The goal of marketing is very simple: Start with a message and try and reach your target audience. For Tim McKercher, president of LOOK Marketing in Melbourne, Fla., marketing is nearly as familiar as breathing. McKercher was one of the main minds behind Sea-Doo’s #SPARKSOMEFUN campaign, which gave Sea-Doo a leg up in the PWC industry in social media development and engagement. By incorporating contemporary artists and highlighting the “simple fun” that the Spark could bring to the world, McKercher helped take the product to the next level, reaching new customers and locking in a target audience. Spark’s launch has been in lockstep with continual year-over-year monthly sales growth from the PWC industry as a whole.
McKercher has a long history with BRP. In his earlier years, McKercher says he spent many hours working as a testing specialist at BRP’s research and development center. He attended University of Central Florida at the same time and focused his studies on marketing and public relations. McKercher says he has had roles “on both sides of the [marketing] fence” with 15 years experience on the corporate side and eight years leading agency efforts.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position, and how have you dealt with it?
The biggest challenge for most professionals is change. While change is always challenging, I live by the mantra, “Where there is change, there is opportunity.” My core specialty began in PR and promotional event marketing and how we do it now compared to 10, even five years ago is so different. Social Media has really changed the face of PR, and we embraced it early and have integrated that into our efforts with a very integrated approach. Social is such a moving target, so we are constantly trying different strategies to generate the biggest brand impact. The other challenging element of social is to not just showing cool pictures but to provide content that sparks retail, that is an area so many brands miss.
What’s the biggest opportunity for the PWC industry, and how can the industry take advantage of it?
Obviously we are behind the Sea-Doo brand, but regardless, I truly believe the Spark model offers the greatest tool to grow the PWC industry. This product addresses and knocks down nearly every purchase barrier that has been raised over the past 10-plus years in regard to accessibility in every sense of the word. The Spark offers the basics of pure, simple fun on the water and is perfect to draw the next generation of boaters to the water.
What is the best advice that you can give others in the PWC industry?
The key to success in the PWC industry is to focus on delivering the key benefit of a PWC, which is the fun. Get people on the water and give them reasons to ride more. The more they use their product, the more it will be part of their life and the more they will live to ride. Show people how the new technology makes owning, using and riding easier and more fun than ever before and more than many other forms of family recreation.
Describe LOOK Marketing. How has the experience been working with Sea-Doo, especially over the past year?
We’re a small agency — some people like to call them “boutique agencies”— and we focus very much on the powersports and marine industries, but we’re pretty diverse in the services we offer. Basically, we do everything marketing-wise in the purchase funnel, all the way from awareness to consideration, to purchase and to the post-purchase experience. With that we’re able to integrate the effort; we feel better and more seamless than some of the other larger marble-floor type agencies that specialize in certain things. The fact that we’re involved with so many elements of the promotional plan, or the marketing plan, we’re able to integrate them and reach some economies of scale budget-wise, but also make a better messaging impact. There’s more consistency from the consumer standpoint and greater leveraging of assets and budgets from a client standpoint.
How have you had to expand your company to accommodate the growth from this past year?
We have five full-time staff members, and we’ve got about 12 project-based staff. Over the past year we’ve experienced some growth, and we are pretty close to capacity, meaning we’re looking for both in the near future a larger physical location and also looking to probably add some digital marketing specialists to our efforts and possibly merchandising, too. That other side of our business is more on my partner, who is also my wife, who focuses on the retail merchandising of powersports dealerships. That side is growing as well.
LOOK Marketing operates out of Melbourne, Fla. How has your location benefitted business?
Part of it is it’s where I grew up. I used to work for BRP; this is where their R&D center is, and that’s how I got started in the industry. I started out as test rider, while I was going to University of Central Florida to get my marketing degree. That’s a reason why our business started here. Also, it’s beneficial to BRP because we’re close to the R&D center, and we’re also in the epicenter of the personal watercraft market, which is Florida. So there are a lot of advantages for us to be here, and it makes a lot of sense. It allows us to deliver on watercraft marketing because we’re doing it year round.
So how has your history with BRP helped with coordinating its marketing and event management?
It’s a little different; we started out on the “other side of the fence.” Obviously working within the marketing at BRP, we were working with agencies but as a client. So we don’t have any agency experience so to speak. We started from scratch the way that we thought an agency should be run from a client’s perspective. We may do things a little bit different than a traditional agency, but we understand what the OEM side is dealing with internally, and we can help make projects run a little more smoothly, perhaps, than a traditional agency. I think a lot of times that gives us an advantage.
Recently your #SPARKSOMEFUN campaign to launch the Sea-Doo Spark was quite successful. What were some of the reasons behind your marketing choices for the campaign?
For the Spark tour specifically, the Spark was such a unique product where there really hasn’t been anything like that in a long time as far as being small, light, nimble and affordable. Mixed with the new modern technology, there are no competitors for it. We really needed to ensure and show people that this product is everything that we were saying it was and more. The bottom line was we needed to let people experience it for themselves: It is pure fun, and it’s easy, simple, and just because it’s priced at half the cost of a normal watercraft, doesn’t mean you’re not getting 100 percent fun for it. Rather than us just telling people and using the ads, we integrated the campaign into a live experience. We wanted people to feel it by the seat of their pants, wanted people to have a continuation of what they might have seen on TV, what they might have seen on our social media, or what they might have seen talking to a dealer and bring that experience to the water where ultimately that’s what the product is for. We tried to build an environment that replicated what the target Spark buyer would experience, and we wanted people to be able to try it for themselves and make them believers and feel good about their purchase.
Because a lot of the people, for Spark, were people that had never owned a watercraft before, they … could be intimidated by owning a new vehicle, and we wanted to show them how easy and fun it was. It was really important to get people out there and get that word of mouth going that this thing is everything that the marketing materials are saying it is and more. And we did that. We were very successful at doing that by producing 33 specific events all over North America.
From a marketing standpoint, were there multiple ideas for the #SPARKSOMEFUN campaign?
The #SPARKSOMEFUN was part of the test ride tour which was part of an overall launch effort; it was one of the components. It wasn’t the main component; it was a big one, but it was part of an overall launch plan. So #SPARKSOMEFUN was utilized heavily. We had some sweepstakes campaigns that we did with Deadmau5 where we did a large concert event that was connected to a large digital campaign; that’s kind of where the #SPARKSOMEFUN campaign began. And again we used #SPARKSOMEFUN in our Instagram accounts, our Twitter, our Facebook and then we wanted to carry that on over into the live experience. So the #SPARKSOMEFUN was not only the test ride tour, but that was one of the many components that led to the incredibly successful launch of the Spark.
You mentioned Deadmau5. What were some of the reasons behind choosing Deadmau5 to be apart of the campaign? Did you feel he would connect to your consumers?
With Deadmau5 that was the Miami Takeover with Deadmau5, and not just LOOK Marketing produced that. It was actually led by Sea-Doo’s lead strategic agency, which is Cramer-Krasselt, out of Milwaukee, but we partnered on that. Basically, the goal was to get the Sea-Doo name and the Spark in front of a new generation of consumers. The average age of a typical watercraft owner is 48 years old. Part of the reason that Spark was introduced was there was no product that the next generation of boaters could access. And when I say access I mean access from a financial standpoint, access from a storage standpoint and access through not having to buy a new tow vehicle. By having everything in place and having the right product, they can add it to their life now without having to make other changes.
We are going after a younger audience, the young professional or the people that have a young family that always dreamed of having a watercraft but for whatever reason they could never own one. We’re knocking down those barriers, but the whole Deadmau5 initiative was to really get the product in front of a new audience and from the dealer’s standpoint. That was one element that we did in the south Florida market that we leveraged digitally. The whole campaign in general worked because we’ve gotten a lot of feedback that dealers are seeing customers coming into their stores that they haven’t seen or that they haven’t seen in a long time, and they’re coming in and asking for Spark. And that is really a big goal: To get new people going to the dealerships.
The campaign definitely got people talking about the Sea-Doo Spark. Do you think this next summer will be as successful at drawing new customers as last year?
The second year is going to be more — it’s going to fit what our original plan was. The reason why is that in our first year a lot of current owners and a lot of enthusiasts purchased Spark because they had been waiting for something small, lightweight and affordable. They added to their existing fleet or they replaced an older watercraft. Because it was in the early season a lot of the enthusiasts bought the Spark that weren’t exactly the main target and some of the sales were a little bit skewed in the first year. In the summer we really started doing the promotion for the new customers. They came, but a lot of the Sparks were already sold out. So this year’s going to be a much more accurate, a more telling story as far as if we’re really hitting exactly what our target was.
Speaking of this year, what are you most excited about?
We’re really looking to extend the launch of the Spark. Last year was the first year but there are still a lot of people that haven’t heard about it. Or maybe last year they weren’t in a position to think about it, and this year they are. So we’ve extended the launch. We also manage all the social media and all the PR efforts for Sea-Doo, so what we’ve developed is kind of a second-wave of #SPARKSOMEFUN. We’ve partnered with Devin Super Tramp; he’s a very popular YouTube filmmaker. He does a lot of really fun adventure-type videos, and we partnered with him last year to do a wake skate video. Over the last five weeks we’ve been doing a #SPARKSOMEFUN sweepstakes, where we’ve been asking people to show us how they spark some fun. We’re going to pick our five favorites and then the fans are going to vote for their favorite of the five. The winner, along with two guests, is going to win the Ultimate Sea-Doo Beach Party, which we are going to produce down in south Florida at the end of May. We’re bringing some of our X-TEAM racers and our X-TEAM wake skaters, and we’re going to have a Sea-Doo beach party just for them, and Devin Super Tramp is going to video the entire thing.It was a huge social media campaign to reach people that are into watersports — they’ve had the dream of owning a watercraft, but they weren’t aware how accessible it is now with the Spark. It’s a continuation of the launch, and we want to keep going after that new person to grow the industry.
Working with Deadmau5 brought us a new audience, and we’re also working with other influencers. Devin Super Tramp is an influencer; on average his videos get 2 million views. So we’re working with different types of influencers on a social platform to get the world out about Spark.
What goals do you have for the rest of 2015?
We’re just continuing our efforts, and luckily for us we’re growing. You talked a little bit about staff, but we’re actually growing with our clients, too. We just signed an agreement to begin working with BMW motorcycles on a retail merchandising program; that’s the other side of our business where we help design strategic in-store merchandising programs, so we’re going to start working with BMW. We also recently started working with Scarab jet boats and Rec Boat Holdings, which is a kind of a logical client for us because we were managing the Sea-Doo boat brand for so many years before that ended, and Scarab’s kind of picked up where Sea-Doo’s left off [with jet boats]. So we have a lot of jet boat expertise, and now we get to use that again. It’s fun to be in the boat side along with watercraft, and it’s also fun to be working with a premium brand like BMW motorcycles as well. And all of that is from various, yet diverse work that we’ve done with BRP.