The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association’s (RVIA) public relations team discussed how its efforts helped keep RVing’s image strong in the media this year and delivered a detailed analysis of the post-recession consumer at “Outlook 2010: Let the Sun Shine” today (Dec. 1) to kick off the 47th Annual National RV Trade Show.

In a presentation titled “Keeping Our Image Bright,” Public Relations Committee Chairman B.J. Thompson and RVIA Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Gary LaBella discussed how public relations efforts kept RVing’s reputation untarnished during a particularly gloomy news environment, according to a news release.

LaBella outlined the key messages that RVIA’s PR team stressed to the media, saying, “We told media about RVIA research that proves RV vacations cost less … that great deals are available for buyers with cash or good credit … that full campgrounds show RV owners are still traveling … and that RVing continues to be a great way for stressed families to reconnect and spend quality time with each other.”

He reported that these messages — along with a new industry focus on affordable, lighter-weight, more energy-efficient new RVs — resonated with both the media and American consumers who have turned away from luxury vacations in search of ways to spend quality family time together without breaking the bank.

Thompson added that, because of successful PR efforts, “RVs have remained popular, mainstream and relevant despite declining shipments, despite high unemployment in our industry and the nation.”

LaBella and Thompson emphasized that the focus on RVing as a way to achieve family togetherness affordably will continue to be important in marketing RVing to the new, post-recession consumer.

Saying that the nation’s historic recession has not only “slowed the buying binge,” but also spawned new values in consumers, the pair outlined how the RV industry can best tap into Americans’ new perspective on spending, by outlining five key post-recession trends:

  • Simplicity: Consumers are cutting back, and focusing on simple family pleasures. Thompson said that RVIA PR would address this post-recession trend by showing the media that, “RVing is the family-friendly way to travel affordably, and enjoy the stress-busting effects of the outdoors.”
  • Discretionary Thrift: Now, even consumers with good incomes are seeking value without big name premiums. They are looking for savings at every opportunity. LaBella said, “RVs can be a good fit for this emerging consumer behavior. An RV is an investment with long-lasting returns — not only in financial savings over other types of travel, but in memories that can’t be valued in dollars.”
  • Mercurial Consumption: Before the recession, LaBella said, “Consumers were moving quickly from product to product to keep up with the Joneses and find the next best thing.” Now, while mercurial consumption still happens, saving money is the motive. Thompson explained, “In the travel and tourism industry, there were mercurial shifts to camping last summer. As cost-conscious families looked for options to replace their expensive pre-recession vacations, camping became an attractive alternative, even to those who hadn’t tried it.” To make these new campers avid RVers, LaBella emphasized the need for “dealers, campgrounds and manufacturers to work together to make sure campers know that RV camping is an ideal vacation alternative for the times, and for the future.”
  • Instantaneous Influence: The rise of social media means that word-of-mouth is now immediate and global, said Thompson. “In today’s business environment, it’s more important than ever to treat the customers right and make products that don’t disappoint.”
  • Living Green: Consumers are showing a rising interest in going green, a trend slowed but not stopped by the recession, said LaBella. “We must educate consumers to understand that research shows that RV travel actually conserves resources and impacts the environment less than flying, driving, and staying in hotels,” he said.