| As I write this article, the news headlines are about the Dow falling significantly, real estate values dropping, gas prices are fluctuating, impending layoffs not only from city, county and state jobs but also some major employers in our state as well. This situation is not limited just to my state— this is on a global level.
There are no two ways of putting it: Our world has changed and there are a lot of people concerned right now about what the future is going to bring and that creates an overwhelming situation for the kayaking business community.
While we are a consumer publication, my responsibility as the advertising manager is to the manufacturers and service providers. My job is to assist them in not only educating our readership about their products, but also in helping them find new customers. Usually at this time of year pre-season orders from retailers allow manufacturers to forecast what their operating and marketing budgets will be.
Many businesses, however, uncertain about how today’s headlines will affect next year’s economy, are holding off on making any decisions. Much of my time is now dedicated to listening to advertisers’ concerns. Normally I’d be presenting them with different marketing and advertising directions. Anyone who knows me would certainly agree that not talking is alien territory for me, but they would also tell you that I am a student of history and a seasoned professional in the field of advertising and marketing.
So here is my message not only to the advertisers, but to the consumers as well.
First off, there is a wonderful thing about the sport of sea kayaking. We are a community that is driven by calories per mile not miles per gallon. This is an important point that needs to be promoted more. Sea kayaking is an ideal activity for those who are choosing a better quality of life, getting back to basics, and being self sufficient and capable while out on the water. People will always be drawn to the water and they will continue to look for ways to connect with and explore it. An economic downturn may very well put a significant amount of new paddlers out on the water as people downsize from larger and more costly watercraft. In sea kayaking they may discover physical and mental benefits that go well beyond the economic benefits.
Secondly, the use of advertising during an economic downturn allows companies bold enough to buck the trend toward timidity to establish a solid hold on the majority of a market. Take the marketing model of Coca-Cola during the Great Depression. The company took an aggressive and upbeat advertising campaign and quickly surpassed Moxie, a competitor with the largest share of the soft-drink market. Coca-Cola created such a huge market for cola that they even provided an opportunity for a new competitor on the market, a little company you may have heard of — Pepsi Cola.
In the sea kayaking industry we have a similar example of the effectiveness of a strong marketing campaign during a weak economy. During the dotcom crash a few years ago many companies in our industry started getting very conservative and either reduced advertising spending or cut it altogether. There is nothing wrong with that decision, but it can sometimes turn a blind eye toward a rare opportunity. The marketing director at NRS (Northwest River Supply) at the time chose to take the opposite approach. He increased his marketing efforts significantly, and nearly doubled the money NRS spent on advertising. The results of this effort were that NRS became the largest company of its kind.
We are on a path that is going to bring a lot of changes in our industry. Some companies will pull back and try to wait out the hard times. Others will be absorbed into larger companies. Some will choose to take bold steps and grow significantly.
Whatever the case may be, we here at Sea Kayaker magazine will continue to do our best to keep the sport and the industry that supports it moving forward and growing. We will, as always, do so with the attention to detail, objectivity and integrity that has enabled us to become the most respected publication in sea kayaking.