Author Archive for John Siebenthaler

Trade Pub Dealernews Brand Revived

Dealernews Back On Stands?

Dealernews

In what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, perhaps the single most momentous event since Lazarus emerged intact, comes news of the acquisition of defunct trade pub label Dealernews by a midwest consortium, DN 2.0, headed up by Columbus, OH Harley-Davidson franchisee Bob Althoff.

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry.”

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry,” says the owner of three OEM dealerships. The plan for DN 2.0 is apparently to restore what was lost during the mid-2000’s heyday by recalling editorial staff and management from the brand inherited by UBM in 2015 when they purchased Advanstar and which was then abruptly shuttered.

The revived brand will ostensibly be guided by an advisory board made up from a number of well-known powersports single and multi-line dealer heads, industry consultants, and communications veterans. Will it make a difference? The field of national powersports trade publications has shrunk from five to two over the last decade as social media channels have proliferated and advertising options have multiplied. For many, that constitutes a trend.

The B2B pub’s successes, and ultimately failure(s), tracked the once dominant trade show giant DealerExpo, which went down for the last time in 2014, leaving the field open for the American International Motorcycle Exposition, itself now headed ironically to Columbus for one lap in 2017 before finally dropping anchor in Las Vegas.

Assets include the Dealernews trademark, brand, website, email and registration lists, and newsletters.

no sweat! wrangler cool tech jeans

Wrangler Performance Jeans For Comfort

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Rugged Construction, Technical Stay Dri Material

They sure look like jeans. They sure fit like jeans. They sure wear like jeans. But they really perform like a cool breeze across a simmering swamp.

When Wrangler threw their hat in the powersports market, they took on a longstanding de facto preference for an iconic brand leader in the denim and leather category. Going up against Levi might seem a tall challenge, but not so much when you introduce some serious technology into the game. And decades of idling a Harley at a red light in the middle of a sweltering Florida summer meant I had a basis for comparison and the motivation to try something different.

In hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments.

Florida’s climate can readily test that claim, but the real challenge lay about 700 miles west, where I’d spend a few days clearing timber and brush under an 85-degree Louisiana sun. I prepped my Cool Vantage Wranglers with Sawyer’s Permethrin to ward off mosquitoes and ticks, and to hopefully confuse any yellow jackets I might stumble into, before heading into the woods to see if their claim of cool comfort would hold up.

Cool Vantage Transforms Into Athletic Sportswear

I’m familiar with the performance of athletic sportswear, as well as the misery of conventional jeans, especially after they’re soaked with sweat that dams up underneath the waistband before spilling over to slowly trickle down my legs.

Along with a relaxed fit stretch model, Wrangler’s Cool Vantage dry fit material delivers the same level of advanced sports technology usually associated with brands like Under Armour and Nike, while maintaining the style and appearance of traditional denim.

At least they’d be no worse than my drawer full of regular denim. At best? That was what I was anxious to find out.

Wrangler Jeans perform

Wrangler did their homework when they figured out how to combine the dri-fit characteristics of athletic sportswear with the ruggedness of traditional denim jeans.

After strapping on my chainsaw chaps (further increasing the insulation factor), I picked up my Stihl and lumbered off into the woods. There, after a few hours of tromping up and down the ravines while maneuvering over and around the felled logs, I realized that what would have had sweat pouring into my boots was instead, apparently, wicking to the surface and evaporating. Not only was I noticeably cooler, I was measurably more comfortable as well.

I had one more test, wherein I donned a 4-gallon backpack sprayer filled with herbicide. Being able to shed my chaps meant a lot more freedom of movement, offset by the weight of the contents on my back. Adding another 40 pounds or so to a weigh-in north of 235 when clothing and footwear are included gave my legs a workout, and the jeans another challenge. The legs quit long before my Wranglers.

Here’s the verdict. They work just fine as everyday wear, and in cool weather nothing’s lost. But in hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments. It’s night and day, while still retaining the sturdy work characteristics and working style of traditional denim wear. Cool Vantage is just that — cooler to work in, with the look and feel of what you’re accustomed to wearing.

weego is portable power

Emergency Starting Power Packs

WeeGo 22 powerpack

WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani thinks everyone should have emergency power handy. Don’t wish you had.

My first question to WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani, left, was about the name. His answer, simply enough, was that the product, one of any number of lithium battery emergency power sources, was small, and it would get you going a lot faster than rubbing two sticks together and praying for fire.

Their feature-laden lineup of ergonomically pleasing hi-vis orange charging and emergency starting power begins with a candy bar sized phone/watch/fitness tracker charger and tops out with their top-of-the-line WeeGo 66.

The latter packs a huge amount of amperage in a very compact package, capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Well, maybe not so much. But the new for 2017 portable power pack delivers up to 600 cranking amps, enough for gas engines up to 10L, and diesels up to 5L. Remember, this is something you can hold in one hand.

Advanced Technology Prevents Screwups

But without the right technology, cranking power alone only gets you so far. Just ask Samsung.

WeeGo’s model 22, 44, and 66 all feature their patented Smarty Clamps, which eliminate any chance of hooking up the wrong terminal by making sure contacts are sure, secure, and safe. (I never thought of it, but both sides of the jaw are powered. Who knew?)

What else? USB charging for all your portable power hogs, plus 12V and 19V outputs to power accessories and laptops. And even though you say you’ll never need one, they claim their 600 lumen dual LED flashlight will operate in strobe mode for 18 hours, and can signal an SOS for up to 36 hours.

Capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Pack recharge is fast, and claimed standby power is up to 3-years. Built-in protection against power surge, overheating, polarity screwups, and even an anti-spark feature in case you’re operating in an inflammable environment.

WeeGo portable power

WeeGo power packs come in a range of sizes and capacities. The 22, shown, is well suited for powersports, including offroad and on the water.

There’s not a lot of price spread between the emergency starter models. The middle of the road 44 retails for $149, the 22 (recommended for powersports, can start a V-8 if needed) a little less. All come packed in a signature orange housing that packs easily and is impervious to most of the environmental challenges of riding, boating, and off-roading.

Note: the optional Powersports Tether accessory is a nifty solution for hooking up hidden batteries that are hard to access in the garage, and impossible when stuck by the side of the road in the middle of the night. This modest add-on works for both charging and starting, and would have saved my back on more than one occasion in the days of having to kick-start a dead-as-a-doornail Shovelhead. Today, when kick starters on street bikes are only found in museums, emergency battery power should be considered an essential.

All WeeGo products are warranteed for 18 months. These are good products from a talented, progressive American company.

amazon’s split personality

For Brands, Cure May Be Worse Than Disease

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Read It Free Helps Subscription Rates How?

As I grow increasingly comfortable with online shopping as an alternative to chasing hard to find items in brick and mortar storefronts, rationalizing clik to add to shopping cart becomes easier and easier as the cost of shipping tumbles. Then came Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is by all indications a very effective loss leader in the effort to tether consumers to mega-site Amazon for all their internet purchases. Patterned after the big box membership warehouse experience, Prime, for a modest annual fee, delivers not only free 2-day shipping on most items, but includes a bunch of other perks as well.

The price is right – for as long as it can last.

The included music feed is perfectly acceptable, eliminating having to subscribe to Pandora, Spotify, or Radio for a premium listening experience. Ditto access to online t.v. content, books, and a number of other features that save time and/or money.

I just discovered that a number of familiar, favorite, and free periodicals are available as well, viewable online or as downloaded Kindle content. Which is how I came across Cycle World, Bonnier’s flagship pub in their motorcycle group stable of powersports publications, as a free read on Amazon.

I’m not sure how the business model for offering up your vanguard bike magazine for free reading moves the bottom line needle. It’s not an option you’d expect to find in a typical subscription pitch; “12 Whole Issues For One Year’s Worth of Reading Only Zero Dollars and Zero Cents!”

Since consolidating the spectrum of motorcycle pubs several years ago by purchasing those niche assets from Hearst first, then Source Interlink, the overall health of print continues to circle the drain, excepting a few standouts like Garden & Gun. The price is right – for as long as it can last.

AIMExpo Says Goodbye to Orlando

You Say Goodbye And I Say…

AIMExpo says goodbye to Orlando

After last year’s buyout of the American International Motorcycle Exposition (AIMExpo) from the original owner MarketPlace Events by the Motorcycle Industry Council (MIC), most market watchers assumed that a) the OEMs that form the backbone of MIC would offer ongoing stability for the still young show, and that b) the event would make the jump across Orlando’s International Drive to the more appropriate, and much larger, North Hall, consolidating the outdoor activities while adding a more expansive venue.

Pack Your Bags. Again.

A month out, AIME dropped the first bombshell, announcing that 2016 would be the last show in Orlando as 2017’s event would hit the road for — the Columbus, Ohio, convention center. Which until now has been best known for hosting Arnold Schwartzeneger’s long-running series of body building championships.

That news hadn’t even completed the first lap when it was announced right before Thursday’s show opening that Columbus was a one and done, and that Las Vegas would welcome dealers in 2018 to a Mandalay Bay event, also in October.

A few select exhibitors hadn’t even finished their chorus of reliable quotes on why Columbus’ “500-mile radius” was key to attracting dealers in order to grow the event (it isn’t, given Peoples Exhibit A, DealerExpo) when the Vegas jump came out of the blue. If there was any question that MIC’s OEMs were wielding their muscle, this relocation eliminated any doubts.

Why It Matters

Why this matters involves pure marketing decisions by the show’s owners, and, like every realtor says, it’s about location, location, location. Powersports (read aftermarket) expos have been tried in Vegas before, and they’ve died in Vegas, even during the red-hot 2000s. OEM dealer meetings, on the other hand, thrive in the desert.

The move has all the earmarks of a purely strategic decision by Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha, and Kawasaki to consolidate their dealer programs closer to home and away from the proximate distraction of Daytona’s Biketoberfest.

I can’t say I’m not disappointed. Orlando remains a major international destination, and both venue and weather remain well suited to the outdoor activities which can’t be offered in a resort hotel facility.

Still, H-D was never a participant, and Kawasaki was a big hole in the lineup this year, after drawing plenty of attention with last year’s massive booth. Ducati was another no-show. Ditto BMW. And so it went.

This year’s swan song seemed almost a little melancholy, like the guy who came alone to the dance and stayed too late. Compared to the previous decade, many of the booths looked like they traveled as overhead luggage.

Warn, Pirelli, S&S, and Avon, among others, didn’t bring the A game of years previous. And speaking of others, Western Powersports, Parts Unlimited, Chrome Specialties, Tucker-Rocky, and Drag Specialties were among the major distributors whose absence, in favor of their own one-off shows for the past several years, severely hurts in the buzz building.

The Magic 8-Ball Says

It could be that the appeal of an aftermarket accessories driven trade show has passed its sell by date. Without support from manufacturers, dealers aren’t likely to make the investment in time and money to visit when much of what they’re selling is already on offer at the afore mentioned distributor sponsored shows. And without dealer support, manufacturers can’t be expected to continue their investment without a decent ROI. And this year’s announced dealer registration figure of just over 2,000 falls, to me, far short of fulfilling that expectation.

AIMExpo will in the future become a new model year bike show by the major manufacturers with some slots occupied by non-OEMs who either lack a distributor hookup, are doing okay with their own dealer direct and consumer direct programs, or just don’t want one.

Nostalgia for the way things were is notable, but unsupportable. Columbus ’17 looks to be the last real expression of the independent powersports aftermarket event.

bacon for breakfast? mmmmm!

Enjoy Bacon? Of Course You Do!

Here’s why. You didn’t have a chance.

The original Father of Spin, Edward Bernays took on the Beech-Nut Packing Company as a client in order to salvage their tanking bacon sales as American switched their eating preferences to breakfast cereal, toast, and juice. Together with fellow publicist Ivy Lee he’s credited with founding the profession we know today as public relations, although looking back some might question the morality of his triumphs.

Cue Homer Simpson.

Bernays was a nephew of Sigmund Freud, and his remarkable marketing insight allowed him to successfully pitch smoking cigarettes to American women as patriotic. At the height of the Cold War his campaign on behalf of the United Fruit Company’s Chiquita banana brand led to the overthrow of the democratically elected Guatemalan government. No surprise, then, that when he focused then new marketing techniques on the task for his client he successfully switched on the bacon for breakfast gene that had begun to dim.

Pass the pork.

the 1st amendment, defined

Designer, CEO Team Up to Deliver A Powerful Political Statement to Nation

In today’s hypercharged political atmosphere there’s a lot of talk, often uninformed, about the Constitution’s Bill of Rights and what the First Amendment means, depending on the point being conveyed.

One citizen’s bold response to the Republican’s damaged nominee for President.

This is an example of civics and citizenship that combines freedom of speech and freedom of the press in an elegantly crafted statement regarding the Republican party’s 2016 nominee for President of the United States. An important component in the process was the cleanly Spartan design of the full page advertorial.

Agree or not, this private citizen took the time, and wrote a very sizeable check, to participate in a thoughtful, non-commercial attempt to influence public opinion.

ubm shuts down dealernews

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Five Decades of Dealernews Now History

In a stunning announcement that dropped December 16, Jim Savas, VP/GM of automotive at media conglomerate UBM Advanstar, announced the immediate end of Dealernews as of December 23, 2015.

After initially making the case for a robust online presence, well supported by more than respectable metrics, Mr. Savas then set January 1, 2016, as the cessation of Dealernews in print, on the web, and across all digital channels.

As of December 18, there was no mention on either Twitter or Facebook of the decision to shut down what many in the powersports industry considered the Gray Lady of motorcycle aftermarket B2B publishing. Continue reading ‘ubm shuts down dealernews’

defining the retail user experience

calling customer service

The Retail Chain’s Weakest Link

When I want to enjoy a retail shopping experience, Tampa’s International Mall is a perfect destination that’s just 30-minutes away. There’s an Apple store, a Williams-Sonoma, designer label signature storefronts galore, and the pedestrian traffic is an instant education in current style trends.

Parking outside Nordstrom’s, where both the professional display techniques and downright good food of their in-store restaurant are hard to resist, is convenient.

Holiday shopping always includes a visit to Neiman Marcus for their distinctive American Classic box set dessert sampler featuring a variety of six liquor infused cakes.

This year I noticed a big gap in how I, Shopper A, was interpreted. Nordstrom’s personnel were ready to offer immediate help, but not to the point of smothering. If I’d been looking for something in particular, catching the eye of a sales person would have only needed a glance.

First, be able to answer every question about what you’re selling.

Neiman’s, on the other hand, presented a challenge. Because of a change in packaging I did have questions; the ensuing search for help made me wonder if a set of railroad crossing bells would have been useful, and checkout, achieved only after some few minutes of confusion, caused further annoyance at a process that should be anything but.

Two top-tier stores. Two totally different outcomes. Know your products. Recognize your customers. Create an experience that doesn’t lead to a comparative blog post.

aimexpo 2015 continues growth curve

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC's purchase of AIMExpo event.

Motorcycle Industry Council members Tim Buche (left) and Larry Little detail MIC’s purchase of AIMExpo event.

AIME Opens Year Three Under New Ownership

In just its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo proved it’s in it to win it, with an exhibitor’s list topping 560, a shortened format making it easier for manufacturers to massage the combined trade plus public components, more OEMs, the revival of the MIA V-twin Made In America® contingent, and another successful round of cross your fingers and hope for yes! the best! weather Central Florida can muster in what we casually refer to as “fall”.

Read more about the powersport industry’s only domestic combined event here, including analysis of format, audience, and the challenges facing retail event marketing in an increasingly online world.




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