Kawasaki Opens Insider's Portal To John Q. Public

At Kawasaki's dealer meeting in Las Vegas late last month, dealers weren't the only attendees. Through the auspices of a marketing program the company launched this year, the usually sacrosanct meeting was open to the public because, this year, Kawasaki has opened its consumer web site not only to the dealer meeting but to a range of motorcycle, ATV, and Jet Ski events.

The program, "Kawasaki Live!" features several hundred videos: the press reveal of Kawasaki's new Versys motorcycle; pre-race interviews at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca with Kawasaki racer Roger Hayden; the company's new-product showcase; and the 24th International Jet Sports Boating Association World Finals of personal watercraft racing, held this month in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., are recent examples.

The company says the program has a library of some 240 video clips, also housed at Kawasaki's channel on YouTube.

Kawasaki Live takes the unusual tack of placing documentary-style footage of industry events typically reserved for press and insiders on its consumer home page. In general, motorcycle manufacturers' consumer pages are strictly product, with rare exception.



But Chris Brull, senior manager, marketing at the Santa Ana, Calif.-based company says consumers are also visiting the Kawasaki web site to bond with the company as much as to shop and ogle Kawasaki Green bikes.

"It's all been about product and very conservative," he says. "We needed to embrace what's going on in the world in terms of YouTube, MySpace, the whole explosion of consumer-created content. We realized as the No. 4 player in the market, we needed to stand out."

Brull says Kawasaki Live reflects a new perspective that makes the company's marketing as much about content creation as product pitching. "We aren't competing against the other bikes, we are competing against entertainment," says Brull. "We are competing for share of consumers' minds. This isn't about making our consumer web site a brochure on steroids. We are no longer Kawasaki marketing; we are creating content."

Stefan Drust, creative director at Laguna Beach, Calif.-based Fuse, Kawasaki's digital agency, says the company introduced the effort as a test in March by covering Kawasaki's events and races at Bike Week in Daytona Beach, Fla. "Subsequently, we engineered it to be its own portal, a gathering place for live events from which you can branch off into various blogs about different events."

Ann Barber, account services director at Fuse, says that the site has gotten a spike in traffic each time Kawasaki debuts another event on Kawasaki Live. "Residual traffic increases as well, because the interested community includes bloggers and forum participants, who are placing links to Kawasaki Live within their conversations," she says.

Brull says the program reflects a broader strategy of shifting assets from TV to the web. "For every TV spot that we don't do, we can do 10 Kawasaki Live events. We wanted to give people a portal, a personal connection to the brand and also expose them to the kinds of things editors get to experience."

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