Marketing for Dummies
So here’s what I think—Golfsmith blew it by thinking small time.
Sure, it’s a cute promotion and will generate buzz and likely some sales. And I'm sure there’s an insurance policy involved that makes it relatively risk-free for Golfsmith. Besides, Garcia has missed the cut three of the last four years at Augusta. But if they truly wanted to make some noise—and generate some sales—here’s a better idea. Expand the idea. A lot. As it stands, the promotion only appeals to those interested in a TaylorMade driver. But just as Jerry Seinfeld once said about the infamous puffy shirt, “But I don’t wanna be a pirate!” what about those who say, “But I don’t wanna buy a TaylorMade!”? So here’s what you do. Use the same promotion but open it up to include virtually every driver manufacturer. Nike purchasers get a refund if Tiger Woods wins, Callaway and Phil Mickelson, TaylorMade and Sergio, Titleist and Adam Scott, Cleveland and Vijay Singh, Cobra and Geoff Ogilvy, Ping and Lee Westwood, Wilson and Padraig Harrington, Adams and Chad Campbell. Heck, you could even throw in Fuzzy Zoeller and PowerBilt if you were so inclined.
Idiocy, you say? A guaranteed loser for Golfsmith? Oh my short-sighted friend, you’re not doing the math. According to Golf Datatech, approximately 180,000 drivers were sold last April at on- and off-course golf shops. Right now sales are off about 10 percent so lets call it 160,000. If the above promotion were running, don’t you think a good number of the folks likely to buy drivers would go to Golfsmith because there was a legit chance they could end up getting it for free? And what kind of buzz and attention do you think such a promotion would generate for them? Best of all, it’s not a slam dunk there would be any refunds at all. See wins by Trevor Immelman, Zach Johnson, Mike Weir and Jose Maria Olazabal in the last decade as evidence.
I should go into marketing.
GOUGE: I'm sure there's an opening at Golfsmith for you right now. Probably behind the cash register at the Minnetonka store. I, on the other hand, think Golfsmith got it right, probably by being realistic first, and second, by saving themselves the opportunity to do similar future promotions.
As Matt Corey, Golfsmith senior vice president of marketing and business development, explained it to me, "We're doing something unique in the industry with this promotion, but my hair is a lot more gray than it was. We've worked fast and furious the last 60 days to make this happen." Corey told a story that on Saturday in the company's flagship store, a man was interested in a specific hand/loft/shaft flex combination on a new TaylorMade driver that wasn't available. When his wife suggested they just go somewhere else and buy the club, her husband reminded her that if Sergio won the Masters his new purchase wouldn't be free if he didn't buy it at Golfsmith.
Now that story doesn't have to be true, but the logic holds. And as Corey reminds me, "I can't pay for that type of marketing." I doubt Sergio contends at Augusta, but if he does, Golfsmith gets the benefit for the cost of an insurance policy.
Still, I'm a little troubled. If people need gimmicks to get in the door of their favorite golf retailer, I'm wondering what information has been lost in translation, people. What's next? Free hot dogs and ice cream at every retail outlet? Employee pricing discounts? Government bailouts?
There are only two reasons to buy a consumer product: Either what you have needs to be replaced, or the new stuff is, as Ely Callaway used to say, demonstrably superior. Trouble is, we are looking for the dramatic improvement we saw 10 years ago, or even five years ago, and it just isn't as apparent. Of course, that doesn't mean it isn't there. Driver hot spots have expanded over the last few years, but that improvement is not as obvious as it was when average driver head sizes were growing at what seemed like 100 cubic centimenters a week. You can't really look at a new driver today and see that it screams improvement. (Some are even getting smaller!) What is better is how we get you in the right driver, how each driver is smarter and sleeker and more likely to fit you than the previous generation. But you have to be willing to make the effort to go through a proper fitting with a qualified expert.
But if you need gimmicks, well, then you're just not paying attention. Of course, that might be the nature of marketing: to get you to pay attention to something that should be obvious. It just might be why the team at Golfsmith is the smartest guy in the golf retail room right now. There is a certain roll-the-dice aspect to the whole campaign, which is sort of enticing, but the fact remains: There shouldn't be any doubt whether your new driver is better than your old driver. A launch monitor doesn't lie. So take your old 975D to the shop and put it up against the 909 DComp and see if you see better numbers, not just on the best hits, but on the worst ones, and the average ones, too. And the best news is if your old driver is better the numbers will say so, no questions asked.
(By the way, all you aeronautical engineers can relax. Adams fixed the formula for the drag equation that appears in ads promoting its new Speedline driver, replacing the lowercase letter p with the Greek letter rho (representing density). Alert reader David McAlees reminded us of the obvious glitch, which I'm sure we would have realized on our own after another couple of years. But since some folks seem to think golf consumers only care about the chance to get free products, I doubt a corrected physics formula is going to resonate. Too bad. It should.)