Mar. 10, 2008 – Reaching out to a different consumer

By Karin Gelschus
Associate Editor
Powersports companies are taking advantage of a unique marketing tool that can use laugh out-loud entertainment to capture the attention of audiences outside their typical reach.
Triumph Motorcycles is one company that did exactly that when it created a spoof on the development of its new cruiser bike, the Rocket III, for the Web site YouTube.
“The piece we put on there was intended to not be a corporate piece, but a piece of entertainment,” Andrea Friggi, Triumph’s global communications manager, said. “It was awareness for a particular bike on overcoming some of the barriers to purchase that we perceived were there.”
With nearly 200,000 views in a month and a half, Triumph was floored by the response it received after its spoof, which debuted in May.
“We were very pleased with the number of people who viewed it (the video), and the comments posted,” Friggi said. “Overwhelmingly, they were very positive. Now it’s at nearly 420,000 views, which well exceeded our expectations.”
Triumph is among a number of powersports OEMs, aftermarket manufacturers and dealerships utilizing the Web site, with hundreds of thousands of people viewing their videos. The popular Web site allows companies to upload short video clips for free.
YouTube was founded in February 2005, and in November 2006, Google Inc. purchased the site. Since then YouTube has accumulated numerous partnerships, including CBS, BBC, Universal Music Group, Sony Music Group, Warner Music Group, NBA and many others. The videos are seen worldwide through Web Sites, mobile devices, blogs and e-mails.
The videos powersports dealers and manufacturers make are tailored to fit the YouTube style and create exposure specific to each business. All clips are reduced to 320×240 pixels and can range anywhere in length, usually between 15 seconds and 10 minutes. Powersports companies have taken different approaches when producing content for the site, with varied results.

Kolpin Powersports started using the site a few months ago after it revamped its Web site. Sarah Hudzinski, manager of marketing services, says Kolpin made videos that are like commercials, which are only around 30-120 seconds long. Hudzinski notes the episodes help depict Kolpin’s products better.
“A lot of our products have so many features that when you see it sitting on a shelf in a store, the consumer can’t determine what all the benefits and features are by reading just a few bullet points,” Hudzinski said. “We can try to word it as nice as we want, but until you can see it in use, you can’t really understand all the uses and value you’re getting in that product. The video is pretty much the best way to get that across.”
Hudzinski says the video also helps Kolpin’s distributors obtain a better understanding of its products, especially stores like Gander Mountain or Cabela’s that sell many brands.
“No one wants to read through a catalog,” she said. “I think this gives a more exciting, useful way to inform those who sell our products on the features and benefits, so they can do a better job of informing their customers.”

Triumph Motorcycles uses the Web site to gain exposure, but in a less commercial like, serious manner.
Friggi says the company wanted to do something fun because there’s a certain kind of thing people are looking for on YouTube. “We very carefully considered the content,” she said.
The subject matter was what sparked the entire YouTube idea for E-commerce Manager Allen Armstrong of Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson dealership.
“Before Biketoberfest I came up with the idea of filming different events and putting them on YouTube,” Armstrong said. “As far as the actual content, I thought of what people would want to see and think was interesting. I did a walk through of [Bruce Rossmeyer’s Harley-Davidson], so if people haven’t seen the dealership, they can see that it really is one of the biggest dealerships, and it’s not just hype.”
Friggi stresses the importance of capturing people’s interests for YouTube.
“You have to put the right things on there, and that’s become very clear to us,” she said. “If you’re just putting things on there just for the sake of it, for example we’ve seen a lot of other manufacturers, not of bikes but of general products, that put just their ad clips on there. Then you don’t get anywhere near the uptake as people looking at it.”

Cost considerations
Even though using YouTube is free, the production equipment and time put into the videos creates costs. Due to those extra expenses, Hudzinski of Kolpin Powersports says it devotes some of its budget to YouTube.
“We shot all the episodes over a one or two-day period because of the costs involved to have someone come in and do that for us in post production,” she said. “We are utilizing a relationship we already had with a firm that had done the video work for our 30-second commercials. Otherwise it was all done at our location with our own employees. As far as utilizing the Web site and posting the videos, we do all that in-house.”
It’s not uncommon for the videos to be done in-house and the expenses fit in with another disbursement. Marketing Manager Breann Fredritz of Thei’s Wheels in Sandusky, Ohio, says she created a video for the dealership, but they didn’t have a budget for it.
“We just did it because we can,” she said. “YouTube is a place where young kids go to watch videos. We thought, ‘Why not?’”
Armstrong of Bruce Rossmeyer says the videos are fairly time friendly because the videos don’t take that long to shoot. Video editing, however, can be time consuming, notes Don Becklin, president of Motorcycle Superstore.
“We definitely have a budget for it,” he said. “It’s something we make a concerted effort to put up for the consumers or users because multimedia has become a very important part of the Web these days.”

Worth the effort?
Although the powersports companies interviewed don’t track sales leads from the site, most track the number of people who’ve seen the videos, which is right next to each clip along with comments and a five-star rating system from viewers. The ratings make it easy for video posters to see the exposure each clip is getting, which is a main goal for companies.
Hudzinksi says Kolpin is tracking actual views and believes it’s absolutely worth the time the staff is expending into the videos.
“It’s giving us the best way to reach the consumer to truly show them what our products are all about,” she said, “and why they should pick the Kolpin product rather than manufacturer A, B or C.”
Armstrong agrees that the videos are worth his time. “We’ve gotten a lot of hits off of them,” he said. “It’s worth the time because there’s good exposure on YouTube.”

Utilizing the Internet
Not only are the manufacturers and dealerships interviewed going to keep posting to YouTube, they now have more ideas and plans to further expand their customer bases via the Net.
Hudzinski says with the achievment Kolpin Powersports has had so far, it doesn’t plan on changing much. “We might look at changing the release date,” she said, “but otherwise it’s been successful so far. It’s so new; no one else in the industry is really doing this.”
Friggi says Triumph plans to keep using the sight and look for more opportunities.
“Certainly we’ve only started to explore its potential,” she said.
Armstrong of Bruce Rossmeyer says he’s been talking with a company to do live streaming at events like Bike Week. He’s also working on a social networking site like a Myspace page to share videos and pictures of events. He says he has gotten the approval, and in the next couple months, he’ll launch it.
“Once we get a core of people, we can really use it as a marketing tool and advertise for sales (in the dealership),” he said and adds these Web tools keep the dealership up-to-date. “Being one of the top dealers, we’re always thinking of new ways and avenues to market ourselves.”

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