Decoding a Myth : Episode 1 - Branding Dive Business
‘ Eve gives the apple to Adam but it was not Eve who was the first marketer. On the contrary, it was the snake that first convinced Eve to market the apple to Adam ’ (Phillips Kotler)
Diving industry is experiencing a continuous increase in popularity around the world. In fact, diving can be found in every continent in different regions. Rumor has it; there are more than famous 29,185 reported dive sites listed on the globe, for both freedive and SCUBA.
At a micro-economics level dive practitioners or instructors offers diving instruction in the form of escorted diving excursions or certification classes. Products consist of training, instructions and equipment sale or rentals. The industry activities are literally formed by certifications, instructions, trips, and gear rentals. ...wow, so many.
But when it comes to numbers and the extent to which business has to get a grip on, competition is tough and fierce. By that I mean mostly ugly. Reason being? Read the last paragraph, there are too many activities.
Being a good dive brand means being able to embrace information and knowledge that interplay an integral role for effective treatment of the brand itself. It is also the key to successful diver relationships and generating diver knowledge, which, in turn, strengthens the brand’s ability to interact more effectively with the divers and to understand their own needs, expectations and behavior better. It is essential for the any dive brand to gain insight into marketing activities to fulfill these needs, and to acquire information about the strategies of the immediate competitors. At this digital age, you have to do it 100 times faster.
Nevertheless, dive startups or smaller brands don't have the resources available to effectively handle their branding needs, as simple as that.
So, who should we be turning to?
Let's keep on reading..
The coins can be flipped to the other face, so does the structure of the dive industry. On a macro-economic (a big picture) ; the dive industry embraces revenue from instruction-related training only; membership dues. For most agencies, merchandise sales and other revenue sources are excluded and not encouraged (by mythical reasons if you are aware that there are many activities we are relied upon) Many of them are competing for higher rankings with regards to of image popularity, academics, number of members, turn-over, and of course, passion in diving.
Predominantly, the macro market is only influenced by a few of well-known training agencies who happen to have certified around 90% of all recreational divers in the world. There are +100 of other agencies out there, even if they seem to come and go. And we all know who the big brothers are and where the money actually has gone through.
The question is;
Does that mean the agencies don’t invest in marketing as the market is already heading towards upright position?
The agencies, big or small, also have invested a lot, for this level; just not necessarily straight towards the practitioners, i.e., dive center or instructor. But well, most of the foot soldiers don’t even know what their club dues are actually for, apart from right-to-teach and certain figures that comes every year end.
Let's come back on earth, on more a diver scale.
Similar to the economic term, the brand environment consists of micro- and macro-environment. Macro-environment in branding is related to the forces beyond of marketing that bear an impact on the instructor or dive center’s ability to maintain and develop the target diver’s relationships, offering both opportunities and calculated-risks. The macro-environment consists of the demographic, economic, natural, technological, social and cultural environments.
Having said that, would we seem to have adequate time to develop those?
Would we have a chance or getting precise information from those operating at the macro-level?
..particularly for this 4.0 era..
Let's take one simple marketing buzz that we are still using; a common misunderstanding with the c-cards.
Divers, being profession or not, share some thoughts that there is somewhere one single authority that oversees certification programs, and that authority grants worldwide acceptance of c-cards. The fact is; if you are to become a certified diver with any major training agencies that follow the ISO standards or the European equivalent, your certification cards are okay. There is no competitive advantage on the worldwide acceptance buzz.
So, does the quoted message appear to become a ‘useful and related the forces beyond the impact’ we’d like to make?
Less likely, ..at least for growing in numbers of returning educated divers.
Of course as long as the number of divers are growing, so are the scale of dive agencies. There is nothing wrong with that. But, have we been told the message obsolete? Or how should it be improved? Or any concrete approach towards a fresh way to differentiate ourselves? Most practitioner can figure out themselves, I guess.
Dive branding is a quest for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Some newcomers (or even an old chap) are desperately doing everything at the same time even if they know it. The marginal figures for profits for dive business are so small that we are grappling something we thought it was good to survive. We happen to rely and place everything we want to do just on social network with no strategic directions.
Not everybody is great on doing everything. Some are great instructors, some are not. Some are big investors, some are dealers. Some or product-oriented, some are amateur. There is nothing wrong with attempting to get a glimpse on any of those. We just don’t appear to accept the fact that we are not good at all that. The macro-environment has somehow swayed us into a self-motivated heroism of a belief on what we 'could do' rather than what we 'can do best', and 'how' do we make the best of that.
In a diver's life, nothing is what it seems..
..whether you are diving into the ocean, or
..drowning into your own brand.
The Author is PADI IDC Staff Instructor
The Author is a Specialist Sport Marketing and Media Consultant for Ministry of Finance and Fiscal Policy, Royal Thai Government