The 3 Big Problems with Marketing in the Marine Industry


If you’re a marketer in the boating industry the thought may have occurred to you that, for all its emphasis on product advancement, the sector as a whole is still stuck in the mud on some very important marketing issues. Here’s our 2 cents and nickel of advice.

1. Viewing the product as an end result rather than part of a larger experience.

Manufacturers at every level – from premium yachts to the smallest pieces of on-board equipment – tend to see their product as an endpoint. This explains the rigid content focus on specs, images that isolate the product, and very little emphasis on how the product enables the end user to have a certain kind of experience.

Our work with Hinckley was a rare departure from this – a website that balanced boat images with environmental backgrounds. The result: An emphasis on a lifestyle aesthetic of which the boat was a key component.

What to do about it: Rethink visual branding. Reacquaint yourself with ingredient branding. And start talking to photographers and agencies who understand how products fit in the world of consumer experience.

2. Homogeneity in ad content.

Flip through any of the major boating mags and you’ll see the same thing month after month: an ocean of blue sky, white hulls and water spray, and blonde women in bikinis stretched out and sunning themselves on the deck.

Boat and product manufacturers need to know this: Effective print advertising is predicated on capturing attention through differentiation – quickly.

The rule of thumb is 2.0 seconds. That’s how long you have to distinguish the ad’s visual presence and enable the reader to create a mental impression of the content. If your imagery and language is indistinguishable from its surroundings, there’s even less possibility the reader will grasp it.

What to do about it: Start thinking outside the boat and the bikini. Experiment with different logo placements in your layouts. Add a new signal color to the brand standards. Start using imagery –photography, illustration, graphics, fonts – that takes a different path from the advertisers you call your competition.

3. Consistency

Consistency is good in advertising – to a point. But a media buy that secures the same ad space over time will have diminished effectiveness. Here’s why:

Consumer preference is a bell curve as it relates to advertised products. Initial exposure, if repeated, will result in awareness and interest.

But repeated reinforcement will peak and decline over time – and overexposure creates perceptions of overabundance and lower quality. Think about the steady frequency with which many low-end consumer products are advertised – fast food, personal injury attorneys, big-box furniture stores. The painful consistency of their message turns their advertising into cheap wall paper.

What to do about it: Change ad creative content frequently. Reconsider your media mix with no sacred cows. Explore online ad placement outside of boating sites. And contact us.

If you’re a marine or boating brand and you’re tired of cruising in the same waters, contact us.