Engage the Consumer and the Distribution Channel for Optimal Results


Polaris personal watercraft (PWC)  historically placed last in market share. The challenge was to increase sales and market share without eroding either Polaris’ or the retail channels’ already low margin.


After conducting a thorough SWOT analysis it became clear that a series of tactics that worked in unison in order to fully engage the retail channel and focus limited resources was needed to achieve the goal of 73% sell through rate through the following:

  • Build dealer and consumer confidence
  • Engage the sales channel (dealer network)
  • Increase Awareness through very specific and targeted opportunities
  • Increase repurchase and brand advocacy
  • Gain greater insight into customers purchase and repurchase motivations

A series of programs and tactics were developed to address the objectives listed above:

  •  Know the Way Out –  Retail channel training designed to engage the dealer network with product knowledge and sales techniques. Track dealer progress and reward participation.
  • Ride the Right Stuff – Dealer principal and sales person incentive program designed to reward and engage the dealer. Gain share of mind in the retail channel.
  • Polaris in Paradise – a retail consumer program designed to target key market areas. This seasonal promotion (Jan  – April) pulled consumers in during peak selling season and provided tiered marketing support for maximum impact and effective use of resources
  • Ride of Your Life – A national retail promotion that included the entire Polaris product offering (ATV, Snowmobiles Motorcycle and PWC)


The results were closely tracked: (click for polaris results for graphs)

  • During the full year that these programs ran July 1, 2003 through June 30, 2004, the dealers that were fully engaged retailed 7 times the number of units than their counterparts who did not participate in any program.
  • During the peak promotional timeframe Jan – April 2004 participating dealers doubled their sales
  • By June 30, 2004 Polaris had gained 3 points of market share and moved from fourth place to third

Key Learnings

A retail sales channel that is fully engaged with a variety of programs such as training, dealer principal incentives as well as sales person rewards combined with comprehensive consumer retail promotion strategy result in the most effective use of limited resources

Sea Ray and Social Media: Life at the Water’s Edge


Companies are eager to keep a current, fresh public image.  Today, Social Media is a must to achieve that goal.  But before joining the social media movement, there are a number of questions to consider.  The following represent a few that I am addressing at Sea Ray.

1.  What was the opportunity that presented itself to Sea Ray as to why we went headlong into social – other than that’s what everyone is doing?
Though we do pride ourselves on being on top of the game as one of the first manufacturers on social, we always make sure we’re boating where we know the water, so-to-speak.  The networks we operate on were chosen because they fit with specific targets within our demographic.  For example, we were one of the first brands to create a Facebook page, utilizing tabs with back-end tracking, and creating a proprietary Facebook application.  On the other hand, we didn’t jump on to Pinterest for one reason:  our demo is simply not there, and to allocate resources to a space where our activity has a minimal chance of being valuable would not be in the best interest of the brand.  So though Sea Ray has definitely been the “first” in many instances, the opportunity we saw (and continue to see) with social lies in the unique interaction abilities offered by social media.  We have passed the big box era of communications and are now in a period where the individual can, and expects to, interact one-on-one with brands.  From branding recognition, to customer service & reputation management implications, to lead growth opportunities, the possibilities and reasons for  Sea Ray to be active on social media are vast.  What is distinctive about  Sea Ray within the boating industry is the same as on social media:  the breadth of the model lines.  With advancements in targeting on social, we are now in a unique position where we can isolate specific demographics to optimize who sees what, and ensure our messaging is customized for the individual owner.

2.    What is/are Sea Ray’s objective(s) with regard to Social?
Our current goals are three fold:  Consumer Awareness, Customer Engagement, and Branding.  Awareness encompasses seeking out new lead options and introducing them to the brand, which is where the third bucket comes into play by prominently displaying who Sea Ray is, what the company stands for, and why Sea Ray boats are the superior option.  The second bucket, Customer Engagement, involves activating Sea Ray’s loyal owner base to:   1. Spread the brand awareness (thus continuing the Objective circle), and 2. Keep the brand top-of-mind and promote new product initiatives as these owners progress along the purchase cycle.

3.    What does success look like?
Right now, we are succeeding organically, but if we want to ramp things up in 2012 we need to focus on targeting.  It is important to note that though growth is necessary to achieve critical mass, success on social media is not just about collecting the most  “likes”.  A” like” is a static measurement, and only signifies a one-time interaction.  The measure of true success is the activity and liveliness in branded social communities. Once we set up our macro and micro conversion points for 2013, we can accurately depict a success landscape and track our activity based upon this set of parameters.

4.    Are we winning in the social arena?
That depends on your goals.  If as far as the current metrics we are using go, and our current comparisons against competitive brands:  Yes, we are winning.  Does that mean that there isn’t room for improvement?   No.  There is a lot we can do and that remains to be done to solidify Sea Ray’s spot on the forefront of the social sphere.

5.    What has been the YOY growth?

  • 1.    Facebook: 70% growth overall; 180% growth on the Sea Ray corporate page
  • 2.    Twitter: 64% growth
  • 3.    YouTube: 82% growth
  • 4.    Instagram: 370% growth


Aqua2009 1 Aqua 2009 2 AquaPalooza 2009 3 Aq 2009 5 AquaPalooza 2009 4AquaPalooza


The World’s Largest In-Water Event! Sea Ray launched in 2006, this event grew from a handful of dealers to over 100 locations around the globe and the signature event in 2010 boasted an attendance of 60,000 – the raft up stretched ½ mile from the stage to the last row!


Artists Included:

Taylor Swift

Alan Jackson

Brad Paisley

and others


The strategy behind this concept was to take an activity that already existed and brand it as our own. For decades boaters have gathered together in “raft-ups” or informal gatherings when they are out on the water. Sea Ray dealers were great at organizing local events for their customers, there were drawbacks: 1. the local approach lacked an outreach component, because the events were closed to just a few of the current owners there was no mechanism for enticing brand switchers nor an ability to find new entrants to boating. 2. No method to drive consumers to the dealership; dealers and their customers would meet at a rendezvous point usually at a marina or on the water. 3. Dealers would frequently change the dates of the events or announce the dates very late in the year, both issues would not allow consumers to plan their vacations around an event.

The AquaPalooza strategy addressed these drawbacks by providing the following:

  • Branded Marketing Support
  • Promoted early for planning
  • Sponsorship support of other brands such as: SONY, GMC, etc..
  • Consumers encourage to visit dealership prior to event


Brand Advocacy Process

Building advocacy through a comprehensive and meticulous approach to brand management has been the single-minded purpose of my 20 year journey  working with some of the world’s best-loved and most respected brands. It is this philosophy that I first learned at Harley-Davidson and have successfully built upon with each brand I have been fortunate enough to be a part of during my journey managing global iconic brands.

Behind the creation of these great brands lies a systematic approach that begins with an in-depth understanding of the target audience and is driven throughout the organization ensuring brand integrity at all consumer touchpoints including; product offering, customer service and messaging. The brand model can be summarized as follows:

Having executed this approach successfully in business to consumer and business to business environments, I believe the net result is as follows:

Sea Ray Brand and Marketing Review for Sea Ray China

Portfolio Management: Better consumer insights and competitor analyses will anticipate market preferences and improve products (e.g., enhanced charters, holistic portfolio plans)
Product Execution: Products preferred by consumers allow for higher pricing, better margins and lower discounts
Accelerated Product Development: Results in ‘fresher’ products in the market that drive consumer interest and generally diminish the need for associated discounts
Reduced Product Costs: Create opportunity to increase margins and offer lower retail pricing (more competitive pricing requires less discounts), need to consider design and operations
Brand Management: Increased brand equity and improved consumer metrics allows for higher pricing and lower discounts
Improved Communications: Messaging will be driven throughout the organization and rigorously applied to all communication channels, marketing campaigns and media outlets
Channel Management: Align with dealers properly representing the brand and our products, monitor and manage metrics

How to leverage your brand advocates to grow your customer base

The goal of achieving customer satisfaction is not enough in a highly competitive market. After all, what is a satisfied customer? Generally, these are customers who have done little more than given themselves permission to switch brands. This begs the question “Why do they switch brands?”

Imagine this scenario:  a new customer buys and enjoys your product, which works well and has received good service experience, and that’s about it. However, a friend who has purchased your competitor’s product/service, raves about their experience. So the satisfied customer thinks – “Hey, they must have something I’m missing, it has to be better right?” In reality the product may be technically inferior, the service a little less responsive, but the consumer advocate feels as though they are part of something. Perhaps the consumer advocate has been given some special access to the company or is part of larger group that is well organized and energized. The consumer advocate encourages brand switchers and attracts new customers to the brand. Therefore, nurturing consumer advocates is the cornerstone to great brands.

Harley-Davidson and Sea Ray, two of the world’s more well know “lifestyle brands” focus on understanding and growing advocacy. The strategies employed move beyond simple loyalty programs. Newsletters, calendars, magazines and point-based programs do little to build loyalty and even less to encourage advocacy. So how do we, as marketers, create and nurture advocates (see attached).

  1. Leverage membership higher up in the in the customer journey (purchase funnel)
  2. Move from benefits to “access”, the notion of “in the know” is appealing to many buyers
  3. Enable members to take ownership of their brand experience
  4. Provide greater opportunities to socialize and connect. Not an organization but a collection of like-minded enthusiasts

By understanding what energizes your consumer base and focusing their passion outward you can begin building a world-class advocacy program.

Measuring Brand Engagement


Beginning in 2010 Sea Ray invested heavily in revamping its brand identity. This comprehensive strategy included understanding customer behaviors and attitudes about the brand, developing brand and sub brand positioning and creating the brand “pillars: that support the new consumer-centric positioning. However, what was lacking from this exercise was a way to measure if our work was resonating with consumers.


To gain greater insights into the effectiveness of the brand positioning and pillars we developed a brand engagement process that measured the following:

  1. Target Segment Health: How does Sea Ray score against the competition with respect to key consumer purchase drivers
  2. Brand Associations:  How does Sea Ray compare with respect to delivering its brand promise as stated in the four supporting brand pillars
  3. Brand Funnel Performance: Which areas within the purchase funnel are we strong or lacking
  4. Monthly Metrics: what are the most important measurements and how effective is our digital/social strategy

In order to better understand the four areas for measurement we developed a brand engagement process that includes the following:

  • In – depth Analysis: Consumer brand association metric
  • Brand Association Opportunities: Specific insights into which trigger(s) will move the brand forward
  • Program Matrix: Developed a matrix that ranked the impact of the following:
  1. Customer Touchpoints
  2. Filters: Reach, cost, impact
  3. Programs/ initiatives
  • Re-Test


Because we focused on targeted consumer segments, consumer behavior and specific issues that are affecting the brand we were able to get a better understanding of how to prioritize resources that will move the brand forward.

Brand Strategy Model

Developing a comprehensive brand strategy begins with an alignment of the brand with the consumers’ value system and ends with consumer advocacy.  The role of the change agent within the company is to drive the brand positioning throughout the organization by ensuring that the consumer’s desires are included all aspects of the brand from strategic drivers  to the products/service, programs and initiatives. This approach ensures Brand Integrity throughout the organization.

Stake Your Territory

Consumer research indicated that Volvo had a unique opportunity to separate itself from the traditional brands in the market. Consumers viewed Volvo as progressive, innovative and forward thinking. This provided an opportunity to create a clear distinction with both the b2b and b2c consumer.

“Some are attached to the old ways like a ball is attached to a chain”