New Windsurfing Gear and the Cluetrain Manifesto

Peter Volwater at Hookipa

Peter Volwater at Hookipa

Spring 2011. We’re barely into the new year, but in the relentless pursuit of progress and better gear, the windsurfing companies are finishing up their line-ups for their 2012 gear and busy here on Maui right now with photo shoots of their team riders on the new gear.

If you’re an internet-surfing windsurfer you’ve no doubt already stumbled upon photos and video of 2012 sails and boards in action at Hookipa or Kanaha – some here on this website, many more on other blogs, websites and Facebook pages.

That’s great for you the windsurfing consumer. You get a sneak peak at new windsurfing gear, months before the products hit the stores or are even released in product brochures. You get to share photos and videos of that new 4 batten wave sail from brand X with your windsurfing buddies and speculate on the new material and panel layouts of sail brand Y or the new octo-fin wave boards from brand Q.

But did you know that this internet-fueled bonanza for you, scares and frustrates the hell out of many, if not most of the sail and board makers? How the hell are they supposed to control their marketing and branding if all of us bloggers, photographers and videographers are posting their new gear online months before they’re ready to promote it?

To be fair to the windsurfing brands, the problem isn’t unique to the windsurfing industry. It prevails across all industries in this internet age of social media empowered consumers. But the reality is that there really is no way any brand is going to be able to control what their customers and market are saying about them in this day and age. (For further reading on this check out: You No Longer Control Your Company’s Brand and Let Go, Customers Control Your Brand). So, the only alternative is to go with the flow, embrace and leverage it.

Why am I rambling on about this? Because, over the seven years I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve received feedback from some brands requesting that I take down or not publish some content that I get at the beach. When this happens, I usually comply, but end up just shaking my head, bewildered that sail and board makers, for the most part, haven’t accepted, much less embraced how the internet and social media has changed the game for them.

So, here’s the challenge to any windsurfing brand managers who may happen to stumble upon this little tirade of mine. Most of you need to rethink your whole marketing approach. This is the internet and social media age. People aren’t listening to your marketing message nearly as much as you think they are. They’re listening to what their friends are saying about your sails and boards on Facebook and on blogs and in YouTube. Accept the reality that photos and video of your gear is going to be online,  available to the public much sooner than it was 20 years ago. Stop trying to control it and figure out how to leverage this buzz.

Think I’m a crackpot and don’t know what the hell I’m talking about? This advice isn’t mine. The essence of this advice stems back to 1999 and a seminal work called the Cluetrain Manifesto. Windsurfing brand managers, get a clue and at least read the summary theses of the the manifesto. Then figure out how to change your old school marketing approach to leverage what people are saying, writing, and posting about you online.

The windsurfing brand that seems to be figuring this out the best, from what I can tell is Neil Pryde. I think it was a brilliant idea they came up with to do their 2011 photoshoot live. Update: I was pretty disappointed to see that Neil Pryde did their best to avoid showing you the actual product in these Live 2011 Photoshoot. Good idea, but they didn’t go far enough in my opinion. Maybe they finally realized that people like GP, Jimmy Hepp, myself and others will be posting photos and videos of their 2012 sails in action at the photo shoots long before the “official” photos end up in a brochure or magazine ad. So they’re embracing and leveraging the power of the internet. I’m hoping they take it a step further and embrace the inevitable consumer-generated content as well, not just their own.

So, the challenge the brands may perceive is how to present something new for their customers, when we bloggers have been splattering their new gear all over the web many months before they’re ready to release the info themselves. Maybe what the challenge should be is how do they maintain and grow that buzz and build off of what the bloggers and photographers have been putting up for months already?

Maybe a contest where the fans can participate, create mash-up videos of the new line-up? Maybe they don’t have to worry so much about presenting something new, but just fuel the buzz that’s already been started? A contest where they can have their customers vote on the favorite video or photos of  their gear that’s been posted online already? Maybe they need to get more proactive and just share content earlier. I have a suspicion that this is a big part of KP’s new role at Ezzy.

Are you a brand manager or work for a sail or board company? Have some insights on all this you’d like to share? Feel free to comment in the comments section. Give us your perspective.

Now some questions to you, the windsurfing consumer. What do you think about these sneak peaks of new gear? Do you want to see new gear now? Or would you rather wait to see it when it’s “officially” released during the summer? Do you think sail and board makers should step up and share stuff earlier? Should the windsurfing blog and Facebook community hold back the photos and videos of new gear until later when the brands are ready for it to be made public?

Ok, enough rambling. Time for a sneak peak video of some 2012 gear – Peter Volwater at Hookipa on a new Maui Sails Legend.


Special thanks to Maui Sails for being cool with me posting this short video online.


38 Responses to “New Windsurfing Gear and the Cluetrain Manifesto”

  1. Facinated April 3, 2011 at 2:28 pm #

    Good points there Jeff!
    Although it hurts the European summer season when shops are busy trying to sell the “latest” gear, the brands continue to release in the open in april. Like GP said and ,may thought, a week or so back, if you don’t want to get wet don’t dip your feet in the water. By filming at Hookipa you will be seen, no exceptions.

    Robby Naish hinted a few years back that a re-think is required on the design, promotion and supply time frame but so far nothing has changed.

    I think you are and your articles are right Jeff. A new approach in a new era is needed.

    I was talking to some “Brand guys” recently that were brainstorming ideas about releasing the new model gear all at once with a grand show off – perhaps on a nice beach somewhere (like the industry does for the dealers) but it included any sailors that want to come along and be a part of the photo days.
    EG. if brand x wants to release on-line the new range in August, then the “release party” can be held in Late July and photos taken at this time by Professionals and bloggers and customers can be splashed around by everyone only a week or so before the lot goes on-line. you have your usual pro work showing off the style and you have the blogger and early gearfreaks spreading the buzz all at once, maximising the hype.

    It will be interesting to see how things change in the next few years.

  2. Jeff Bennett April 3, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

    Thanks for the comment. I totally missed GP’s comment about it on his blog earlier. It’s on this page:

    I totally agree with GP’s take on it as well.

  3. Karen April 3, 2011 at 2:45 pm #

    Thoughtful and interesting commentary, Jeff. I remember seeing and hearing about Ford really embracing this philosophy with some of their recent product launches over the last year. Of course, Ford has deeper pockets than any windsurfing brand. But on the other hand, since the windsurfing community is relatively small, individual voices matter, word-of-mouth has even more weight, and if positive, provides greater value to the brand – it’s money they don’t have to spend.

    This article talks about some of Ford’s efforts, and emphasizes customer engagement, vs. social media involvement for its own sake:

    I think Maui Sails, through its forum, does engage its customers in a genuine way, and its principals, Phil, Rick, and Barry, are very approachable at the beach.

    Building off the launch idea in Facinated’s comment, promotional events at different windsurfing spots around the country (or world) could emphasize gear appropriate to local conditions, give local sailors a chance to try it, and to interact with brand representatives (managers or riders).

  4. Jeff Bennett April 3, 2011 at 3:03 pm #

    Thanks for sharing the article Karen. I think there’s lessons to be learned by the windsurfing industry from Ford’s approach.

  5. Michael Rossmeier - Rossi April 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Very interesting post!!
    I come along this topic several years now and it makes me crazy…

    Windsurfing Industry is committing suicide –
    we are receiving main deliveries of 2011 equipment in stores in Europe NOW (season just starts).
    All i see all over the web are 2012 gear photos…
    In my opinion this yearly run for being out with new stuff asap has to end at some point – the one way (controlled) or the other (some companies closing down). I would guess some big companies will need to go down before there’s a re-thinking of strategy.

    I mean – who even remembers how 2010 gear looked like.. I really need to think… 2009 – no idea how that stuff looked like… and my family owns a surfshop – something wrong with that eh…

    And well – who even cares about newest gear anymore – with this constant run for coming out with new stuff, the sensation of seeing or having something really new fades away…

    We’ll see how far this can go before something changes radically…
    I would say: Go and post those 2012 photos and videos, everybody else does it,… 😉

    All the best

  6. Jeff Bennett April 3, 2011 at 9:29 pm #

    Thanks Michael. You’ve hit on a whole other aspect of this issue, the perceived need to relentlessly put out something different every year, whether it’s really better or not. If the gear really performs drastically better, great. If we’re talking minute improvements or changes in graphics only, then it’s ridiculous to push out new gear. But each brand probably feels compelled to do it because all their competitors are doing it.

  7. Chris Jackson April 3, 2011 at 10:15 pm #

    Great topic Jeff,
    Keep the photos/videos coming this is the web generation and its only going to get faster and more instantaneous.

    I’d say the brands have to evolve a new business model, slow down, drop the annual product lines and websites and adopt a policy of continual development with new lines being released progressively and far less often. Plus they are a year wrong at the moment, this 2012 photshoot should be the 2011 photoshoot of the new gear being released in 2011.
    The marketeers try to tell us each year that new board or sail XYZ is “introduces a whole new level of performance” or somesuch with the implication that what has gone before it is now obsolete but in reallity its mostly just a bit different and not necessarily “better”. Meanwhile that £1500.00 wave board you bought 6 months ago is hard to sell for £500.00 even if it has been barely used.
    In my experience your average windsurfer is a well educated professional with a mind of his/her own who is not going to fall easily for unsubstantiated hype or believe something is now “eco” because a layer of veneer has been included etc.
    Plus some brands offer the same boards in several constructions, how on earth is an importer or retailer supposed to know what to stock without being stuck with a bunch of dead stock? It must be a nightmare… Just build the board the best way you can and offer that to market.

    Keep on posting please Jeff, and more videos, I much prefer the videos….

  8. Facinated April 3, 2011 at 10:56 pm #

    I am with Michael also with his views.

    With this topic having been discussed over and over for years on many forums there doesn’t seem to be much desire for changing the status quo. I do recall some industry guys saying that if they do not produce something new each year they can’t expect to sell enough gear to get paid.

    There is no doubt that the yearly cycle creates interest that encourages buyers (and there is a lag- time in shops if nothing new is arriving after a while). But, would 2 yearly cycles encourage more buyers long-term as they don’t feel they have spent money on outdated products, and are therefore happy to spend cash???
    Is the industry chasing the 3% of buyers that get new gear every year and forget about the rest???
    We often forget that there is a massive number of windsurfers out there that do not even know what’s new and are not following the bloggers and net stuff as much or at all, unlike the few vocal and daily net trawlers that like to keep in the loop.

    Do they need to consider product cycle times or a release date restructure or a wholesale distribution change?

    I think we may see a shift in thinking soon. I just takes the older guys running the show a bit of time to adjust to the new way of doing things that the young guys (read younger companies) can grasp much faster.

    Onwards and upwards,

  9. magnum April 4, 2011 at 1:02 am #

    I think the future belongs to those companies who arent bothered to change their products every year, but only when they come with someting better. Ezzy sails, the Loft sails for example act that way and I think in the long term it will pay good dividends for them.

  10. Garry Koop April 4, 2011 at 6:39 am #

    From a retailers perspective it’s just crazy. We haven’t even bought much of our 2011 boards and sails yet and people are already asking about the 2012 products they’ve seen.

  11. Jeff Bennett April 4, 2011 at 6:40 am #

    Good feedback guys. Thanks. Seems like the common theme emerging here is the yearly product release cycle. Is the product really better each year or just different? Maybe the new team rider wants the draft in the sail further forward or a crisper feel in the sail. Which leads to another question. Why change an entire product to suit one team rider. It’s the non team riders that actually buy the product yet so much of the development is driven but what one or two team riders think they need to win. Maybe I’m digressing a bit…

  12. Jeff Bennett April 4, 2011 at 6:42 am #

    Gary, from a retailers perspective, would it better to stretch out the product cycles? New product every two years vs every year?

  13. steve April 4, 2011 at 7:42 am #

    From a retailers perspective, it is better to stretch out the product cycles for sure! But also the end consumer can have more faith in what he is buying, the gear has more value, not half price after 6 months

  14. Plentypc April 4, 2011 at 9:43 am #

    Great thoughts Jeff

    Being of a cynical nature, do you not think that maybe these brands relish the leak of their new gear. There are many as photogenic, more secret locations than Maui where these shoots can take place at more affordable cost to the brand.

    Just a casual observation!!!

  15. Jeff Bennett April 4, 2011 at 10:26 am #

    PlentyPC, hadn’t thought about that but I don’t think so. The sense I’ve gotten from brand reps who have contacted me in the past is that they really want to keep it all under wraps until they’re ready to control what the public sees. Which is of course ridiculous given that they’ve got their team riders at prominent public locations such as Hookipa and Kanaha. I think some actually do go out of their way sometimes to shoot elsewhere. It’s a lot easier to avoid unwanted photos by going to Outer Sprecks or Secrets at Baby Beach or even at Camp One. Personally, I don’t go out of my way to try to find these guys and take sneaky photos like a paparazzi, but if they’re at where I’m at; Hookipa or Kanaha and if I’ve got the time, I’ll take some photos or video. Keep in mind that a lot of the brands are headquartered here on Maui so that’s one reason they do it here – along with the mostly consistent conditions that they can rely on.

  16. Michael Rossmeier - Rossi April 4, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Hey guys,
    I think most people who are a little bit involved are thinking exactly like you guys saying here… :)

    It is fact, that many boards and sails don’t change much or at all for 1-2-3 years – other than the graphics.
    Industry is fooling themselves – they might sell few boards more each year cause they push out new stuff – but there is no price stability at all anymore…

    Well, Maui is a great place to have those photo shoots, the teamriders are mostly here already, its good infrastructure and there are awesome conditions to do beautiful photos.
    However, they all try for years now to keep those pictures from the photo shoots off the web – without success – reason might be: anyway not bad thing for the brand itself, they are done with 2011 already, all photos are done, brochures are out, sales were done mostly already,… they’re now soon goin to start to think about 2013…

    From a retailers perspective it is horrible – as said we are receiving 2011 gear now in the shops in Europe (as season now starts slowly) – Retail prices being pushed up with the excuse of production materials getting more expensive – with the current policy discounts of 15-20% on the recommended retail price are necessary to be competitive in selling stuff – margins getting smaller make hardware more and more uninteresting as there’s no money in it.

    I was complaining a lot the past years to all those brands and there is nothing that will change – even had a 2 hour discussion with one of those brand managers in person. His arguments were quickly disqualified, then he was going to “its impossible to get those 4-5 people in the windsurfing industry agree on something” and after that we were at the sensational argument “too easy solutions for so complex problems are always suspect…” then he goes “… some time ago there was hittler, saying the solution was to kill jewes…” …. that was the point where i knew it was impossible to change anything really – just standing there with my mouth open trying to understand what he just said :)

    So at the end this tells me, basically they accept the fact that they would need to change something, but they are just not able to. It’s such a small windsurfing world where everybody knows everybody and still there seems to be no way for them to agree on a simple thing such as a 2 year product cycle (change half the range each year and you are not running out of news – easy).

    Of course it’s not easy for sure and I am for sure not the guy to change things in detail as i am for sure not the most experienced in all this, but just doing nothing is very lame…

    We’ll see how long this can go on – I am pretty sure it will get worse before it can get better…

    I see my interest already fading away from having the newest gear – and i am teamrider and working in this business – it is all the same stuff as last year anyway – just new graphics (which are nice i have to admit – still nothing changes in the fact that it’s all a stupid vicious circle that somebody has to break some day – and I think it won’t be the customer who can change it…)

    Interesting would be to have some kind of top organisation – doing an agreement/contract between all brands in the industry and overviewing it, to make sure everyone goes along with it – not sure something like this could exist or would be illegal anyway…

  17. Jeff Bennett April 4, 2011 at 11:23 am #

    Great insights Michael. Thanks!

  18. gary boates April 4, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Good article and great comments.
    Sailmakers will perhaps have to shroud their sails and paste on fake graphics while testing (like car company spy photos). Or provide a dealer pre-release complete with inventory before team riders/testers go out in public with a new product. Or do they really want to be ‘seen’ first?

    Or provide a release date (at Ho’okipa?) and have Keith talk about his latest Quad (via webcast) and Levi take it out (via helicopter remote link). And then make everyone wait 5 months for any product to be in the shops (a la Apple)… who knows how it will all play out – but the keyword is PLAY!!! Wish I was out on the reef with you dawgs!

  19. rebecca April 4, 2011 at 8:29 pm #

    thanks jeff for giving it straight up. I’m keen to try an octo-fin wave board! 😉

  20. Jeff Bennett April 4, 2011 at 8:37 pm #

    You might want to hold out until 2014 when the deca-fin wave boards hit the market. 😉

  21. Facinated April 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    Some great points coming through here.
    If I can add one last point about why I feel a change coming.

    The many world wide windsurf retailers are getting older and losing enthusiasm. Instead of being able to sell out of profitable businesses, they are giving up for lack of profit, perhaps they have added in kites or other stock, or moved over entirely. (Sure new young guys start new businesses, but find the reality of business hits them rather quickly.) Proponenets of capitalism say – adapt or die. But sometimes there is little you can do if your market is shrinking. In the Pryde 40 year book even Mr Pryde himself hinted at a possibilty of new distribution systems to reduce the number of competing stores having to make heavy price reductions on his gear in order for Pryde group to maintain the “premium image” they aim at.
    So I feel change is coming by necessity rather than choice.

    In my region this season, brand X (real – but not named) wanted to improve market share. They offered much larger price reductions on condition of larger order quantities to the retailers on a more direct buying program. For a number of reasons including RRP pricing, dealer issues, product desirability and customer apathy, the products failed to sell and 3 months into the season everything is heavily reduced.

    This now brings in two new problems.
    1) The usual devaluing of the product now and into next year.
    2) Can the retailer afford to take a chance on next years gear? Will it sell, will they have to continue the low price -non profit- level to sell forward, can they afford to buy new gear having taken this years loss, can they clear 2011 gear in 2012 and sell the lastest 2012 at the same time, are there enough sailors in the local market to take all of this gear, all in a decreasing market???
    Not to mention the effect this has on the other retailers in the region. Brand X did the same thing to the kite retailers also.

    At least there are brands out there that have decided to start limiting the changes on a yealy basis. examples of some are Exocet, RRD, and even Fanatic and Starboard have purposely not changed a few models. A cynic would say that this came from not having enough buyers left to sell to rather than a genuine interest in the health of the market.
    While Mr Ezzy can be applauded for much of his business model, he still does have new panel layouts and “graphic” or material changes on a yearly basis, but certainly much less hype.

    We could all be sailing happily and without dissadvantage on 2 or 3 year old model gear and using it for the next couple of years before replacing it, but I have to come back to the theory that the lack of new gear would affect the interest levels the brands strive for. so maybe it should be half the models renewed one season and half the next.

    It is going to take a big commitment from a market savy brand to take a chance and change the “groupthink” by themselves. Either that or because the current retail system dies.

    At least I know I am riding the best gear ever available, I just wish I had more time to use it, so it was worn out before it became obsolete.

    keep up the good work Jeff.

  22. Andy April 5, 2011 at 2:31 am #

    Hey – first of all Jeff mahalo for blogging and bringing up this topic. This is actually something the industry suffers from since mid 80s. Only on a different scale – in the 80s 300.000 boards were sold in germany alone per year! Some of them never getting wet though. And the whole industry, especially the retail was complaining about the devastating blowouts in late winter. The product cycles and retail competition structures have not changed much since, apart from everything getting smaller. There is not even a decent windsurfing retailer left in my town.

    What do I think about this?

    – The season printed on a board is part of the graphics. The number of windsurfers believing it’s 2012 because they see this number printed on the board is comparably small. It does not really matter.

    – The companies need to – and will to some degree be able to – control what consumers think about new products. The have the chance to say how a new board is INTENDED to be. They can be more or less convincing in doing so. But thats the starting point for all discussion and opinion thereafter. Thankfully there are other sources – mainly magazines (on- and offline), opinion leaders, friends. Manufacturers can push things in one direction and hope it won´t get off track on the way.

    – Going out with product novelties is a risk: It will only build your reputation if it´s really new and not just marketing rubbish. Magazines and opinion leaders will tell. You might be better off telling the truth and saying there was not much to improve this time. Some companies know that.

    – New gear purchases are driven more than some years ago by the need for replacement/end of lifecycle and by the improvement of personal skills, not so much by technological innovation.

    – Many companies and also the retail scene will not be able to pump as much gear into this declining market as they used to. Availability of new last years gear will decrease, prices will stabilize or move up. This is a self regulating effect on the problem.

    – I am reading your blog almost every day, Jeff, but I think you overestimate the impact of showing pics of next years gear on a blog. What information do I get here? I see the graphics, ok. But nobody tells me how the sail or board works and what it is supposed to do better than this years model. Good sailors may get a glimpse of the characteristic of a sail watching a video, but not much more. It´s like prototype car snapshots – does not get a lot of hands-on information to you. If you go and talk to people and sail gear and review (think Walt Mossberg) you have a lot more power on opinion making.

    – I need new gear.

    Aloha, Andy

  23. Jeff Bennett April 5, 2011 at 6:48 am #

    Thanks for the insights Andy. I don’t actually believe there is much of an impact of showing photos and videos of next year’s gear here. I think some of the brands overestimate the impact though. And I think they underestimate the buzz they could generate among windsurfers by doing it themselves. If nothing else it may help fuel the stoke and the desire to get out on the water and participate in windsurfing, which after all is said, is what the brands and the industry should be promoting.

  24. Windsurfer/Snowboarder April 5, 2011 at 8:04 am #

    I don’t understand where the problem is. Really!!! Take a look at snowboarding. All the top pros are not just doing photo-shoots but are already riding the new boards (winter 2011/2012). What are you guys expecting that they do a photos in a pool with a 30m fence.
    I also don’t understand your point Rossi, why is this killing the sales in shops? The stuff you see in the photos is available in shops till mid July and is not available at the moment. It’s not killing anything!!! If someone want’s to buy a sail he’s going to buy it or wait till July and buy it then…
    Photo shoots are normal in all industries and the new products has to be tested, approved, promote and so on. This hype and discussions around that topic is just stupid from any point off view.

  25. Michael Rossmeier - Rossi April 5, 2011 at 8:54 am #

    We just receive 2011 equipment in shops now – season is starting NOW (April/May 2011).
    Equipment you see now is available by mid July gives shops about 2 months to sell those products, after that they’ll need to be reduced in price further. You can say this is normal, but prices are dropping further every year right from the beginning cause new gear is already “inofficially public” earlier and earlier.
    Snowboarding in my eyes is different – its a mainstream market with probably thousand times more people in it…
    Photoshoots are normal, but they wouldn’t really need to be done in the epicenter of windsurfing at the main spot. Also the top riders are on those sails from now – this is about 2 months earlier than the past years – then they at least were not allowed to use the equipment in public until July or so…

    Anyway – maybe its stupid to discuss it cause it won’t change anything – it will need to regulate itself i guess…

  26. Windsurfer/Snowboarder April 5, 2011 at 6:51 pm #

    Hi everyone,
    I understood your point from the beginning Rossi, but the truth is shops has to adapt and start the cycle in July with the new equipment (so they have a full year, selling from July till November (full price) and from March to May (full price) and then June and July (at discount price)). And shops should stop competing with each other with low price policy and destroying the second hand market. Period!
    Why are you guys feel we should regulate something!!! It’s good that the pros are on the new equipment and it’s good the photo shoots are in Maui and is good that we can see the pics and dream of having it in July. (Thumbs up for the bloggers).
    You are right about snowboarding. Windsurfing should be more like snowboarding regarding image, style, videos, how things are done… so we should discuss those topics (and they are many) not how to keep pics of new equipment off public eyes (because this is good and normal).

  27. gary boates April 6, 2011 at 5:10 am #

    Think car industry. Product cycles are about five years. Take Honda Motor Co. as an example. There is a new Honda Civic coming out 2012. If you do not like the new style you rush to find one of the old style 2011 Civics. Otherwise only minor changes occur on a year to year basis.

    Also the discounts for Honda cars are from Honda Canada rebates (not dealer discounts). In Canada these discounts occur around November each year. By then inventories are very limited and the purpose is to ‘clean out’ the last few remaining models. Having the manufacturer control discounts and pricing is good for everyone. This way when you visit one shop, and then travel and visit another shop, that the pricing and the discounts are exactly the same. You shop for service and inventory. Manufacturer controls market pricing. dealers can throw in a harness….

    Some people here in Canada are trying to implement Brand Buy-in, most recently in the children ski and the kiting industry. You choose a brand, pay a cost price and a percentage and then subsequent years you get gear refresh for a very nominal fee. Customers not wanting the latest can wait for lightly used equipment at a discount as there is a ready supply. This eliminates predatory pricing where a large surf/kite/snowboard and windsurf shop can afford to put a small windsurf-only shop out of business by discounting.

  28. Michael Rossmeier - Rossi April 6, 2011 at 9:19 am #

    Yeah Windsurfer/Snowboarder, that would be the ideal thing.

    but as much as you can’t await from thousands customers that they don’t buy the cheapest over the internet, but go for the local surfshop offering great service as well, you can’t await from hundereds of surf shops to not drop prices.
    You can not influence them, there will always be some that go fully into the market with super small margins, destroying the prices. You could only regulate that somehow – OR – the next level (importer or international) need to regulate this themselves.

    Selling new stuff from July to November – yeah nice, but next years gear is not selling very well – some brands even produce gear for the “close-out-market” – it is common that people come in the shop and say “i need a new board, do you have anything close-out?” It’s a pre-years based market already.

    Windsurfing can not be all like snowboarding, they have a different size in their target group – it would be great to work the same, but there is probably thousand more snowboarders than windsurfers in the world 😉

    Keeping the photos from the public is not the right way, that’s true – If there’s something needed to be done, it is to prevent those photos are done at that time of the season.

    2 year product cycle, you have 1.5 years to sell the gear for normal price, then the new stuff is photoshooted and pictures reach the market – even officially is no problem then cause the market was receiving the product for a good time already… shops, distributors and producers can have bigger stock with less risk, marketing materials are valid longer, could make it possible to finally even develop something further rather than just changing graphics.

    Anyway, some things will change – will see how…

  29. Witchcraft Sailboards Fuerteventura-Bouke April 8, 2011 at 11:51 pm #

    I think it will go much further. As Chris mentioned above, in the future brands will just be producing the best gear they can and consumers will decide if it´s good enough and talk about it in social media. Bad news for brands that heavily depend on their marketing….. Very good news for consumers.

    I had a lengthy discussion with a german mag publisher 2 years ago on a german forum about testing without any influence of advertisers on the test results and how much people were willing to pay for such a test. The point he was trying to make was that no one was willing to pay that price.

    But in the end, aren´t consumers paying this advertising in the end? So they are paying this to brands to empower them to have tests being influenced. So why not throw this money at tests directly so you know what you are buying?
    It´s not going to happen like this but something similar through social media.

    There is another practical downside to this yearly product cycle. Products hit the market say in august. First local “teamriders” or so called “opinion leaders” at their local will get them, then loyal brand followers, others won´t till some discounting has started or just will buy something when they need it. This means that brands won´t get any usefull feedback from real consumers till say march. But the new models for the next year allready have been decided by then, especially with boards, molds will have to be made and tested, etc. This is stopping development more then it is helping it. Just look at these Quads.

    We are only a small company but work very differently, we produce in our own factory, much closer to our market and our demand is big enough not to have to produce for stock, we only produce what´s sold. We work by CNC, so easier to update if needed, no costs other than to make new CNC files. So well prepared for the future. Still we don´t update anything if we can´t think of anything better, not even the graphics. It also means we can take time to test something before bringing it out. No deadlines to meet. There are consumers who will jump at anything new and there are others who won´t buy it till it is nearly out of fashion again so they are sure they´ve got something proven and tested and any kind of consumer in between. So why not serve all of them and emphasize if something is proven and tested by leaving the same graphics?

    The future with social media will be very good for brands who produce good stuff. Less marketing to worry about, the market will do it for them. Great. It´s much more fun actually developing stuff than all this marketing politics.

    And retailers will have to change as well. Most have lost touch with their market and just take those brands in stock who is making the most advertising with the fanciest graphics (nice till you´ve got a repair, as people will start mentioning in social media). If they want to stay alive in this era of internet shopping, they will also have to learn to listen to social media about which product is actually best.

  30. Jeff Bennett April 9, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    Good insights Bouke. Thanks for contributing.

  31. Jeff Bennett April 10, 2011 at 4:06 pm #

    Interesting video from Barry Spanier and Maui Sails giving Barry’s perspective on this issue:

  32. Down under we are very lucky that new gear is delivered in July/ august before the intended season, so closeouts happening now are at the correct time beginning of winter.
    One ofnthe bigger problems though is the long lead time between seeing thenfirst shots and product in and receiving the first deliveries. It is minimum 90 days so even if the shop had the details for the new range now they wouldn’t get stock till beginning of August.

  33. chris April 11, 2011 at 9:01 pm #

    Its good to see that Quatro have moved to a 2 year product cycle for most of their range. It makes a huge difference when holding stock in a very small market.

  34. Chris April 12, 2011 at 5:51 am #

    Love the post, in my view you are 100% on the money. These ideas are what our whole marketing strategy is based on. Keep up the great work and I hope to see you at the beach soon, I will make sure have something special for you to see and write about (even if it will not be available in production for some time!)


    Head of Sales & Marketing, Black Project Fins, Maui, HI

  35. Jeff Bennett April 12, 2011 at 6:33 am #

    Thanks Chris. Interested to see what you’ve got, as far as product and marketing strategy.

  36. Krafty April 13, 2011 at 10:50 am #

    It’s an interesting topic for sure.
    I’ve just recently taken on the role of UK Agent for Exocet & XO and it’s quite reassuring that they do not change the whole range every year.
    Every year, some products in the range will change for sure, but not all. This allows retailers and consumers to invest in confidence that they won’t see their new toys on sale heavily discounted within a few months!!
    Top selling boards like the classic BiC Techno 283 didn’t change each year, but did see some graphic tweaks every couple years or so.
    The big difference between boards like the Techno and the latest greatest multifinned board would be that the new moulds are cheaper and designed for shorter runs compared to the hugely costly moulds BiC used. This fact in itself encourages brands to experiment and try new shapes with each new mould perhaps?
    It’s an interesting topic for sure, but I for one would like to see the new toys at least dressed in old clothes as best they can be, and the visual impact of the new shapes launched properly via the dealer meetings and then to the retailers & public, and, as with the policy of Exocet & XO, to avoid wholesale updating of the full range, allowing more focussed product development before releasing on the general public.
    Interesting times ahead, and keep the news and pictures coming as they are great shots, regardless of my musings ….

  37. Jeff Bennett April 13, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    Thanks Krafty. Good to be getting some input here from some people in the industry.

  38. Adrien2035 April 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm #

    Who is actually part of a windsurfing brand in all these comments???