaign, but this really is a non-issue. The RV manufacturers directly pay for their industry’s ad campaign, but the cost ($44 to $66 per unit) is passed by the dealer body on to consumers. So, the issue really is how to collect the funds, because the boat-buying public would ultimately pay for it anyway.

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