March '17

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22 • RV PRO • March 2017 rv-pro.com R V M A N U F A C T U R E R S a long time since the team at Winnebago undertook a bit of a brand study to understand how we are perceived and how strong we are relative to our competition. The good news is that the Winnebago brand is still the No. 1 brand in the industry – both in terms of awareness and also preference. Our challenges are two-fold: One, I'd like for us to increase our close rate. By that I mean: Our (brand) preference is at a certain level that you would think our market share should be at a higher level. Which means, people are starting their shopping experience with Winnebago on their mind, but by the time they walk out the door of a dealership with whatever their product is, the numbers aren't (high) enough for my taste. Now, you're never going close to 100 percent … because once they get on a dealer's show floor a number of things are going to happen as it relates to budgets and products they see. So, that's one thing we're going to try to understand better. The other thing the study has begun to show us is that Winnebago is a brand that is well-known to the traditional core (demographic) segments, like Baby Boomers, but if you travel down in both experience within the RV lifestyle and age, we're less well-known. Maybe the company has done a good job of riding its core customer segment over the past years, but hasn't shifted as much of its marketing mix to attract some of the future generations of customers. I think, candidly, the other business related element of that is: We're very young in the towables business. And, with tow- ables having a more affordable price point and obviously less of the complexity that a larger motorized product would, we really haven't had a product offering that's been as accessible to some of those first-time RV owners. So, strategically, our towables business will be a big part of appealing to a younger generation. So, we'll be increasing value on the motorized side, but we'll also have to obviously figure out new ways to reach those segments as well. And, we are doing some interesting things around things like bike rallies and events and partnering with companies like Go Pro to try to associate our brand with other active outdoor brands that may be more hip. We certainly don't want to turn into 'somebody's parents' motorhome or RV brand.' We want to be relevant to them as well. So, stay tuned. RV PRO: You've talked about the need to make some strategic hires. When would that happen and what would those new hires allow Winnebago to do? Happe: We've actually already been doing that. We added a leader in strategic planning and business development; we made a leadership change in towables; we added a new, dedicated VP and general manager of our motorized business; we hired a new vice president of operations, which is manufacturing and supply chain; and then we hired a new chief information officer on the IT side. Plus, the Grand Design acquisition brings a very talented team with it as well. So, we've spent a lot of time looking for people with great skills and experiences to be added to the team of industry and company veterans, so that together we can work on improve- ments within our business. We will continue to add to our talent, and try to have the right resources in the right place. And if we don't have those resources in-house, we won't be afraid to go out in the market and look for them. RV PRO: Anything else you would want to let dealer readers in particular know about Winnebago? Happe: Winnebago has a proud culture and a fantastic legacy. Our future is about blending what is working today with what will be new in terms of adding value. We're very optimistic about Winnebago's future, but we do have some hard work to do to bring that to fruition. A worker puts finishing touches to a Winnebago Grand Tour 45RL motorhome being built at the new Winnebago manufacturing plant in Junction City, Ore. Winnebago renovated the former Country Coach facility to produce diesel motorhomes on the West Coast and to provide additional service capability. PHOTO BY CHRIS PIETSCH

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