Relevance on a ski slope

Brand relevance is one of the important building blocks of brand equity. It pairs a brand's proposition with "the mind of the market" (see Michael Shermer use of this metaphor here) or, simply put, with the needs, wants, and desires of the consumer. When you try to assess the level of relevance of your brand you have to step into your customers' shoes and ask yourself: "Is this for me?"

There are numerous white papers and case studies identifying good and bad examples of attempts to manage and increase brand relevance: Burberry as the winner and Kodak as the loser, just to mention a couple.

But what about a scenario when the whole concept of branding looses track in an entire category? How should brand owners respond? Where do they need to focus their efforts not to send their hard-earned brand assets down the drain?

I thought about this a couple of days ago while queing for the lift on a ski slope with my kids. Our family may well be a representative of a consumer segment which slowly but surely is moving away from the gravity field of premium ski brands. With three kids you surely need to economize. But this is not the primary reason why ski brands no longer appeal to me. The reason is much more complex than that and has everything to do with the shift in consumer behavior. Which results in massively changed relevance map of the segment.

Downhill skiing - even on the amateur level - from the perspective of the business owner is a pretty infrastructure-intensive pastime. You need a well-kept slope, or rather a system of slopes at a ski resort, transport facilities like lifts and chair lifts, network of accommodation and food services, access-transport infrastructure, snowing technology, safety infrastructure and so on and so forth. Only with this resource deck are you able to create an engaging and fulfilling skiing experience of an ever more demanding customer. For her, spending a few days in the mountains does not involve just getting herself to the top of the hill and sliding down to the valley. She - and her family - are ready to pay for a holistic experience in which the physical act of skiing is just one part of it.

Enter ski brands. More and more amateur skiers opt for ski-lending services. This can dramatically reduce the logistic hassle associated with family skiing trips. I know that this wouldn't be and option for a die-hard skier (or a snowboarder, for that matter) but we are talking mainstream market here. If ski-lending service is well integrated in the overall concept of the resort and is priced competitively (which is nearly always the case) chances are you won't remember what brand of skiing gear you used last Christmas and - frankly - you wouldn't care.

Ski producers have for sure grasped this dynamic and are trying to focus their marketing efforts on a variety of B2C and, indeed, B2B customers. With bulk of their produce being distributed through large network retailers 


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