My 3-year-old daughter is hooked on watching videos. More appropriately, videos of herself when she was much younger. Her new favorite has become one of my favorites, too. It was two years ago, and as I pulled her around the driveway in her wagon, each time she saw my ol’ Bass Tracker, she pointed and said, “Da da. Boat.” Imagine my joy: “Boat” was one of her first words.
Thirty-three years ago, that was me in the wagon. But there was an RV in our driveway. My dad has owned a travel trailer (or two) for as long as I can remember. My memories of RVing were ignited recently when I saw one of the Go RVing television ads. I don’t remember all the details of it: a small lake, a dock, and on the opposite shore, two RVs parked side by side.
What I do remember, though, are the distinct childhood memories that those visuals brought screaming back to life. The smell of the campfire and the marshmallows we roasted. Catching fish off the dock. Building forts in the woods. My siblings as my No. 1 companions. We used to go camping less than a mile from our house just so my dad could “get away from the phone.”
I relived my entire childhood in that 30-second clip. And it got me thinking about how far the RV industry has come since it launched Go RVing. Above and beyond that, it brought to light one of the hurdles the RV industry faced, and the opportunity we have to learn from them. In fact, as Peggy Bodenreider and Mitch Shatzen of GE Money made perfectly clear to me in a recent discussion, the commercial I saw is a testimony to one of the RV industry’s most significant learning experiences, which was brought to light nearly two years ago by Larry Hughes, an RV industry executive.
At the time, Hughes identified a new prospect that the RV industry should target: people he called RV Boomers. “These are the children of all the people who bought RVs from us in the late 1960s, 70s and 80s and camped with their parents…” he told our sister publication, RV Business. In other words, he was talking about the people, like me, who are now being targeted — and inspired — by the Go RVing ads.
Some interesting stats about today’s potential boat owner — pulled from the NMMA Recreational Boating Statistical Abstract — underscore the importance of the marine industry following this lead. Of those people showing a current interest in purchasing a boat, 79.3 percent had some boating experience as a child. And 78.9 percent of those prospects have never owned a boat. What huge marketing potential.
The Go RVing campaign is accomplishing its goal. Sales are up, spirits are high, and its messages are triggering emotions in people like me who grew up in the lifestyle. For Grow Boating to do the same, our marketing messages have to be directed to people who have a connection with boating: Specifically, people who grew up as boaters. And while Discover Boating is targeting family programming as one of its top media considerations, we also have to overcome the fact that 63.3 percent of current boat owners do not have children at home.
My father passed his passion for recreation on to me; I’m passing mine on to my children, and now it’s up to us as an industry to reach out and reignite the fire for childhood dreamers like me and so many others who grew up on the water.