FF Brand Image and “The Old Man’s Boat” Thing……

You will probably recall from the last FFI Handbook and the Commodore’s address that we have a bit of a Brand Image Challenge – “The Old Man’s Boat…”

I must admit I was anyway very concerned about this. If RS launched it as a new product tomorrow, it would be viewed as ultra-cool by everyone – without changing the smallest detail. Then at the Dinghy Show, if you were working on the much visited stand you would be forgiven for noticing that a noticeable majority of the Visitors were “Gentlemen of a Certain Age….”  Basically, all older than me as a rule. Very flattering it was. But whenever someone looking fortyish or less arrived, I absolutely pounced on them…!!

I’ve been wondering how to find out what our Brand Image is.  Probably a good place to start is with people who have recently bought one – like most of the Datchet Fleet, for example, plus some responses from members in other fleets. It’s a sample size of 23… so need many more, but I can already tell there is a strong pattern….

I collected from bar conversations 40 reasons why people tell me why they bought a Fifteen. Then I gave everybody 20 votes and asked them to place their votes on the ‘reasons to buy’ that mattered most to them. They could put multiple votes against one of the 40, if they thought it was really important.

Profile of the Results so far with 460 ‘votes’ distributed to 23 people:-

  • 40% Votes for the Boat Itself
  • 12% Votes for the Ownership Proposition, Value etc
  • 25% Votes for Flying Fifteen Racing
  • 23% Votes for Friendly People and the Association

I think that probably tells us quite a few things, and we might say, “We already knew that”.  Probably what you didn’t know though is the way the votes were distributed at a detail level. Very revealing….

There were three of the 40 bits of “brand image” that collected 10% of overall votes each. These are the big hitter things in our image… wait for it… they were

  1. – great club racing near to me or accessible to me (the biggest single vote actually)
  2. – doesn’t capsize
  3. – friendly people, welcoming, give help and advice

These three clocked about 140 votes of the 460 votes cast between them. Interesting, isn’t it?  People buy into the class because of the people in it, and they buy for club racing.

I must admit I would have sworn that “beautiful boat” would have scored somewhere. So what about the next tier of votes down??  Ok, scoring between 4-10% of the total vote each we had:-

  • – a planing keelboat (7%)
  • – club support local to me or accessible to me (5%)
  • – product has a very long life (5%)
  • – an international class with accompanying high standards (4%)
  • – active Open Circuit, plenty of Choice (4%)

There were quite a few at 3% by the way.  I’ll let you read the full score sheet in a moment.  Let me play a game here though to see if we might get a feel for the “Brand”…

If I combined a few of the forty attributes to make it clear then

“A beautiful, planing 2 person keelboat, exhilarating to sail in a breeze especially under spinnaker – and no capsize threat”  that would have scored  28% of all votes cast.

Obviously you can play loads of tunes on this idea.

“Great Club Fleet Racing, friendly welcoming people, Club Support, all local to me” would have scored 28%

“An International Class, Terrific Year Round Club Racing, Open Circuit, Europeans and Worlds, back by a Strong Association” would have scored 14% ……

Interesting. Take a look at the full results and let me know what you think. To see them click here

FF Brand Image …!! The “Old Man’s Boat”, Eh ??!!…

The ff image

I have recently had a very illuminating conversation with a fleet captain of a club which has a dozen or so ffs in the boat park.

In his club, there have been few/no new members for some time.    The numbers are falling gently and of course the existing members are ageing.    Not too surprisingly, other club members see the ff as a boat for old buffers.

Contrast this with the situation at Datchet.    By chance, eight years ago there were six ffs and most of the owners were over sixty.    Only two of our current fleet were members at that time.    All but one of the members who have joined since are now in their 30s, 40s or 50s.     Only in fun are we now described as a gang of old men sailing an old man’s boat.

All this has nothing at all to do with the design of the boat and its sail plan.

Mike Firth


The 2011 Year Book…

A short while ago I took on the BIFFA Role for Publicity. To my surprise, for the first few months it has been mainly about listening – not publicising!! There are some common themes around, and one of them is the mourning for the passing of the BIFFA year book. I now realise that the fees that used to be absorbed by the year book, have gone to giving members a much better Association website. There aren’t sufficient fees coming in to pay for both – so I suspect we made the right choice. However, members clearly still have a hankering for a row of ‘trophy’ publications for their bookcase (or pile under the bed, in my case). “It’s all I get to show for my fees”, is the common call…. So we are going to have to put our thinking caps on and see what we can do with a couple of pence…

In the meantime, the FFI Year Book plopped through the letter box this morning. I always look forward to it, I confess…. It came this year with an excellent mini P&B brochure.  Much of the FFI Year Book content is the same year to year of course – but this edition has some great photos, and a really very thoughtful article by Greg – have you read it?  It starts on page 4 and is two and a half pages of extremely well reasoned analysis of our “brand image” problem. If you haven’t already, then you should read it.  It’s basically about a recurring theme that comes up in all that listening of mine…. as many of you tell me, ‘Why can’t we do something about the old-man’s-boat image of the Flying Fifteen?’….

It obviously hampers attracting new members at a grass roots level. In our little club, we’ve worked hard on it and when I polled everyone last year the average age in the fleet was down to just 45. Which is super actually…. It’s a major success metric for Fleet Captain’s, I suggest….

So we need to get our collective heads together and get some ideas to look at….

  • Get a young (looking) fleet captain!
  • Get some young sailors into your fleet, give them trophies, let them win occasionally   🙂
  • Promote the boat exclusively with exciting and professional photos and videos
  • Get young sailors interviewed in Y&Y. Support them in loan boats?
  • What else?

What is our niche? If it is for 14stone people outgrowing their Merlins and RS’s, isn’t that actually a brilliant positioning for the FF product? What competition is there in that segment? Just apathy, maybe?? Maybe our market starts at 35 or 40  and upwards – what’s wrong with that? So what appeals to the 35-55 year olds out there?  What else can they sail with 28 stone aboard ! – ha ha ha ha !! Do you know the optimum weight in a Merlin is 22 stone! Blimey – what kind of guys can sail those things!!!  Is this as simple as a “Man’s Boat” versus the “Boy’s Boats”???

Take a little read of Greg’s article and the SWOT analysis – let us know what you think, what works at your Club… email us on datchetman@flyingfifteen.com