He’d ridden up to Oakhurst, CA, the jumping off point for Trekkers before we headed 130 miles into the Sierra Nevadas for a few days of off-road riding in and around Huntington Lake. Jim swapped his three-wheeler for two and the Spyder was loaded into the event logistics box truck for transport to China Peak.
You might think that an invitation only gathering like Trek that collected some of the best known members of the powersports community would be blessed with insight, talent, resourcefulness, and ability. Um, not always.
video guide to changing a light bulb
Good news! Fewer than a dozen bikers were needed to unload this ride!
It was as if I was watching New Caledonia headhunters seeing their first helicopter. This video demonstrates the combined efforts of Cycle World editors and ad reps, powersports aftermarket manufacturing execs, agency account reps, and industry OEM department heads as they go about solving the ages-old riddle of the Sphinx – what’s the best way to unload a low-slung trike with nothing but a lift gate? Easy! Use a picnic table!
Keep in mind, the object in question weighs in the neighborhood of 700 pounds, give-take. Then count heads hovering to and fro like nervous elephant aunts surrounding an expecting new mother, anxiously waiting to welcome a newcomer to the herd.
you can learn a lot over lunch
In the brief time I knew Jim, he struck me as affable, curious, and capable. We shared the three-stool counter at Jone’s Store just outside Yosemite over lunch on Day One, exchanging small talk and chit-chat. Although his knowledge of the industry and its people was encyclopedic (and mine is anything but) ours was a comfortable conversation that only later would emerge from the background as a crossroads for me in my association with the industry.
Jim was awarded the annual Joe Parkhurst award during that year’s closing ceremony, an insider’s inside honor of respect.
He passed away April 11, 2014. I think he’d appreciate the humor he left behind.
My first issue of IronWorks – April, 1993, left, and the last, March, 2014.
IronWorks Ends 24-Year Print Run
My March, 2014 issue of Ironworks arrived just in time to coincide with the news that publication of the long-running indy v-twin book was ending as of Volume 24, Issue Number 2. Never saw that coming? Actually, a disappointment, not a surprise.
I first came to know the popular culture niche IronWorks 20-plus years earlier. That would be IW Vol. 3, No. 2, April, 1993. Whadyaknow; an even 21 years of familiarity.
I’d just started work as advertising creative director at Easyriders. Truett & Osborn, my first bike client as a freelancer some years before, needed a small (is there any other size?) b&w ad. I was able to accommodate the Wichita aftermarket flywheel manufacturer by forwarding what was referred to then as an ad slick for reproduction to Dennis Stemp Publishing in Versailles, PA.
When my proof copy arrived I was surprised to discover that Dennis and I shared rides: Willie G’s H-D orphan, the XLCR. And while the few hot rod examples I’d seen revolved mostly around Thunder Heads, Dennis saw fit to go flat out by swapping an XR1000 dual carb beastie for the otherwise anemic stock 61-incher the original shipped with.
Several years later we met for the first time in Cordelle, Georgia. Dennis and Marilyn were on their way to Birmingham, I was returning home from Louisiana, and this seemed a logical place to get together.
ironworks sold, invades newstands
By then, Dennis, Marilyn and the kids had made the move to Morganton, NC, and the book was owned by Birmingham trade publisher Hatton-Brown, their only consumer product. He and his wife formed the nucleus of a formidable collection of Harley institutional knowledge, surfing the break of a boomer driven biker wave.
We talked mostly about the various trade and craftwork involved in putting out a publication. Dennis, with an art direction background honed in corporate Pennsylvania, tried mightily to inspire a professional regard for design in a DIY industry that continues to struggle with the concept of appearance as an investment.
He’d hung out briefly in Indian Rocks Beach, so we were both surprised to imagine how we may have crossed paths at a central Pinellas printer he worked for and that I occasionally used. On the eve of first desktop publishing, then the web, Dennis was one of the very few industry talents I’ve known who was as comfortable with an X-Acto blade on the design side as he was a micrometer on the build end.
We’d see each other at Indy, Myrtle Beach, Daytona. We collaborated on a couple of projects: the first serious print review of Confederate’s V-twin anomoly, and one build project that I still consider the most fearsome raw expression of mechanical adaptation I’ve seen, his Flyin’ Fossil dual-carb, mag fired 93-inch Accurate Engineering Knucklehead (IW Vol. 10, No. 2 – March, 2000).
So it came as an ugly shock when Dennis, not known for excess in a culture devoted to lifestyle chance taking, died in 2000 from a particularly brutal form of cancer. (AdFax 15, Vol. 4, No. 3 – July, 2000.)
january 2014 – end of the line
What was it about IronWorks that proved popular? For awhile IW ran with the tagline, “The Thinking Man’s Harley Magazine.” Good luck with that now, but for me it didn’t require parsing – IW was about Harleys, PBR and nothing but.
After I heard IW had reached the end of the line, I dug up my first copy to see what the fuss was all about. What I found on page 34 was the latest on Alan Sputhe’s 95-inch Not A Harley 60-degree V-Twin. And there, just across the gutter on page 35, was the detailed heritage of Nostalgia Cycle’s Super Vee that included a reference to Supercycle publisher Steve Iorio, who I freelanced for several times.
For those who don’t know, the original engine derived from the front two cylinders of a Chevy small block. Boom. If that ain’t hot roddin’, I don’t know what is.
Mismanaged content meant the wrong kind of reach for this dealership.
Your Business On Social – It’s Really Not Personal
A six-month social media marketing consultation for a multi-line powersports dealership that reps several metric makes, a domestic brand, and PWC and OHV inventory was the inspiration for this post. Located in a large Southeastern market, a neglected social media program wasn’t producing the growth one might expect given their footprint.
Management depended on traditional automotive push marketing techniques based largely on motivational training and consisting largely of clichéd slogans and a steady diet of overwrought memes. Making matters worse was content posted by employees, one in particular, who didn’t understand that the approach required for a business page had nothing to do with their personal life online.
A Waste of Their Money and My Time
When I got involved the CMS vendor hired for site design and management had set up an incomplete Google+ page and a lamentable blog that immediately failed. These “assets” joined a struggling Facebook timeline and an abandoned Twitter feed that, together with a local weekly bike night, made up a dysfunctional marketing strategy that defied the concept of content coordination.
The social goal was easily defined: increase organic growth, reach, and engagement using proven social media business techniques. In the end it was a waste of their money and my time. Based on my direct experience with this dealer, I emerged with a Five-Step Program for improving your social media marketing assets.
Here are my Top Five Social Marketing Essentials: the minimum elements a social media marketing program needs in order to have any chance of success.
5) Management Engagement
This ad for snowmobiles in Florida stayed up for months.
When management is “too busy” to monitor their own content, they deserve the worst result from a dysfunctional effort. Would you expect to see snowmobiles sold in Florida? In July? This embarrassing post by the client’s CMS vendor and web site IT, a well known powersports service provider, stayed up for weeks because management refused to look at their own channels. I won’t comment on the use of transparent background PNGs against a lime green <IMG> tag background color.
Lesson? Stay engaged or risk the consequences.
4) Coordinate Activities
Social didn’t have a seat at the table when sales, promos, or events were planned by the sales manager. OEM marketing opportunities came and went without generating earned publicity. Result: a failure to connect using basic tools like page event apps to promote engagement and activity.
Further muddying the waters — multiple managers had independent control of multiple channels. Result? A total lack of content direction and coordination.
Lesson? Assign one manager as point-of-contact, with authority for all content and the option to grant multiple contributors access to team functions.
3) Understand Social Stats
Personal friends list used by greeter to prop up skewed reach.
Stats can inform or mislead. When they’re manipulated, the result can be deceptive and misleading.
Despite a favorable (chart at top) 68% male-31% female fan mix, the reach skewed heavily towards women, not men. This disconnect is traceable to flawed post content by the lobby greeter’s attempt to pad metrics by polling her personal Facebook male friends for likes. This shifted the ratio alright, but only by creating a false positive that distorts the desired organic results and won’t fool Facebook.
Lesson? Manipulated stats disguise reality, lead to bad decisions based on false facts.
2) Understand How Social Media Works
Social marketing is about pull, not push. Understanding the general strengths and weaknesses is essential.
It’s a unique medium that requires regular care and feeding in the form of professional attention. Audience engagement can’t be forced; only quality content of interest will attract interaction. Google knows this, and you should also.
Lesson? Quality content continues to be the prime ingredient in a successful social campaign.
1) Speak With One Voice
The number one requirement for a successful social marketing program? Speak professionally, using one knowledgeable voice.
The dealership’s in-house voice, a former barista turned lobby greeter with zero motorcycle knowledge and a dysfunctional writing “style”, was allowed to post disconnected content online, without review, like the incoherent example below.
“Off-roading enthusiasts love the adventures and the risks and adrenaline associated with it. Speaking with the novice portion of this crowd, one of the most commonly inquiries is, “Do you know where I can ride these?” It’s a very just question. Now a great place to cross off your bucket list is the Apalachicola National Forest. Located in the panhandle, there is 195,000 acres worth of lush, loamy nature. They conveniently have about 80% of their trails marked very well. However, it is also rumored to have many undiscovered trails with very little traffic. Yeah it’s a bit of a trip, but do ya really plan on staying at home for the rest of your life?”
I rest my case. Lesson? Social programs too often see Nike’s success selling shoes as an easily copied meme. Reality? Without professional creative talent efforts aren’t just wasted, they’re counterproductive.
Growing Your Social Channel – A Job for Professionals
Don’t be this dealer. Commit to using the power and prestige of social media. Make it count. Engage your qualified market, enjoy the benefits of a comfortable public relationship.
After years of discussion about an industry alternative to forever event producer Advanstar’s Dealernews Dealer Expo, the very first edition of the American International Motorcycle Expo opened its doors to a borrowed concept, high expectations, and fingers crossed by promoter Marketplace Events.
Orlando’s mammoth Orange County Convention Center West Concourse welcomed a brand new powersports combined trade only and consumer show that managed to attract three OEMs – Yamaha, Suzuki and Erik Buell – in addition to several scooter brands and an interesting mix of biker related goods and services.
Against the backdrop of a still sluggish economy and an industry devastated by the recession that continues to be pummeled by shifting consumer interests, AIMExpo stretched out over five days, making for an endurance event for exhibitors and a mid-week challenge for attending dealers. What rolled out over those five days will go a long way towards determining the future of domestic powersports business marketing events.
I’ve enjoyed many industry events in Vegas, Indy, Cincy before and after, and in Orlando – in both the West Building hosting AIME’s inaugural outing and the massive North South venue across the street. Considering Orlando’s in my back yard – midway between where I grew up on Merritt Island an hour south of Daytona and where I now live on the Gulf shores – it’s with some amount of satisfaction that the move I’ve long recommended to the powersports industry has now come to pass.
“We Don’t Serve Their Kind Here!”
I’m proud to identify myself as an advertising and PR professional who attended his first powersports industry event in the lobby of a long forgotten Daytona Beach hotel while studying Journalism and Communications as a PR major at the University of Florida in the late ’60s.
So yes, it comes as somewhat of a rude shock to discover that the critically important marketing professions have been explicitly excluded from the B2B portion of the event by way of a regressive, considered, exorbitant admission fee. In my own home state no less.
“Non-exhibiting manufacturers and service providers can obtain credentials to attend AIMExpo during the exclusive trade-only days on October 16, 17, & 18, 2013 by paying a mandatory $400 registration fee per person.” (Emphasis added)
This, despite the occupations’ marquee status as a major advertised component of the event’s announced educational sessions. Well that’s just stupid. Nothing like slamming the door in the face of an industry you’re only too happy to promote from a short list of insider presenters.
Unfortunately, AIME management seems content to continue to fail to grasp the critical role pr and marketing communicators play in the age of global social media or the technical nuances that go with. Note to organizers: the hot topic in mar-com these days is the merging of journo and pr as creators of much coveted retail content.
Exhibit A: Google “AIME” – discover why product and event naming is an art, not a commodity, in an SEO ruled universe.
Exhibit B: a Facebook invitation to this pr pro to “like” the event’s Spanish language page. Uh, yo no hablo español.
“Please note: Media credentials will be provided to reporters, writers, editors, videographers, photographers and producers. Advertising, sales & marketing and administrative staff are not considered working media and will not be provided with media credentials.” Ok, got it. Marketers are pariahs. Insult to injury, message received, message understood.
In the all important social media promoted message sweepstakes (including blogs), organizers have said no and no again to any WOM publicity on behalf of their aftermarket and OEM clients – the exhibitors.
For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
As a content manager for a powersports dealer and other aftermarket clients, say so long to any professional mar-com generated event coverage or mentions. For – lets say the scooter crowd, who are arguably in need of whatever exposure they can garner – this is a major missed opportunity.
So with that not so slight slight out of the way, here’s some of what you might expect, might need to know, and might want to discover if you make the trip.
One Booth You’ve Got To Visit
For first time – and nearly all will be – powersports visitors to the massive OCCC facilities on International Drive, here’s a little insight into what you can expect compared to Indy’s mid-winter experience.
Weatherwise, October comes in as our second most active month for major storms, including hurricanes, behind September – which right now is pretty soggy. Just saying, come prepared for the occasional raindrop and although it’s early Fall for us it may still seem like the height of Summer, depending. Here’s what else you might want to know.
GoPro is an announced exhibitor, and based on past experience not only is their booth a blast, it’s the best chance you’ll (probably) have to score an on-the-house camera. They always bring game, and theirs is one of the hippest and smartest booth marketing efforts you’ll see. Free beer’s a definite possibility, but even if it weren’t the show and tell theme makes this big dog and pony a must see.
Where Ya’ At?
When it comes to a place to stay, the sky’s the limit. Metro Orlando is second only to NYC in lodging. One of Indy’s major draws was the ease of pedestrian access between downtown lodging and the convention center. OCCC? Eh, not so much.
Odds are you’ll want to stay reasonably close by on International Drive, and there’re plenty of options to choose from, from lux to how many can we cram in a room.
Nobody drove to and fro in Indy. Make that virtually nobody, as downtown parking was a sparse commodity. Whether you were holed up out by the airport or in more recent years downtown, private show shuttles and the connected airwalks were the way folks got around.
Orlando’s different. Unless you’re staying across the street from the West Building in either of the Rosen properties or the Peabody, best bring your hiking boots.
In fact, even if you did snatch a room at one of those facilities, the walking distance still might come as a shock compared to, say, Indy’s Hyatt.
If you’ve got a car, you’re in good shape. Parking’s plentiful at the OCCC – $15 at the venue lot. On street? No and no. Otherwise, you’re likely marooned and will have to depend on public transport and private taxis to get around.
What’s For Dinner?
Unlike Indy – very unlike – you won’t find a dense downtown collection of closely connected destinations reachable – weather permitting – within easy walking distance. And also unlike the business oriented downtown Indy vibe, Orlando – make that Florida – is mostly indifferent, what with close to 70 million annual visitors tracking up the front hall.
If there’s going to be one major complaint, it will be the lack of memorable and/or quick dining options. Forget anything like St. Elmo or Palomino, although Tommy Bahama offers an interesting menu – the crab bisque in particular. Orlando is home to the Darden (Olive Garden, Red Lobster) Group, and that means you’ll most likely end up at a theme inspired franchise, take a number, and wait for your server to hustle up touristy drinks and mostly mediocre fare.
If over the years spent at Indy you’d grown accustomed to making a dash, quick or otherwise, outside Expo to grab a burger at Steak and Shake, a Happy Meal at Mickey D’s or one of Palomino’s fabo pizzas, well hang on to those memories. You wish.
I can say this without equivocation: OCCC food is nothing if not expensive, considering it’s mediocrity. You’re pretty much a captive audience while at the event – $15 for the cardboard inspired All American Cheeseburger, fries and a soda may have you begging for mercy after a couple of days.
What To Do Besides
Wellllll, besides Biketoberfest, there’s Disney some miles west or Universal just up the street – where you can grab a Duff beer at the brand new Simpsons’ Springfield attraction. Just around the corner there’s Sea World and dicey off-road adventure can always be had on S. Orange Blossom Trail (not on any tourist map or ticket kiosk). Or you could head 45 minutes east and spend some time hanging out at the Lone Cabbage Fish Camp for a taste of the kind of food I grew up on, finishing up with an airboat ride around the St. John’s River fed Lake Poinsett.
Then, if you haven’t been yet, continue your journey up to NASA’s excellent Kennedy Space Center (KSC), then out to Cocoa Beach and a run through home boy Ron Jon’s original Surf Shop for a memorable dude experience before heading home.
In an USA Today article titled “Chevrolet Seeks Younger Buyers For New Corvette,” that other iconic manufacturer clearly states how they view the future potential of their aging clientle and how they hope to change course. Object of GM’s desire? Porsche, of course. And Audi, BMW, and (gulp!) Ferrari.
Although still the leading seller of sports cars in North America, those Vettes are driven on the backroads surrounding Indianapolis and Lexington, not L.A. and New York.
“The average age of a buyer of the current Corvette has been climbing each year and now is in the high 50s. It wants more of the upwardly mobile buyers in their 40s and even younger looking to reward themselves.” Hello, Harley.
“Project RUSHMORE (all caps) is a pure expression of our relationship with our customers and a shared passion for riding motorcycles,” according to Harley’s CMO Mark-Hans Richer and senior Vice President. That cryptic comment, coupled with the dual challenge of an invigorated Polaris Victory and a resurgent Polaris Indian as Made In America competitors, means the task of remaining number one in hearts and minds in a lackluster two-wheeled touring category has become more complicated.
papal prayer part of h-d marketing strategy
It appears as though management is tackling the problem with an aggresive marketing strategy that focuses on a combination of social media and what passes as evolved product placement for a global market. Having the Pope bless your top of the line models meant a prime-time mention across the broadcast and cable news spectrum. And it’s a far cry from the loner zeitgeist of that ’70s show “Then Came Bronson”, Milwaukee’s answer to the threat posed then by Honda’s goal of meeting the nicest people on one of their rides.
Meanwhile, salting new model year press releases with language that includes “bold graphics,” “Boom!™ (sic) Box” infotainment system, and a Beatle’s quote, it’s clear that style mostly precedes substance. But that probably works just fine for a hoped for market in the process of discovery, as opposed to the graying elders who’ve heard it, seen it, done it before.
Cute names aside, Google’s algorithms known as Panda, Penguin and who knows what’s next, are getting smarter. That’s good news for site operators who value creativity in their quest for SERP rank.
It’s important to keep Google’s goals in the proper context: their consumer is the person who enters a search term and expects to find a quality site in return. Google’s concern is not about individual sites, or the size of those sites.
Attention is focused on the individual consumer and how satisfied they are with the results of their inquiry – in short, how well does the search result match up with the consumer’s anticipated result.
there is no magic formula for success – but quality content is a key element
My own site, Siebenthalercreative.com, has been well received by Google for a number of years for search relating to powersports marketing. The SERP results are fairly consistent, and seem to support the general consensus that quality content is recognized and rewarded by Google.
My site is nowhere near the largest nor the most active within the power and motorsports community.
It also doesn’t get any advantage from having a sought after search term – in this case, “powersports” – in the domain or page URLs, or even in site directories. If that’s been the major thrust of your search strategy, Google has indicated it may not be enough in the future.
My goal since launching the site back in 2002 has been to create an easily navigable property within which is stored a variety of generalized information and industry specific updates, using a combination of individual pages and self-hosted blog posts.
concentrate on content for the best long term strategy
The result, after trying to pay attention to the hints and suggestions Google shares with their audience of webmasters, is consistently ranking on page one for searches involving the main marketing functions within the powersports community, including social media.
Will Gay Wears Yellow Shoes At Helm of Disney In-House Creative
What’s it like to head up the in-house shop in charge of Disney messaging? For Yellow Shoes creative director Will Gay, it’s just another day in the candy store, where his clients include Disney Parks, Adventures by Disney, Disney Vacation Club, Disney Cruise Line and Disney’s Aulani Resort and Spa.
Speaking to over 75 Ad Fed Tampa Bay members and guests, Gay recalled his beginnings as an art director and his fascination with how completely the Wonderful World of Disney, an NBC network pioneer in the early days of broadcast television, engaged the audience.
“I realized that what the audience was watching was just one big infomercial, and then it dawned on me that if people can be entertained they’ll forget they’re being advertised to,” a connection made as he studied how Walt Disney approached the marketing challenge.
Yellow Shoes the agency was the solution to a problem the various Disney brands – which includes eight theme parks – were having running their campaigns independently of each other. The agency’s name reflects the color of the footwear of Disney’s most famous icon, Mickey Mouse.
Gay’s biggest success, the recent Free The Goat campaign, was powered by Disney’s highly developed network of bloggers, a healthy portion of social media, and a popular Twitter #freethegoat hashtag that’s still popping up. The goal, aside from driving attendance, was to directly channel user involvement and to capture the unique metrics of a devoted consumer.
“To me the most important thing we need to do right now is listen to our customers. In order for us to get back on track, we need to talk less, listen more and fully partner with the customers who are the reason Dealer Expo exists.” Harris said. “Our industry has changed. What people need from this show has changed. But, we’ve been somewhat slow to embrace that. That ends today.” – Tracy Harris, Advanstar VP-Expositions
Houston, we have a problem. And we’ve had it for a long time. The buzz coming out of this month’s final forever February Dealer Expo was this: zzzzzzzzz. Most comments run along the lines of being able to talk to company CEOs without a crowd – any crowd – around, as unintentionally confirmed by most of the live (search YouTube for 2013 dealer expo) video already uploaded. (Read more about the issues facing trade shows: Trade Shows At A Crossroads)
While it’s been a few years since I last attended, YouTube reporting now making its way online supports the notion that Advanstar threw a party and nobody came. At least not in numbers unseen since the heyday of the mid 2000s.
move to september in 2014 a hail mary
Next year they’ll move to a (much more sensible, and perhaps fatally too long in coming) Fall event, a perfect time to be in the Midwest. All this follows a series of course corrections that can’t be described as anything other than chaotic.
Industry watchdog Joel Martin raised his own penalty flag as one of the first to comment publicly on the failure to deliver the dealer head count that is the lifeblood of a trade only event.
What happens next remains to be seen. The overall trend line for trade shows in general continues to head in the wrong direction. As newly added events like AIME elbow their way onto the scene, Advanstars options are increasingly limited but that doesn’t mean they’re dead in the water.
What it does mean is that the powersports industry cannot continue to support the current level of trade only activity at the present level. While hope these days revolves around the private-public EICMA and Intermot models, it’s possible the problems run much deeper than simply throwing open the doors to retail.
pri ends orlando run with successful show in sunshine
December’s 25th annual Performance Racing Industry trade show was the first under new owner Specialty Equipment Marketing Association (SEMA) and recorded a solid three-day run of attendees in search of merchandise.
Just before show open, SEMA announced the purchase of PRI rival International Motorsports Industry Show (IMIS), which has hosted a December trade only show in Indianapolis since forming nine years ago. Beginning in 2013, SEMA will combine both shows and move the event to the new convention facilities in Indy. continue reading here