Would you buy into a new class of boat because you heard that someone you admire had bought the boat?
Who are the first people that buy the first boats in a new class? Why do they do it? What kind of sailors are they? And do they have any influence on who buys the boat next and how quickly the class takes off?
Do boat manufacturers deliberately target the first sales of a new class to people who they think will influence other people to buy that boat too?
I've been asking myself these questions over the last few days after meeting some of the other early adopters of the RS Aero at our North Americans the weekend before last, and after reading about who else has been buying RS Aeros.
A comment from R3 on my post in September last year RS Aero Tidbits touched on the same issue.
I thought that it was interesting that the first French review was by someone who likes windsurfing, kitesurfing and sport catamarans, and the second one was by a skiff sailor. It's not only aging Laser sailors who are checking out the RS Aero!LOL!
Oh yes, God forbid that the RS Aero should get a reputation only as a boat for aging Laser sailors. Especially a bottom half of the fleet old duffer like me!
Aging - and apparently very slow - Laser and RS Aero sailor
So who are the first RS sailors?
At the first RS Aero North Americans we had...
Dan Falk - 2nd in Lasers at 2014 North American Laser Masters
Dan Falk in his other boat
Michael O'Brien - 1st in Radials at 2014 North American Laser Masters. Michael also has a blog about RS Aero sailing - AeroNautic.
Michael O'Brien demonstrating how to save an RS Aero from death-rolling.
Photo from AeroNautic
Bill Symes - 2nd in Radial Great Grandmasters fleet at 2015 Laser Masters Worlds
Bill Symes in his other boat
OK. So perhaps R3 would call all these guys "aging Laser sailors" but they certainly are way better sailors than me and I suspect that hearing that they are adopting the RS Aero might well influence other Laser sailors to try out the Aero too.
There were three teenagers at the RS Aero North Americans too.
One was a kite surfer.
One was a 29er sailor.
Yannick and Declan Gloster at the 2014 RS Feva Worlds in France
Very impressive young men. That should go a long way to counter the "aging Laser sailor" tag. The cool kids sail RS Aeros too!
Since returning from Oregon I have also discovered that Hank Saurage from Texas, one of the top Sunfish sailors in the world has bought an RS Aero. Hank regularly finishes in the top 10 at the Sunfish Worlds and was 2nd at the Worlds a few years ago. Are you listening my Sunfish sailor friends?
Hank Saurage at 2009 Sunfish Worlds
And then today I read about an event in Europe in the last few days. The RS Tera is the RS Sailing singlehander for youngsters. They have been holding their World Championships in the Netherlands with 107 kids racing in the event. At the same time and place the RS Aero Class held their Euro Lift-Off and Eurocup. And two former RS Tera World Champions were sailing in the RS Aero event and placed 1st and 2nd in the RS Aero 5 fleet. You think a few of the 107 RS Tera sailors (and their parents) noticed that? Not to mention all the RS Tera sailors who read about this on social media.
RS Tera Worlds 2015
Will Taylor - 2011 RS Tera World Champion
and first in RS Aero 5 class at 2015 Eurocup
I know next to nothing about marketing - especially marketing of boats - but a quick search around the Interwebs revealed that there is such as thing as "Influencer Marketing."
According to Wikipedia...
Influencer marketing, (also Influence Marketing) is a form of marketing that has emerged from a variety of recent practices and studies, in which focus is placed on specific key individuals (or types of individual) rather than the target market as a whole.
It identifies the individuals that have influence over potential buyers, and orients marketing activities around these influencers.Hmmm!
Is that's what's going on here?
Are some of the examples above due to influencer marketing by RS Sailing or their dealers, or did it all happen by chance?
Even if my examples aren't the results of deliberate influencer marketing, do you think they will motivate others to consider the RS Aero?
Are there other "influencers" that RS Sailing should be targeting?
Who would influence you to buy a new boat? Would you be more likely to by into a new class because the cool kids are sailing it, because the top sailors in your existing class are buying it, or because a friend has bought one?