Part 9: What is most important about a brand
Read time 8 minutes
Fun fact: there are more kite brands available to choose from than there are seconds in a minute.
Some of these brands are garage based, born out of the passion of riders; others are dedicated kite manufacturer companies, or big conglomerates where kite production is only a branch of the business. All of these are trying to reach out to potential buyers, claiming to be the best.
The following paragraphs describe what kiteschools and kiteshops believe are the most important qualities of a brand, and why. The ones identified are (in order of importance): product quality, warranty conditions, price stability, flight characteristics, brand awareness, product information, brand image, retail price and content. The graph below shows the average of the results per category, with 10 being of maximum importance.
When working with a brand, product quality is primal and received an average of 9.5 out of 10 for importance.
Product quality is divided in two: flight characteristics and build quality. They are separate because a kite can fly and ride perfectly, but if the build isn’t optimal then the kite is useless, and vice-versa: a high quality built kite can fly like a wet handkerchief.
So, first and foremost, a kite has to be exactly how it’s brand describes it to be. Every year, most brands produce new versions of the same kite models, and so it’s important for them to colourfully describe how new and amazing their kite is in order to sell it, and make it stand out and be different from that of the year before. Good, successful marketing is what could make a difference in selling the new version of a kite.
However, it’s true that most kiters will not be able to notice, or test, the difference between versions, and riders who buy the latest version of their favourite kite will always defend their purchase. So, flight characteristics are important when the rider is able to judge a kite in detail and fairly. Comparing kites side by side is usually easy amongst friends, and back to back testing between kites makes differences clear.
Yet, for a lot of riders, it’s not always easy to look at kites without bias: judging a kite depends heavily on personal preference and testing experience. Rule of thumb when testing a kite is remembering that the rider will need to adapt to the kite, and not the other way around. The best indicator to judge a kite’s characteristics is whether or not you feel secure and comfortable pushing the kite and riding it to the max!
Build quality, on the other hand, is much easier to check. That said, even for this topic, how a kite is marketed by the brand itself influences a lot how the build is perceived. Most times, the descriptions of the kite which the brands market are taken as completely true and aren’t debated, even amongst the best riders and kite school operators, who should always test the quality of the kites to reflect their expectations and needs.
Sometimes, it happens that big brands which sell in large quantities begin to cut corners to lower production costs, for higher margins, which can easily be done by using lower quality materials and cheaper production methods. Obviously, this does not improve the overall quality of the end product. The levels of detail, workmanship and finishing of a kite are good indicators that can be compared side by side between kites.
Warranty conditions come close in second place, with an average of 9.1 out of 10 for importance. Kite schools are businesses in which their equipment is being used day in and day out by students who are bound to crash them. Kites are getting stronger as technology progresses, but none of them are bomb-proof: it’s important to have solutions in place for when a kite gets damaged, so the business doesn’t stop. Warranty conditions are those that save kite school from problematic situations; make arrangements and find out what the details around the warranty policies are with the brand supplier and discuss what the possibilities are.
In third place, with an average of 8.9 out of 10, came price stability. Since a brand’s value is often perceived through it, or through its retail value, shelf life and second hand value, it’s quite a pressing subject.
A form of ineffective strategy which could shift the customer perception of the brand, is that of selling kites in bulks, at extremely high discount rates, just after being released. This indicates a push strategy of the respective manufacturer, which might drive the buyers into thinking that kites are cheap, and therefore the brand itself, whilst it might not be the case. In the long term, this strategy leaves less margin for any school or shop. Also, yearly or seasonal releases of new kites are not always happily received sellers, as it shortens the shelf life of remaining stock.
Instead, a form of effective strategy, is that of using dropshipping instead of holding up stock. This encourages sellers to buy the new releases, since they don’t have to keep them in stock, therefore boosting their sales. This might be why Retail Price came in penultimate place, with an average of 7.5 out of 10: shops who have lots of stock have a harder time selling products at their valued retail price, especially if from a brand which doesn’t sell much, or if it’s an older model.
Another positive strategy can be used when purchasing products from more popular brands, or a famous product for a brand, since they have higher resale or second hand values. For a school this can make a big difference, since it might determine the amount of money then can get back out from their initial investment. Also, many schools sell their work stock during the season to students, maintaining a healthy margin on their kites. Offering packages where students can buy the kite they’ve been taught on is a smart and increasingly common strategy.
Brand awareness, product information, brand image
Of lesser importance, but still very much considered, are brand awareness and product information, which each received 8.5 out of 10, followed by brand image with 8.3.
While some brands don’t go into detail explaining why a new kite is made or how it’s been improved, other brands write complete novels about it. Similarly, a big difference can be seen in the brand’s efforts to support the culture and development of the sport: some might only be interested in selling, selling, selling, whilst others might support local schools, sports charities, environmental associations, etc. From the results of the survey we gather that the decision to work with a brand is made out of reason. Therefore, marketing activities are of little to no consequence when it comes to the business to business market, and in entering a partnership with a brand.
The same cannot be said for consumers! There’s a big difference in how kites and kite brands are perceived by consumers, mostly influenced by what peers say, or which kites their friends ride, or even which kites they’d been taught on. Social media also greatly affects the brand’s image: if a brand sponsors a rider with a big following, then in turn those who follow him will be more inclined to buy the kites he rides. However, this is still very personal: some people don’t care about all that, since they choose their equipment based what they perceive is the best quality brand; other times, entire tribes arise from true believers and followers of certain brands, independently of everything else.
Satisfying content adds value
The least valued factor of a brand was content, receiving an average of 7 out of 10. The content that brands produce and share is one of the factors that adds value to the brand itself, and helps to improve the relationship with its users. Having easy to share, clear and useful information at the brand’s disposal can help to create important contact moments on which to build relationships between a brand and its customers and consumers. Furthermore, if a brand does produce content, it’s important for users to always have a quick look or read: even if the language isn’t perfect, or the writing is a bit boring, or the image a bit pixelated, there could always be a hidden gem somewhere that you might’ve otherwise missed.
Additionally, many schools and shops struggle to create interesting content for their social channels and website, maybe not finding the right style for what they want to communicate. Brands often have professional content available that can help to bridge that gap, and which schools and shops can in turn use. Sometimes, asking friends or riders who often visit the school or shop to produce some videos or photos, for in return some kind of compensation, could turn the situation around!