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May 23, 2007

What meets the Eye

Man, it is hard to believe we’re coming into June. Another three months and I’ll be writing about sled prep, snow predictions and reacting to the double page advertising spreads that will surly be forthcoming from our ‘weight-focused’ competitors.

I must admit I find it frustrating when they don’t speak to their product strengths without throwing tongue-in-cheek jabs, belittling us. I remember my first reaction last fall when I saw the picture of of buddy piling on the dumb-bell weights to the front of his sled sitting right beside a new Apex RTX … ‘Play Fair’ it read… yeah right, let me write some cutesy ad copy, two can play that game… then I took a big breath. Hey we obviously got somebodies attention, now didn’t we? Why else would they invest hundreds of thousands of $$ to smear what they insist is a poor, heavy under performing 4-stroke unless they were uh, hmmmmm …. OK, lets wait and see how the people react to the bashing. Ahh, they didn’t buy it neither, lots of chuckles but not many ‘converts’, at least our sales continued to grow. (Thanks, I feel better now!)

The competitive spirit in me resides like a little devil on my shoulder shouting in my ear… “Bring Pistons and Rings”, fight fire with fire, hit’em where it hurts!! but alas, no. We won’t go there, not cool… must play nice... Rats!

Generally we believe in taking the ‘higher road‘ when it comes to our advertising. That said, it is hard not to fall back on the cheap shots, hop in the gutter and spin our creative to show how much better we are than brand X. Johnny Skeptical has stepped on the line (a few times) but not quite crossed over it. This years DVD (Johnny 4) features an old, unmarked Polaris 2-stroke, to promote the notion ‘it’s time to trade in the old stuff (any old sled) for a new 4-stroke’. I was surprised how many thought we were actually making a direct product comparison ‘new RTX better than old Ultra’ … scary!

I was lurking on an forum last week when I stumbled across a post relating to another new product DVD which has just been released by one of the biggest manufacturers of ATV’s. I watched some clips as they made ‘scientific’ comparisons and graphically showed how inferior some competitive models were in direct comparison with their flagship product. It’s very strong stuff. The devil was on my shoulder within minutes. Our product manager bounced into my office vibrating harder than an 800 twin with loose motor mounts… ‘did you see this DVD? Did ya, did ya, what do you think? We need to get it out to all our dealers and customers, they need to see it, this is awesome…’

Yes, it was a Yamaha DVD out of the States and there is a lot of good information on it, well researched and produced but when I read the customers reactions, I came to a small revelation. People don’t just ingest what is fed to them in advertising as some gospel truth from a higher power. Heck no. As soon as we compare ours directly to a competitive product the first thing they think is: ‘Hey this is Yamaha talking, of course they are going to tell me their products are superior, they won’t show any chinks in their own armor.’ Next comes: ‘I bet the person driving the other brand is sandbagging it, they always ‘fix’ the results so they look good.’ As I continued to read the thread another revelation occurred, the brand loyal Yamaha folks thought it was pretty cool even though they realized it was well ‘spun’, it still supported their purchase choice therefore it was OK. But on the on the hand the folks who owned the competitive brand were generally disgruntled, feeling a bit slighted by Yamaha and quick to point out they had not suffered the same result at least not to the degree shown in the video.

The money question remains. How does this form of controversial advertising impact the fence sitters or casual on-lookers who may be considering the purchase of a new vehicle. Is it with humor? entertainment? indifference or factual resource? It can be argued that any advertising that gets people talking is good but I’m not so sure any more. I can cite several examples of past advertising (non-Yamaha) where references to the country of manufacture, the mindset / ability of the owner, the product and even the company are poked fun at in a very unsubtle fashion. Every time the little devil yelled in my ear, but common sense (and a short leash) prevailed. I know most people are smarter than that.

It’s time for the ad agencies to figure it out. We must all speak to our own product strengths and not so blatantly embellish the facts … its getting old. Personally I would not trust them, or us to speak without bias in our ‘infomercials’ and ‘print podiums’ but I certainly trust what our customers have to say. Word of mouth is still our most important form of advertising.

These days we have the internet andthe conversation‘. The upcoming ‘bash ad’ campaigns better be darned entertaining next year because one thing is for sure. The people (you) will be very sensitive to the content at face value and even more critical with respect to the delivery. So bring it on, we can all laugh with the devil this fall.

Do you believe everything you read and hear in advertising? Does it influence your purchase? Drop a comment and let me know. cr

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Posted @ 2:17 pm in Yamaha Insights   

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5 Responses to “What meets the Eye”

  1. DNR says:

    Great column cr,
    Thinking what meets the eye,
    is, if the ‘wind’
    is up or no ‘wind’ at all…
    ‘sailing along’ is still best enjoyed….
    being afloat.
    Many smiles,
    personally and corporately.
    There is always going to be
    a ‘peeing match’ in the market place.

  2. Peter says:

    Very interesting blog, keep up the good work!
    Just let BRP do their bashing, it just make them look afraid of the Yamaha fourstrokes.

  3. Scott says:

    I’ve always been a bit surprised to see how stirred up some people get over the Johnny Skeptical vid’s. It’s like the humor is lost on them and they take it all to seriously and then post their anger on numerous sled forums.

    I view and read product advertisements with a healthy bit of skepticism. Falsified or exaggerated weight claims are the biggest let down to me. I can still remember the 470lb dry weight listing for the F-chassis ’93 Ski-doo MX 470. What a load of horse manure.

    Good ads definitely have an effect, especally if you are right on the bubble to purchase. The Rhino video was pretty good in comparing it to the competition. I’ve not watched a Polaris video for their Ranger but the Rhino vid did a good job displaying its good attributes. I noticed the new Ski-doo video followed a similar format for comparing machines head to head.

    Since I’ve been riding for over 20 years now, I put far more emphasis on what I see work in the field and track than what an advertisment claims. Also I respect my dealer’s opinion. Of course when I think about it, the Yamaha ads and magazine tests were what got me talking to my dealer in the first place about the new four strokes. He was able to get me back on a Yamaha sled for the first time since 1990. I’m glad I took the chance.

  4. DNR says:

    Just bought a new YPG 20 from Kelowna Yamaha.
    This is my third YPG ….and the first is 27 years old, no complaints.
    Will be ready for forest fires and skating rinks.

  5. Yellowknife says:

    No, I don’t believe everything I read and hear in advertising. It does influence my purchase, but only a little, and it depends on the information…is it bashing another product or promoting its own?

    I constantly write my own reviews of products and comparisons for ordinary owners to have a look at online. I did a video review comparing the Renegade to the Attak when that unit first came out. What’s the difference in me writing for the public vs. the mags? Well, I don’t get paid, and I include the positives of each unit along with the negatives, and it’s amazing what kind of respect you get when you are honest. There I was promoting a Yamaha product on an All Ski-doo site, and even the loyalist yellow bleeders were not only willing to listen, but acknowledge the work and honesty that went into the review.

    Those are the conversations and articles that sell more sleds than anything, not the magazines.

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