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Spend A Little More To Make A Lot More?
Why That’s Just Crazy Talk!

John Siebenthaler for Powersports Business Magazine

What do Coke, Porsche, Key West and Sprint have in common? Expensive advertising. That works. Notwithstanding the fact that they, and thousands more, are battling on a daily basis for what economists refer to as ‘discretionary income’, the companies mentioned depend on trendy advertising to attract consumers ...and deliver profits.

Key West excepted, the above examples are huge, highly visible, publicly held corporations. In my small (v-twin aftermarket) industry segment, the perception is that conspicuous ad campaigns are a luxury flowing from naturally occurring lucrative profits, rather than originating as a marketing necessity, properly supported with budgets adequate to the task.

In fact, most profits are a direct function of leadership that takes the creation and administration of advertising seriously. Simply put, great advertising can sell sand in the Sahara. Bad ads can’t give away a life jacket to a drowning man.

When a company like Anhauser-Busch puts on a couple of dim-bulb lizards as corporate front men, you can bet your last master link a campaign costing hundreds of millions wasn’t dreamed up on the secretary’s desktop pc.

So quiet you can hear a pin drop? Maybe, maybe not. But if you’re thinking about switching phone carriers, the image of that pin bouncing around in slow motion might just be the hook that sways your decision to Sprint. Both examples of retail advertising ran (and continue to do so) because they work.

There’s a common, faulty conception in our industry that we’re only competing within the powersports group at large for a consumer’s discretionary spending. Wrong. Our competition is the bathroom remodeling project, the luxury vacation, the new sailboat. It’s the better school for junior, the patio spa, the new set of golf clubs - and the country club membership to go with.

A major difference between investor-owned companies and sole proprietorships is a board of directors and the shareholders they represent. You will not find a publicly held retail business that doesn’t expect, and support, a vigorous ad program sustained by a dedicated budget.

Put another way, if corporate advertising wasn’t an absolute proven necessity, those ad billions would be returned to shareholders in the form of dividends – or directors in the form of bonuses.

Sales are driven by two disciplines working together; marketing and advertising. We’ll assume you’ve identified and understand your particular market. Advertising, then, is the process of communicating why Bob’s Really Big Bats are superior to Bill’s Really Swell Bats. One hundred percent all natural wood? Authentic space age aluminum? Traditional styling? More economical? It’s a creative knack, not an absolute science.

Making sure your ads hit the mark is not...a strategy best derived from the “that’s all we can afford” school of business administration. Initiating the communication process with a budget bias for cheap is a prescription for certain failure. Likewise the expectation of results from the “We’ll do it ourselves with the software that came with the computer,” scenario.

Manufacturers in the v-twin aftermarket don’t consider their products cheap, insignificant, or inconsequential. (Most certainly aren’t priced that way.) Yet the market’s absolute dependence on the trend/fad for anything Harley (or Harley related) speaks volumes about the enormously successful branding by TMC, coupled with the public’s general inability to differentiate between generic and The Real Thing.

By all indications, that’s about to change. And if you’ve bet your Cote d’Azur retirement on how much wasn’t spent building market share and brand identity? Then worry is probably a better emotion than panic.

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