Polaris launches rebranding campaign, aims to diversify audience

July 29, 2019

By Dee DePass | Star Tribune (Minneapolis) (TNS)

Polaris Industries is adopting its first new logo in 38 years and launching a rebranding campaign to showcase its newly expanded product line with the goal of boosting its customer base by 50% in 10 years.

Company officials were to announce Monday the rebranding effort for the Medina-based maker of outdoor vehicles from ATVs to boats.

The company also is dropping “Industries” from its name, going forward as Polaris Inc.

During the past 10 months, Polaris said it employed social media, data research and focus groups with hundreds of employees, customers and powersports fans from across the country to learn about its existing image and where it needs to go.

The outcome is a three-pronged approach that includes the name change, a new logo and a new marketing effort that aims to use more women, millennials, blacks, Latinos and other groups who might not be as familiar with Polaris’ vast array of products, officials said.

Polaris has spent less than $1 million on the effort so far and would not say what the planned investment is for the rebranding.

However, officials said the rebranding and outreach effort was needed.

“We have gone from having six brands to more than 30 brands that range from snowmobiles to products that help people travel across sand and trails and roads and now water,” said Pam Kermisch, Polaris’ chief officer of customer engagement and growth.

The company has grown from $1 billion in annual revenue in 1998 to more than $6 billion, she said.

Individual product names, such as the Polaris RZR and Ranger all-terrain vehicles (ATV), the Slingshot and Indian motorcycles, will stay the same.

As part of the new branding, the 65-year old company is embracing a new “Think Outside” tagline, which will be in 33 languages and appear in advertising, at events and at company and social media venues, said Holly Spaeth, Polaris director of corporate branding and initiatives.

The rebranding effort is taking place over five years. It will involve tapping traditional riding clubs plus increasing Polaris’ presence in magazines, social media, radio, possibly TV and definitely at a host of powersport events in various communities, some for the first time, Spaeth and Kermisch said.

For the past few years, Polaris’ product and marketing teams worked with powersports groups such as the Women on Wheels National Conference, Black Girls Ride and the National Bikers Roundup of black motorcycle riders. They said the effort has paid off.

“In the last few years, we have seen some great organic growth with younger riders, female riders and multicultural riders. And that is something we are very committed to — fueling more growth with these important audiences,” Kermisch said.

Kermisch added the chief customer-engagement officer duties to her role last year. The goal is to “deepen our relationship with existing customers and to really focus and increase the brand awareness and connection to these new customer bases,” she said.

This year, Polaris will be at the Women on Wheels National Conference, the Wild Gypsy Tour, the National Bikers Roundup in Mississippi, the Latino Mix Live in Texas and Latino Farmer Conference in California.

“We are excited to go and learn,” Kermisch said.

Burt Flickinger III, managing director of Strategic Resource Group in New York, said Polaris has “a great story and deserves tremendous institutional credit for these initiatives, which are very well thought-out.”

“They are doing all the right things,” Flickinger said, adding that the effort should pay off for Polaris in time.

Flickinger warned, though, that Polaris must be willing to spend the money on the campaign to be successful. He said many multinational product firms regularly invest $5 million to $10 million a year to rebrand and reach more diverse audiences.

Polaris’ new rebranding and marketing effort launched less than a week after Polaris posted second-quarter earnings results that beat Wall Street’s expectations.

For April, May and June, sales rose 18% to $1.78 billion, while net income fell 5% to $88.3 million, mostly because of increased trade tariff costs. Company officials said revenue from Polaris’ ATVs, revamped motorcycle line and its newly acquired boat division led the quarter’s growth.

Dee DePass is a business reporter for the Star Tribune. She spent the last four years covering Minnesota’s manufacturing and mining industries. She previously covered the economy, workplace issues and banking.

dee.depass@startribune.com | Twitter: DePassStrib

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