By Jeff Hemmel
There was a time when consumers needed to come into a dealership or at least scour the newsstands to get information about the latest models. The Internet, of course, changed all that. Now, new models can be seen the same day they’re unveiled to dealers, and pages are complete with stats, highlights, even pricing. As a result, many consumers come into dealerships armed with a lot more information than in the past.
But while Web sites have evolved over the years, for the most part they have mostly relied on the basics to tell a model’s story — pictures, stats and the requisite features and benefits.
That business model, however, has begun to change rapidly. Powersports Business recently looked at the latest trend toward incorporating Web video and where things may go from here.
The revolution will be televised or at least, featured prominently on YouTube. If there’s a shift in focus as of late, it’s to add expanded video offerings to the normally static, info-filled Web sites. Visit Kawasaki’s site and you’ll now see company marketing honchos going over each boat in detail, highlighting just what makes a craft special or pointing out improvements and upgrades added to existing models. It adds a distinctly personal touch to an impersonal medium, but also serves to satisfy the modern consumer’s short attention span. Rather than comb through several pages of information, it hits visitors right off the bat, allowing company reps to speak to the consumer and reinforce the model’s strengths.
Yamaha likewise confronts visitors with its marketing message once a visitor selects a model of interest. In essence, it’s a commercial. The craft’s strongest points are highlighted in video with a professional voiceover that’s impossible to ignore. In the past, visitors would have been required to click through several pages or scan a great deal of text to discover what the craft offers. Now, that message is summed up in a clear 2:30 message.
“Buyers consume information in different ways today than they did just a few years ago,” said Yamaha Marketing Communications Manager Andrew Cullen. “While many traditional methods of reaching buyers still need to be pursued, greater emphasis should be put on building a relationship with prospective buyers so they have a fun, compelling and memorable interaction with your brand. Video is one important way to do this, but manufacturers must stay ahead of the curve and constantly be looking for new and innovative ways to build customer relationships for them and their dealers.”
While their message is more low-key than the above examples, Honda also has gotten in on the trend. Included within the primary AquaTrax site is a link to video of the boats in action, as well as a more overt message on hull design that is triggered when viewers click on the Innovations link.
A More Aggressive Message
Sea-Doo, however, has taken things to the next level. Recent video additions to the company site have begun to venture outside the conventional informational and escapist boundaries and adopt a decidedly competitive tone.
Case and point: A pair of new videos based on shootouts recently conducted by the company that pit Sea-Doo models head-to-head against their competition. According to Sea-Doo marketing head Louis Levesque, the shootouts have almost become a necessity now that fewer “expert” magazine and Web reviews are published, and those that are, are often less than critical. Levesque also feels various manufacturer claims have begun to confuse the consumer.
“Our dream would be to have a third party doing Consumer Report-type articles,” said Levesque. “First-time buyers need help to make sure they choose the right product. We know based on facts that some made the wrong choice and they are disappointed. It’s not good for the industry. Additionally, few dealers offer test rides; therefore consumers make their choice in the showroom without knowing how the product performs in the real environment. This is not optimal.”
According to Levesque, the brand’s solution has been to create materials that will help consumers in their decision. Whether the shootouts in question were fair is a subject for another time. Sea-Doo defends the tests, noting they were overseen by a third-party. Competitors disagree, noting the test was funded by the brand and has obvious bias. What is obvious, however, is that the brand has moved outside the traditional video offerings.
“Today, consumers are information savvy and they are smart, they shop and they make sure they will invest in the right products,” said Levesque. “We are putting more information out there to ‘feed’ their purchase process. A basic Web site with spec information is not enough anymore. We need to do more. The car industry can rely on a lot of expert magazines/Web sites/shows to help consumers, but in our industry it’s extremely limited. We need to improve that, and consumers need that information.
“Sea-Doo will always support any credible third party with market exposure that wants to do those types of reports, but unfortunately there are few opportunities. Therefore we are trying to create those the best we can.”
The ultimate video goal of manufacturers, however, may be to have a segment appear on YouTube, or similar sites.
“The crown jewel is to have a truly viral video that takes off and creates its own distribution,” noted WaterTop Unlimited’s Tim McKercher, who does extensive marketing for Sea-Doo and once famously created a video in which a Sea-Doo took on a Ferrari. “These are usually the too-edgy-to-be-in-public videos that most brands deny they made corporately.”
Manufacturers are starting to discover some of those edgy spots find a home on the Internet that they may never find on mainstream TV. In fact, numerous boat and engine companies have backed some of the cooler videos currently in circulation, like one from Evinrude (www.youtube.com/watch?v=DwEE3LskULg) that is one of McKercher’s current favorites.
“An OEM’s goal is to attract visitors that (frequent) other Web sites and draw them to your Web site via videos,” said McKercher. “You want consumers on your site as much and as long as possible and hopefully have them click all the way through to the ‘get a quote’, ‘dealer locator’ or ‘send additional information’ links.
“The ultimate goal is to truly have these videos create a retail opportunity.”