Here’s a video of me doing SUP Boarding down in Costa Rica. This is a relatively new sport / exercise that has a lot of potential to become huge. The benefits: better balance, strong legs, incredibly strong core, and fun. Before any big sports brands take the plunge and dip product development (or acquisition) and marketing dollars, they’re going to have to tackle the classic Frame of Reference problem – how do you explain it what it is to people?

The classic Frame of Reference (F.O.R.) challenge example is TiVo; it forms chapter one of Kellogg on Branding. The TiVo senior execs were so impressed with themselves and the amazing product they had built, they refused to call it a “Personal Video Recorder” or a “Digital Video Recorder”. It was so superior to any kind of VCR, it shouldn’t even have been mentioned in the same breath. The decision to position as the only company delivering “Viewer Freedom” led to confusion and weak initial sales. Lack of cooperation from cable and satellite companies (to allow TiVo to make integrated decoder + recorder boxes) and a difficult set-up process meant the company had to rely on passionate word-of-mouth marketing from converted zealots like myself.

Bicycles never had that problem. People saw others moving faster than their pedestrian selves on the road and thought “I gotta get me one of those”. Once people realize something (a product category) is pretty useful, it’s only then that companies competing in the space should figure out a way to differentiate from each other.

If I were the brand manager of one of the specialist SUP companies like Starboard SUP I would consider moving some of my budget to telling an “it’s like” story. Apple did the same with the iPod (which was never an immediate success, taking a good 5 years to become popular). Its initial explanation was “1000 songs in your pocket”.

Other print ads showed hundreds of albums / CD’s fitting inside that one little box.

Stand Up Paddling, the product category, needs an “it’s like” category definition. Here’s mine: if a boat is the car of the water, SUP boarding is the bike of the water. If you live (or holiday) near a body of water – Finnish and Greek friends on their summer holidays, take note – then get yourself a water bike. It takes about one day to learn how to balance, and after that you can have fun, exercise, and get across the lake/river/isthmus all on your own; or even better, with a friend.

Join the conversation! 1 Comment

  1. Great entry George
    Paddling in Amsterdam on holiday – I’m all in!!
    See you in the water mate…TC

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Frame of Reference


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