Everyone loves a comeback. And when it comes to Evinrude, one of the nation’s premier outboard brands, Olivier Pierini is attempting to orchestrate an epic one.
The director of global marketing and strategic planning for the marine propulsion systems division of Bombardier Recreational Products joined the multinational company in January. In six short months he has steered Evinrude’s branding plans on a course he hopes will bring it to the top of the competitive outboard market again.
Pierini came to Evinrude and BRP after two decades at Nissan-Europe, Ford, Volvo and BMW. He looks at the outboard business from a fresh perspective. It is objective and more akin to the point of view of a first-time boat buyer — one of the most sought after market segments in the business.
“I’m not a boater, but I could be,” Pierini says. “One of the first things I did was to be a mystery shopper. I went to my first boat show, the Paris Boat Show. I wanted to go out and see what the industry was saying about our business and find out what they were saying about my product. It was quite an experience.”
Subsequent visits to other shows produced similar consumer experiences. He wrapped it in with one of the most common customer complaints about the boat-buying adventure.
“The lack of transparency is obvious,” he says. “This is the only industry that I know of that doesn’t advertise or communicate an MSRP for such a technically advanced product. So if I want to buy a 150-horsepower versus a 300, what is the price difference? I don’t know.
“It’s cumbersome to me because we spend a lot of energy and investment to make sure the product quality is there. There is a value behind this product. But a consumer has to ask himself or herself, ‘Can I afford it or not?’ ”
Pierini was speaking at the launch of a new Evinrude product that will debut in July. The event took place in Stuart, Fla., where longtime company head Ralph Evinrude was a seasonal resident and established a test center in the 1960s to evaluate new outboard technology in harsh saltwater conditions.
To illustrate consumer uncertainty about the outboard industry, Pierini used a side-by-side comparison of recent print advertising layouts from several major manufacturers.
“We’re lost in a sea of sameness,” he says. “I feel if you want to grow this business and attract new boaters, you have to break those barriers. These are entry barriers. I think the value of the product is a way to be able to do that.”
Don’t look for mixed messages or layered subtext. Pierini believes simplicity will be Evinrude’s secret sauce for improved sales.
“We want to be a light others come toward,” Pierini says. “We’re going to do it with a sense of humor; we’re going to pack a punch. We’re technically brilliant, but we want to be able to communicate that to potential buyers with humility and common sense. Our message has to be simple to understand.”
Pierini says boaters need to know why Evinrude products are superior. The company’s commitment to 2-stroke technology, once defined as a hindrance, is now understood as a strength. Performance, fuel economy and selection are qualities that attract consumers, he says.
Pierini says people are coming to better understand BRP’s relationship to Evinrude.
“To use the car company analogy,” he explains, “people know what General Motors is, but they don’t go to buy a GM. They buy a Corvette or a Chevrolet.”
And for more than 100 years Evinrude has only made one product — the outboard.
“We may have lost our way on how to tell our story as a brand and as a pioneer,” he says, “but we haven’t lost our way on the product side. We need to be better about thinking how to wrap it up in a way where consumers will understand the values and benefits of our products. Simplicity. It has to be simple to understand.”
As a result, Pierini says, Evinrude has become a strong partner of the American Sportfishing Association for the first time. It has joined the board of the National Marine Manufacturers Association and is contributing to the Grow Boating Foundation.
“We have a commitment to boaters to make boating more approachable and more affordable,” he explains.
The boating industry can look forward to what is setting up to be a great comeback. Pierini points out that Evinrude invented the outboard. The brand, he says, set the standard that revolutionized this country’s love of boating — whether it’s a day on the lake, a trip to a special fishing hole or a crossing to a tropical island vacation.
“We’re coming out fighting,” Pierini says. “And we are now the challenger against dominant competitors, but we are nimble.”
Stay tuned for what’s coming next, Pierini advises. During the next six months Evinrude is going to shake up its segment of the boating business. It’s going to be bold. Evinrude will take a few risks, he says, but it will continue to lead with its commitment to innovation and product development, and driven by its engineering.
This article originally appeared in the July 2017 issue.