Accelerating Into Commercial Markets
Commercial buyers don’t typically gravitate toward risky investments. And when your brand is known for adrenaline-inducing, go-fast snowmobiles, ATVs and motorcycles, your natural market is not the conservative B2B customer. When Polaris acquired GEM — the recognized leader in street-legal, low-speed commercial vehicles – this was exactly their conundrum. Our deep industry knowledge and channel marketing expertise helped position the brand to break through to the commercial customer mindset. The resulting campaign surpassed dealer recruitment goals in the first 100 days, and let Polaris to launch its first purposely-built commercial brand, Brutus.
Polaris, formerly known as a recreational vehicle manufacturer, acquired GEM, the recognized leader in street-legal, low-speed commercial vehicles, from the Chrysler Group LLC. The move provided Polaris with a strong share position in the low-emission category, and it also supported the company’s strategy of penetrating on-road market segments that were poised for growth. It also meant that Polaris was ready to enter the commercial marketplace and needed an agency partner to develop and implement the right strategies for their new brand.
After a review of global advertising agencies, Polaris chose Nelson Schmidt (NS) based on industry experience and a proven track record for strategic marketing program development and execution. With a product that requires a long purchase cycle, Polaris was confident that they could count on the considered purchase marketing experts at NS. And as a results based company, they knew we’d be the agency that could help move the sales needle and steer their ROI in a significant, measureable direction.
Critical to its fast-tracked plans for continued growth, Polaris needed to step outside of the consumer world and look to commercial markets. The recreational products brand relied on our considered purchase marketing expertise to make this happen. To create and drive dominance for the GEM brand, NS was charged with implementing lead generation and management strategies, increasing brand awareness and developing marketing programs that were custom-tailored for a range of vertical markets.
We began by leading an effort in market segmentation to define the opportunity across U.S. commercial, agricultural, governmental and institutional sectors. Within these markets, audiences including facility managers, fleet managers and independent landscape contractors were identified for applications such as groundskeeping, security, valet, hospitality, housekeeping and maintenance. Over 800,000 commercial business entities were identified that ranged from airports to zoos, providing Polaris with a large-scale opportunity for commercial market entry and expansion.
With the market opportunity clearly defined, we were ready to bring Polaris into the commercial low-speed vehicle segment. We started by developing a brand platform for GEM as well as exploring new channels to help define an overall marketing program that would generate demand among national buyers. But what was the go-to-market strategy? To help properly position the company and its first commercial offering, we needed to see the broader picture and implement a strategic framework that included brand and message platforms for Polaris Commercial as well as individual product brands like GEM. For GEM specifically, we chose to reposition the vehicle as a premium offering to better resonate with the target audience.
Once our messaging strategies were in place, we introduced a comprehensive dealer support program to educate and prepare the channel, all while rolling out an aggressive awareness and lead generation program into the market. Not far down the road, we created marketing communications that included a larger, redesigned website, collateral, POS and direct marketing along with advertising, media and public relations.
As a result of these strategic marketing efforts, Polaris met its dealer recruitment goals in the first 100 days of the program. The campaign generated over 4,000 qualified leads among new commercial buyers in the first year. Polaris built upon the market development success of this GEM campaign to launch its second commercial offering with Brutus, Polaris’ first purpose-built, commercial-specific vehicle. How’s that for marketing performance?