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Appealing to minorities is key to boating growth

I attended a meeting last week in which several participants shared ideas about growing boating. Among them: more promotion of the family benefits; aim harder at Gen X and Gen Y; get kids involved at an early age; sell the boating lifestyle, among others – all good ideas, to be sure. But one was missing: chasing minorities.

Itís undeniable — the number of minorities continues to go up while the white population does not, according to U.S. census. Minorities now make up 35 percent of the U.S. population, up 5 percent since 2000. That year, California, New Mexico, Hawaii and the District of Columbia had minority populations exceeding 50 percent. Texas joined that group in 2009 and more states will follow.

Itís simply a numbers game. Census data shows, for example, among Hispanics and Latinos there are nine births for every one death. For the white American majority, the ratio is one-one. We are now a nation of 308 million people (102.4 million are minorities) and weíll add another 100 million in the next 25 years.

The 20th century witnessed the transformation of the United States from a predominately white population rooted in Western culture to a society including large racial and ethnic minorities. Immigrants and their U.S.-born descendants are expected to provide most of the U.S. population gains ahead. Hispanic and Latino Americans, along with African Americans, are the largest minority groups, by ethnicity and race, respectively.

It should be obvious, as we look ahead to growing boating again, our traditional promotion only to the white American male audience will no longer get it done. Wanda Kenton Smith, long regarded a top marketer in our industry, first identified all this years ago. Sheís been preaching this message ever since. And while it hasnít resulted in much change to date, itís compelling now that manufacturers and dealers purpose to include large and lucrative multi-cultural markets.

Clearly, if we continue to ignore one third of the population, weíll miss the boat! The industryís ads, brochures, commercials, websites and catalogs should include pictures of minorities enjoying boating. Participating in local cultural or ethnic community events and advertising in ethnic publications or on local ethnic radio stations are more ways to engage minorities. The point is people must first see themselves as boaters if we stand any chance of having them become boaters. Seeing is believing!

The Discover Boating campaign is showing leadership by carefully including minorities in its broad array of Internet materials. But Discover Boating is just a start Ė alone, it wonít get this job done. A much wider effort by the industry as a whole is needed. If there are manufacturers or dealers out there that have done this in the past, or are doing it now, please let us know. Right now, Iím not aware of any.

Comments

4 comments on “Appealing to minorities is key to boating growth

  1. Scott Croft

    Right on Norm and Wanda!!
    I was at a meeting of boating writers some years ago, and asked the question, what were boating magazines doing to portray minorities in their pages? One, being totally honest, said it wasn’t their job to show minorities. I thought that was very short sighted and showed there is some real kickback on this issue.
    …I’m just waiting for someone to say “that’s not our market”. Hopefully this will change…
    -Scott

  2. Arch

    It will take MANY YEARS for the effort to payoff. I have researched this extensively, as recently as a few years ago. In a nutshell, our findings showed that most minorities don’t boat because they don’t want to, even those that can afford it are not real interested in it. It’s more of a cultural issue than a financial one. So……it will take years and we will have to start young, as you eluded to.
    What was interesting is that the black demographic (particularly those in the higher income brackets), said that marketing to them directly wouldn’t make any difference. If anything, they were insulted at the notion of boat manufacturers targeting blacks, as if they have to be “invited” to buy a boat. Many told us that they are aware that boats exist, that they are allowed to attend boat shows, and they don’t need a green light from dealers or manufacturers to buy one.

  3. Lou Sandoval

    Norm: This is a good point. Like any forward thinking business plan it should be on the dashboard for the marine industry. The more we focus on making sailing (or motorboating) accessible to ALL markets the better it is for all. Boating needs to be viewed as accessible and not an activity reserved for the privelaged. Focusing on community sailing centers assists in this.

    This is an equal priority to outreach efforts for Gen X, and Gen Y. We can’t do enough it at it this point. There is a little catching up to do.

  4. Doug Reimel

    I never thought of them as minorities in any way. They are my clients and they treat me very well. I find that most people just want to be treated with respect. Treat people they way you want to be treated and they will respect you in return. “Martin Luther King had a dream and in that dream a man would be judged by his character and not the color of his skin.” No matter how you package it, respect is key to any good client relationship.

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