Early morning at a bustling brokerage somewhere. A fresh-faced broker approaches one of the executives to put forward a marketing idea he’s been working on. One of them has had too much coffee that a.m., the other too much wine the previous p.m. Pleasantries are exchanged, each other’s tie sub-consciously assessed, and then the junior staffer makes his move.
“So about the new ad campaign for the glossies. I really think we need to move away from the status quo. Maybe provoke a bit of intrigue, challenge the boring old norms.”
“Well I couldn’t agree more. Take absolute free license to make that happen. Just so long as you include a picture of a yacht underway. Preferably with all of its toys in the water making pretty patterns in the wake.”
“Right. That’s what I mean, that’s the status quo. That’s what I think we want to differentiate ourselves from. Sales are slipping, I don’t think we’re connecting with the next generation of owners. We need new angles, a fresh start.”
“Ok. Yeah. I hear you. New angles. I’ve got it. Let’s try a shot down the side deck of a motor yacht. High noon, low-angle, lots of teak. We can even do it in black and white.”
“Mmhmm. I see. Well. I guess it isn’t another aerial…”
“And let’s have a solitary woman, walking down the deck, back to the camera. Maybe wearing a classy black bathing suit, but daringly cut. Nice wrap or sarong on her, worn off the shoulder. Sun hat. Champagne flute held just so. Like this. And long legs. Really long. Extra glossy.”
“All of it.”
Ad nauseum. No need to translate the latin there, we’ll tell you. It means sick of ads. Repetitive, boring, uninspired filler that can only be intended to remind you that a place is still in business, has access to a high-quality camera, and knows people who like to drive boats in circles.
Whats wrong with that? Apart from being penetratingly dry, not much right? They’re nice to look at, even if the words ‘quality’, ‘luxury’, and ‘pinnacle’ are used so often as to become the verbiage equivalent of an expired lottery ticket. And sure, if you saw one or two of these boat ads in isolation you might say, “Wow, what is that thing and where can I get one?” But 52 pages into your favourite yacht magazine – and 104 photos of a vessel ‘gliding across an azure sea’ later – you begin to feel a bit queasy. Because the trouble with someone trying to feed you a dream is before long you begin to feel like you ate a pillow.
Why the lack of differentiation? Why so repetitive, even amongst competing brands? Why does no one grab a share of market attention by breaking the mold, or at least flexing it?
For the incumbents of the industry it’s because there’s no reason to create a ruckus by suddenly going avant garde. What would be thought of that? If an established shipyard were to run a tongue-in-cheek campaign based on the slogan ‘We guarantee the yacht we make you will outlast your marriage, or we’ll get you another,’ there is little chance that this would go viral in their target market. And even if it should, the perception is that the it will be ire – not orders – that’ll be raised.
Or why would an international brokerage house, one with a roster full of deep-pocketed clients, try to make a play at humour by publishing an ad diagramming the greatly increased radius a wealthy person can maintain from poor people at all times while at anchor off of a chosen port, rather than hoed up in a shoreside hotel? It simply isn’t worth it. Their image is stability. Boring old (profitable) stability. The advertising reflects this in high definition.
And for the new kids on the block, the upstart yards and boat sellers, it is that same gravitas and solidity they are keen to put on when they too follow suit and go for more-of-the-same ads. They’re already concerned that their newcomer status will scare off clients, wary of losing millions in a yard that previously knocked together ferries, or in some cases nothing at all. And if you’ve never sold a boat before, the prevailing wisdom seems to be ‘act like you showed Noah the ark’. Established-sounding names stamp the pages, and expensive-looking fonts assure the reader of the experience of this new company, to a level that jostles with the usual over-used words until you get sentences like ‘the pinnacle of experience in quality luxury.’
So while it would be nice to see some variety, don’t expect to open a yachting publication anytime soon to an advert that says: ‘If subtlety was important to you, you wouldn’t be reading this magazine. Stop fighting it. #Getayacht”. In the meanwhile we’ll have to be content with chuckling at the unintentionally (?) hilarious. Like this:
Editors Note: The General Alarm will happily waive all rights to any of our marketing ideas mentioned here, in exchange for being able to make it to the table of contents in a yacht mag without needing three naps and a fly zapper.