In what amounts to a gradual return to normalcy, the Go RVing Coalition is looking to incrementally increase spending on the Go RVing market expansion program while taking steps to refine leads that dealers receive.
”We are spending at a much better level in 2010 than we did in 2009, obviously,” said Gary LaBella, vice president and chief marketing officer of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), following the coalition’s meeting last week in South Bend, Ind., during RVIA Committee Week.
”But we are still only halfway to where we were three years ago,” he added. ”We promised the industry we would spend efficiently and effectively. But let’s not kid ourselves, when you are spending half as much as you were three years ago, you can’t pull rabbits out of a hat. You are not going to make the same over impact on the consumer marketplace.”
LaBella pointed out that other industries have had similar problems — notably the boating industry, which canceled its Discover Boating marketing program altogether.
Meanwhile, amid rising wholesale shipments, the Go RVing per unit assessment for RVIA members remains $46 for folding camping trailers and truck campers; $61 for travel trailers and fifth-wheel travel trailers; and $74 for motorhomes.
As a result, the industry’s Go RVing campaign this year will spend $8.2 million on advertising buys compared to $3.5 million in 2009. Three years ago the ad budget was in the $16 million range.
To keep costs down, the coalition earlier this year introduced a new series of budget-minded ”Ambassadors of Affordability” ads using animated characters and unused resources from earlier phases of the Go RVing marketing campaign. LaBella said response of dealers, manufactures and consumers to the new ads has been positive.
”Our initial strategy of trying to do something fresh and new that would stand out in the clutter of advertising … has played out to our liking very much,” LaBella said. ”We feel good about the fact that we kept the program going at such a strong level. We are doing a lot with what we’ve got.”
Fewer dealers, however, are participating this year in the $225-a-year optional program that gives them 24/7 access to the Go RVing leads data base, a Go RVing ad builder and other marketing tools.
According to the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Assocation (RVDA) 390 dealers signed up for the program through the end of May compared to 442 dealers during the same period last year.
That could be, LaBella acknowledged, because of questions about the viability of leads that are sent to dealers when people contact Go RVing via its website, www.gorving.com.
During its meeting the coalition approved a ”lead prioritization” model suggested by its ad agency, The Richards Group, Dallas, Texas, that will identify key lead demographics and rate prospects in several categories from ” highly likely” to buy to ”interested”in buying.
”We will be able to get a better handle on where the potential buyer is in the lead process,” LaBella said. ”We understand there have been some questions about the quality of all Go RVing leads, but we are responding to it.”
LaBella said the coalition is taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding future spending increases.
”Everybody would like to see Go RVing return to the level of impact on the marketplace that we had three years ago when we had twice the (media) budget,” LaBella said. ”How do we get there? When do we get there, and how do we raise the money that is needed at a time when there is still unease in the RV marketplace?”
LaBella said he didn’t have answers to the questions, but that coalition members would be considering alternatives before a scheduled Oct. 6 coalition meeting during the RVDA’s RV Dealers International Convention and Expo in Las Vegas, Nev.
”There’s a point of debate,” he said. ”When is the right time to, No. 1, change the assessment structure, if it is to be changed, and No 2, what would be the expected results from doing so.”
”All that will be evaluated and debated over the summer. We will watch closely where the marketing is going and what the manufacturers and dealers are saying (about the need) for an assessment change of any sort.”