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What is Golf’s “Pyramid of Influence”? Part II

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Authenticity of Influence – In my prior post we briefly discussed the basics of Golf Equipment’s Traditional Pyramid of Influence. What is it? How has it changed? Are handicaps the best way to segment the golf equipment market? In Part II we’ll look at some of the reasons for why the Traditional Pyramid can work…and why it isn’t always so.

At its core, the Traditional Pyramid begins with successful product placement and usage by touring professionals. However, most significant golf brands have at least one (more likely a few or many) players using some of their product professionally, so why does tour success with Brand A create a near tsunami of interest and product sales, yet success by Brand B makes barely a ripple in the pond? What separates a successful tour strategy from one that fails to resonate? Frequently it boils down to one word: “Authenticity.”

If you take the time to go online and seek out articles about “Brand Authenticity” your mind will go numb before you get through even 10% of the available options. However, most brand authenticity experts agree on some basic principals:

  1. Authentic brands need to feel genuine, not forced or “fake”. Think about the advent of “Fake News” and the jaundiced eye many Americans cast toward media that is not their own. You never want to be the Fake News of your product category.
  2. Authentic brands connect and build a relationship with their consumers, who are frequently “evangelists” for the brand (sounds a lot like the Pyramid at work?). And building a relationship doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time.
  3. Authentic brands have a consistency of message, regardless of where the communications is received (Digital, Print, TV, Social, Point of Sale, etc.). And frequently there are a variety of people in different disciplines within a company responsible for crafting those messages, so consistency is not as easy as it might sound.
  4. Authentic brands are honest and transparent, as opaqueness creates a lack of trust. How many brands are torpedoed by leaks or discoveries of previously unknown data that indicate a brand was trying to “hide” something. Even when the hidden information might be innocuous, that lack of transparency can seriously damage the brand.
  5. Authentic brands are reliable, what they say is what they deliver. Better to under promise and over deliver than to make the mistake in the other direction.

Does your favorite brand of golf equipment engender these principals? Do they deliver on their product promises? If you think about the successful brands in golf equipment, you can see how they deliver upon these building blocks of Authenticity. Not every golfer will agree that every brand delivers on every point every time…there is often some degree of hyperbole among some product launches…however the vast majority of time the equipment is better than prior generations, and the golfer is the beneficiary of these improvements.

In the end, Brand Authenticity isn’t easy to define, but when you see it you know it. And when you don’t…it can be a Brand Killer.

What is Golf’s “Pyramid of Influence”? –  Part I

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Is the Pyramid still a viable means of Consumer Segmentation? What other means exist for segmenting the golf equipment market?

There used to be a saying in the golf equipment business, “What’s played on Sunday makes the phone ring (with orders) on Monday” (Note: Just the fact that people were placing orders over the phone should tell you how long ago this was!). For a long time that maxim rang true. Back in the mid ’90’s when I was running marketing for Tommy Armour Golf and we owned Odyssey putters, a certain Hall of Fame golfer won the Masters using a Rossie II Dual Force Mallet with a black Stronomic face insert. The Rossie was innovative and very distinctive (for the time), and the following Monday the phones in the Morton Grove office blew up with orders for tens of thousands of that specific putter for “at once” delivery. Of course we didn’t have enough inventory. No one is ever prepared to catch lightning in a bottle.

So during that spring I lived thru seeing the Pyramid work just the way it was designed. We launched the product to moderate success to the best players in the world. A major tour win propelled demand to stratospheric levels. PGA golf professionals and Off Course Specialty Stores filled their shops with this uniquely designed product (it was the first putter that successfully utilized a face insert), where they were gobbled up. Soon everywhere you looked there were Odyssey Rossie II putters in play, initially by better players, but quickly spreading across the spectrum into all playing levels.

 

Fast forward a little more than 10 years and I created the first of three “Assessing the Pyramid” studies for the golf equipment industry, investigating and evaluating the Pyramid hypotheses: that successful companies launch product on tour, then market and sell to golf professionals and golf retailers based upon tour success. Better players are initially drawn to play the product based upon tour validation and golf professional/retailer endorsements. These better players in the Pyramid model aren’t significantly different from “brand ambassadors/influencers” in today’s social media world, providing credibility and authenticity to the brand, which translates to broader usage across the whole market, ultimately driving sales and market share. Does the Pyramid still work the way it did for Odyssey (and many other brands) in marketing to the golf industry? We thought we’d investigate it again and see just how significant the traditional Pyramid remains, or are there better means for segmenting the consumer golf market.

On June 18, 2019 Golf Datatech released the third edition of the Pyramid study. In this edition we investigate and analyze a wide range of topics, including media usage, how golfer collect and use data gathered prior to purchase, brand usage, channel preferences, current financial status and economic standing of the various subsegments, etc. It’s truly an all encompassing study delving into the mindset of the Serious Golfer, the player that plays and spends disproportionately on the game and on equipment.

As for the “Traditional Pyramid”, which is driven by player ability, not only do lower handicaps play and spend more, data from the Pyramid Study suggests they’re likely to be more outspoken with their opinions and wield influence over others on golf and equipment. So focusing on these highly engaged golfers is reasonable and logical, however since the first study was completed in 2007 (before the Great Recession), we’ve seen some significant changes in their level of impact.

In future posts in the Pyramid Series we’ll investigate some of these changes and their implications to brand positioning and marketing in equipment.

Key Statistics from the 2019 Assessing the Pyramid

  • Sample Size: 3,000 Serious Golfers
  • Handicap Segmentation:  5 & under, 6-10, 11-15, 16-20, 21+
  • Average Rounds Played = 60 rounds in the past year
  • Mean Household Income = $163K
  • Mean Handicap of the Full Sample = 15
  • Lowest Handicap Ever Attained = 11

Segmentation Cross Tabs Beyond the Traditional (Handicap): Leading Edge Innovators, Alpha Buyers (High frequency purchasers), Opinion Influencers and Brand Loyalty, as well as tradition Golf-o-graphic cross tabs including:  Income Age, Facility Played and Gender

Email info@golfdatatech with questions or click HERE to purchase the full Pyramid Study to aid in segmenting the market (750+ Pages of Data plus analysis).

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