Flexibility is a hallmark of the new executive team, Jenkins claimed. “You can rest assured that Kawasaki is prepared to adapt to the ever-changing market conditions,” he said. “If we learned anything this year, it’s the fact that we must be quick, nimble and ready to adjust based on what we’re seeing in the data and what we’re hearing from you.”
Jenkins gave a couple of examples. After hearing about the challenging retail finance market, the company announced in September a new alliance with GE Money. This was in addition to its other two sponsored retail finance sources, HSBC and Sheffield Financial.
“You’ve also told us that cash flow has become an issue,” Jenkins said. “Whether it’s factory-to-dealer incentives, dealer reward programs or semiannual retail bonuses, you would like those funds as soon as they become available.”
Kawasaki’s response, Jenkins said, will be the implementation later this year of a direct-deposit program, K-Deposit, that will “ensure prompt receipt of incentive dollars directly into your checking account within 24 hours of selling a Kawasaki product,” he said. “No more waiting for credits at the end of the month, no more phone calls to your credit manager to get a check.”
Other dealer support includes a new “comprehensive” dealer demo program, dealer-friendly floorplans (detailed below), and unchanged dealer margins for 2011 models.
Marketing push focused on enthusiasts
Another person joining the top brass last year was Chris Brull, director of marketing. He spent much of the presentation explaining the company’s new marketing approach aimed squarely at enthusiasts: “True 2 the Kore.”
“What does Kawasaki stand for? We believe we are the enthusiast brand,” Brull said. “We engineer true greatness for true believers, that coveted group of adrenaline junkies, thrill addicts, power-hungry crazies that live their lives committed to the ride. Our commitment is to always connect with those enthusiasts and deepen their strong emotional relationship with Kawasaki.
“At the end of the day,” Brull noted, “it’s these customers that keep us all in business. They’re the ones walking through your dealership doors no matter what the economy brings, and they must … believe we share their passion.”
Kawasaki’s emphasis on connecting with riders through passion is displayed in the promotional videos posted at www.kawasaki.com.
Interestingly, Kawasaki has also launched a tool to help entry-level and returning riders called SMART (Sensible Motorcycles Are Redefining Transportation). Executives didn’t mention the incipient project during their presentation, but later that day Kawasaki did host seminars dedicated to its development. Right now SMART consists of a fairly hidden section of the Kawasaki website where people can answer a series of questions to discover the best beginner-friendly Kawasaki motorcycles for them. They can also watch a video and read up on things such as financing, insurance, motorcycle myths, and what questions to ask dealers. Future plans include in-store branded materials to work in conjunction with the website.
Speaking of all types of customers, Brull said there have never been so many ways to connect with them. “TV, social media, mobile technology, texting, blogging, endless cable channels, video games, bar-scanning technology, apps, i-Ads, live video chat, SMS, online banners, MMS, satellite radio, magazines, online magazines, newspapers, and on and on. … Our strategy is simply to leverage the latest communication technologies blended with traditional media,” he said.
Kawasaki emphasized social networking during the meeting by showing, via a crowd-scanning spy camera and overhead screens, that a staff member in the audience was posting live updates on the company’s Twitter and Facebook pages as the presentation unfolded. Likewise, the company spotlighted its mobile initiatives by continually inviting dealers to text messages to a given number for new-model updates. (As the photo on the right demonstrates, mobile technology was also a hot topic later that day within the marketing area of Kawasaki’s Showcase trade show.)
Brull said that mobile technology has indeed revolutionized viral marketing. “Our marketing is now passed on from one customer to another 24/7,” he said. “Messages are spreading exponentially.” (continued)