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Forest River Inc. teamed with a prominent Florida dealership at the RV Super Show in Tampa to adopt a proactive plan that would offset any negative reaction to the Elkhart, Ind., builder’s Tsunami motorhome line.
According to a report in the Elkhart Truth, Donnie Carter, general manager of Buddy Gregg Motor Homes Inc. in Lakeland, Fla, feared consumers would equate the brand name with the disastrous tsunami storm that hit South Asia on Dec. 26.
Prior to the show, Carter worked with Forest River President Pete Liegl and Tsunami division manager John Cunningham to devise a program that would counteract any negative feedback.
“We came up with a program that we as a dealer would make a donation to the American Red Cross to tsunami victims in the name of every customer who buys a Tsunami in January and February,” Carter said. “It should bring in excess of $20,000. It is an expensive proposition, but we felt it was a good move on everybody’s part.”
According to Carter, the anticipated backlash never materialized. “We had the best show we’ve ever had. Our customers love the product and don’t have a problem with the name,” he said.
The Truth reported that Tom Stinnett RV, Clarksville, Ind., also initiated a program before last week’s Louisville, Ky., consumer show, donating $2,500 from each purchase of a Tsunami to the disaster relief effort.
“People are fine with it,” said Bob Wiegand, sales comptroller for Stinnett RV, midway through the show. “I have not heard one customer talk about it (name similarity).”
Accordingly, Liegl said he isn’t planning a name change and that Forest River will ride out any negativity that occurs from the Tsunami brand name.
Forest River isn’t the only company dealing with a potential branding problem. A recent story in Time Magazine reported that Toyota had pulled promotion for the introduction of the Celica Tsunami.
Time also reported the Tsunami Restaurant in West Palm Beach, Fla., adopted a similar strategy to Forest River, sponsoring happy hour benefits for UNICEF.