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Do Buyers’ Guides Translate to Sales?

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Every season, ski-equipment manufacturers devote substantial chunks of marketing budget to prepare for and participate in magazine tests, like those conducted by Skiing Business’ sister-publications Ski and Skiing, as well as other well-known titles.

Hardgoods brands not only set aside expensive fleets of next-season skis to be used exclusively for testing, but also pay to send employees or contractors to attend the tests.

Expensive? You bet. So when ski models get recognized in buyers’ guides, do sales increase? Opinions are mixed, but Jason Levinthal, founder of Line Skis and Full Tilt brand manager, has seen it happen.

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He entered Line’s Prophet 100 into magazine tests for years, but it was never chosen for review. Then, one year, it received a prominent award and sales increased.

“Suddenly we sell twice as many,” he says.

Andrew Couperthwait, Head‘s U.S. alpine product manager, concurs. “…Reviews in magazines…become another piece of the marketing puzzle for us,” he says. “They work as additional marketing for our dealers.”

Retailers have seen it too. “I believe that (buyers-guide reviews) do have an impact,” says Lock Miller, owner of Marmot Mountain Works in Bellevue, Wash. and Berkeley, Calif.

Miller says customers often rely on gear guides for research before they buy. And even if customers don’t purchase the same product(s) they read about, he says, it’s great exposure for the brand.

But while Miller may seem to place a lot of trust in the power of buyers’ guides-this year he even modified his AT-boot order after Backcountry magazine’s gear guide hit newsstands-he doesn’t live or die by them.

(courtesy Alex Witkowicz)

(courtesy Alex Witkowicz)

“Sometimes I’m quite amazed at how little impact (buyers’ guides) seem to have,” Miller says, explaining that sometimes a ski that isn’t featured is bestseller. And sometimes a ski that receives rave reviews doesn’t sell.

Either way, prominent exposure in a well-known publication can be as much about bragging rights as selling skis.

“You need anything you can get to stand out from someone else,” Levinthal says. “…If you have (a magazine medal winner), you brag about it.”

Categories: Features

5 Responses to “Do Buyers’ Guides Translate to Sales?”

  1. Frand says:

    I've always wondered…Is there any truth to the rumor that the biggest winners (in the review mags.) are, ironically, won by the biggest advertisers?

  2. VoS says:

    “Sometimes I’m quite amazed at how little impact (buyers’ guides) seem to have,” Miller says, explaining that sometimes a ski that isn’t featured is bestseller. And sometimes a ski that receives rave reviews doesn’t sell.

    Case in point: Rossignol S3. Yes, it was featured as a "best bang for your buck" in Ski Mag last year, but it wasn't spotlighted much more than that.

    It was Rossignol's number one selling ski.

  3. SiSt says:

    There is a lot to be said about the quality of reviews too, and hence their credibility.

    Should reviews focus on genuinely new products instead of trying to include every single new topsheet? Keeping the buyers guide (all inclusive showcase of products) and tests separate (tests then being indepth and time-consuming for the magazine)?

    There is something to be said for this approach, and indeed, some magazines actually do it this way in Europe and one magazine (Fri Flyt in Norway) even does extensive testing of every single ski included in the test, including a comparative test of flex with their SFI-number system. (Five numbers denoting the stiffness from tail to tip.)

    Online, http://www.blistergearreview.com does truly first-class testing, independent and honest, with detailed and nuanced writeups. A shining example for everyone to follow in my opinion.

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