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One small step to 5G, one giant leap for boating

The new technology could transform the industry

With Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and the new year just over the horizon, forward-thinking marketers should set their sights on what Santa has in store for us in 2019. At the top of my list is 5G, the next generation of mobile internet connectivity that will give smartphones and marketers the video power to connect to consumers in ways unimaginable until now. It will also allow recreational boating to be portrayed in all of its visual glory.

According to Roger Cheng of CNET, “the 5G technology promises to change our lives by connecting everything around us to a network that is 100 times faster than our cellular connection and 10 times faster than our speediest home broadband service” (see

But it’s not just about speed for speed’s sake, says Cheng. “While the move from 3G to 4G was about faster connections, the evolution to 5G is so much more. The combination of speed, responsiveness and reach could unlock the full capabilities of other hot trends in technology, offering a boost to self-driving cars, drones, virtual reality and the internet of things,” he points out.

To put it more dramatically, “It’s the first time the network will be faster than your mind,” says Ericsson Chief Technology Officer Ulf Ewaldson.

So, does your head spin when the latest device comes on the market and you have to ask a Millennial how to make it work? Do you cringe at the thought of trying to get your head around just how revolutionary 5G is going to be? Here’s a solution. Spend less than five minutes on the “5G in 5 Minutes” video with Skyworks Solutions CTO Peter Gammel who - in pictures and plain English – explains 5G so even those still using flip phones and VHS tapes will understand what it’s all about (see

Now that you have a conceptual overview of 5G, just how will it impact marketing? Here’s a must-read article “5G, Next Gen Mobile” by Ad Age’s George Slefo (see

Slefo has a great quote from Julie Coppernoll, VP of global marketing at Intel, that is particularly insightful: “When we look at the smartphone, we say, that’s mobile and everything else is tethered. I think that is going to change. I think nothing will be ‘mobile’ anymore because everything will be mobile.”

Think about the possibilities. In past columns I’ve explored certain potential aspects of 5G, especially virtual reality (completely computer-generated world) and augmented reality (added digital information) that I think are tailor-made to grow recreational boating.

To put these coming changes into perspective, just think about the mobile video revolution that has taken place in our lives just since 4G was launched a mere eight years ago. Today, consumer reliance on video is astounding. Consider these remarkable statistics according to Jesse Mawhinney of HubSpot (see

  • Cisco projects that global internet traffic from videos will make up 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021. 
  • 70 percent of YouTube viewers watch videos for “help with a problem” they’re having in their hobby, studies, or job. 
  • 43 percent of B2C marketers say pre-produced video is the most successful type of content for marketing purposes. 
  • Using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19 percent and clickthrough rates by 65 percent. 
  • In a 2018 HubSpot survey, 54 percent of consumers wanted to see more video content from a brand or business they support.  
  • Videos 20 minutes in length or longer account for 55 percent of total video consumption time on smartphones. 
  • How-to videos that were shown in virtual reality (VR) had a 36 percent higher recall by viewers compared to people who only viewed the YouTube video. 
  • According to a 2018 survey, 82 percent of respondents expect people to focus on developing augmented reality (AR) experiences for smartphones. 
  • More than 500 million Facebook users are watching videos on Facebook every day. 
  • Snapchat users watch 10 billion videos per day and share 9,000 photos per second. 

When 5G is fully rolled out over the next few years, these trends will only accelerate. If the next generation of boating leaders are smart, they will embrace this new technology with open arms.

The alternative to doing business as it has been done for generations is downright depressing. Consider Grow Boating’s recent study with marketing consultant Olson which determined that there are a million fewer first-time boat buyers today than a decade ago — a 30 percent decline in first-time used-boat buyers and a 54 percent drop in first-time, new-boat buyers.

Or, how about this revelation: Only about two in 100 people who are researching their first boat will actually buy one, and only one of the two will keep it. I literally fell out of my chair when I saw these numbers.

The problem is well-known and two-fold. First, how to get more folks into boating and second, how to retain them as active owners and participants. A solution for the latter will, in my humble opinion, require a drastic reimaging of this industry. For more insight into this see my colleague Reagan Haynes’ article “The First Time Buyer Blues” at

As to the former problem, the good news is that we can make boating more appealing if we can figure out a way of harnessing these new technologies to capture the imagination of an ever-increasing segment of consumers who are always in search of an experience they just can’t get elsewhere. Virtual and augmented reality should – in the not too distant future – be able to deliver an experience more than sufficient to kindle the interest of consumers at a fraction of the cost and with a lot more pizzazz than is currently the case.

Think this is pie-in-the sky? Consider the online video gaming industry that has been transformed from a motley crew of nerds in their parents’ basements into a multi-billion industry that claims more than 100 million active participants (see

Connecting to upcoming generations is going to require the boating industry to get out of its comfort zone. To take a peek at this brave new world, ask a Millennial about interactive pop-up “museums” such as the Museum of Ice Cream, Rose Mansion or the Dream Machine. They are attracting hundreds of visitors a day at $35 or more a ticket, according to Bloomberg Businessweek. They deliver a surreal experience that patrons share on Instagram and Snapchat (see Recreational boating should have one, too.

I’m convinced there are lessons to be learned and boatloads of money to be made if we just open our eyes and take a giant leap forward.


Michael Sciulla is president of Credibility & Company Communications, as well as vice president of the Marine Marketers of America and a member of the board of directors of both Boating Writers International and the Marine Marketers of America. During a 28-year career at BoatUS he built the association’s brand as membership grew from 30,000 to 650,000 and testified more than 30 times before a number of Congressional committees.

This article originally appeared in the October 2018 issue.


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