For something as romantic and evocative as sailing, the marketing around most boating equipment is decidedly pedestrian: Many manufacturers promote their boats and engines with rigid content that is focused on product specifics and images, rather than consumer experience. That may not be the most efficient strategy, argues Michelle Dauchy, CMO for Mercury Marine, the world’s leading manufacturer of recreational marine propulsion engines.
So Dauchy is tacking Mercury’s branding to focus more on the end-user: the Saturday sailor.
Most Mercury consumers are boat dealers, distributors and builders — the company doesn’t sell directly to boating enthusiasts. So the bulk of Mercury’s marketing and sales efforts are designed toward its business partners. Mercury’s past ads have emphasized engine features like ease of maintenance and corrosion protection, for example, which are pretty dry.
But in its new campaign called “Go Boldly” this year, Mercury has stepped outside of that business-to-business mindset for the first time and instead talked about the fun one can have on the water.
The campaign — developed by Miami-based ad agency Markham & Stein — features the boating lifestyle: No matter what type of water enthusiast you are, you can hop on board to go finishing, cruising, swimming or simply enjoying nature with friends and family. The key message: Mercury provides the gear that allows you to do those activities.
“Boating is a very experiential category, so we want to create a desire and a more intimate relationship with the end-user,” said Dauchy. “Making our brand messaging as compelling as the real on-the-water experience is a challenge, but that’s the direction we are going. I think it can benefit our dealers, as well.”
Dauchy joined Mercury around 18 months ago. The advertising switch to the end consumer is driven by her over 10 years of marketing experience at consumer packaged goods company SC Johnson, which owns brands like Glade, Windex and Scrubbing Bubbles.
Jurene Fremstad, chief strategy officer for agency Olson, thinks that Mercury’s “Go Boldly” campaign is a great example of how to start the conversation with new consumers about boating and engines.
“It taps into exactly what our extensive research with Discover Boating [the boating industry’s national trade body] has shown people truly care about: How boating fits into their lives,” she said. “From fishing to family time, to exploring new waters, this work fuels their boating dream in a way campaigns focused on just the tech and specs cannot.”
“Go Boldly” is beginning to roll out in print, TV, social and boat show advertising over the next few weeks. The messaging can vary depending on what a boater is looking for, said Dauchy. For instance, fishermen usually look for efficiency and power while saltwater adventurers put safety as the first priority. So Mercury will serve different print, TV and digital ads that target those different demographics.
Dauchy declined to detail the digital components of this campaign at the moment, saying that “user-generated content will be part of the plan.”