Curse those pesky ‘ski boarders’

The March 1991 issue contained a case study (“Retaining heat”) detailing how chairlift-based one-on-ones and other forms of qual had informed Colorado ski area Copper Mountain’s process of repositioning itself. The project was a pretty standard research success story but what really stands out to modern eyes is the brief mention of “ski boarders,” a then-nascent group of snow lovers who were apparently ruffling feathers at resorts around the world (except for France, apparently, according to the internet), along with the helpful explanation:

"To further enhance its image with the younger, cutting-edge skier, the resort has also opened its arms to ski boarders, who use a single board rather than two skis to “surf” down the slopes. “All the other resorts were discouraging people from ski boarding,” Austin-Kelley’s Lisa Durand said, “but research is telling us that the skier population is shrinking, so since we can’t increase the size of the pie, let’s increase our share of it, so Copper Mountain decided to encourage people to come and ski board.”

This was three years before the International Olympic Committee officially recognized, ahem, snowboarding and seven years before the sport made its debut at the Winter Games in Nagano, Japan. Given its dominance, it’s hard to believe there was a time when “ski boarders” were grumbled at by downhill skiers for bringing a skateboarding culture to the slopes. Oh and the research must have helped: Copper Mountain recently celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Somewhere, a Sunfire shines on

When the last Pontiac automobile rolled off the assembly line in January 2010, the marque disappeared from the market. Fifteen years before that, a 1995 case study (“Igniting the Sunfire”) detailed how collages made by focus group responses gave ad agency creatives insight into imagery, language and lifestyle aspirations of potential buyers of the Pontiac Sunfire, an entry-level car “aimed at younger drivers who want a sporty car but can’t quite afford one.” 

Targeted TV spots touting the car as a ticket to adventure grew out of the qualitative research findings. 

“We knew we had to do something different,” said Gary Martin, D’arcy Masius Benton & Bowles senior vice president and group media director on the Pontiac account. “The typical Sunfire prospects watch television, but quite selectively; they read but not the broader-circulation publications. They are into fitness and music and spend a lot of time in their cars. Many are still in college and are impossible to reach with direct mail.”

A long time in the field

Time is often of the essence in marketing research but in another 1991 case study (“Walking a fine line”), taking two years to gather data worked just fine for helping Stiefel Laboratories confirm that a packaging redesign of its Oilatum soap might be a good idea. The soap, intended for users with dry, sensitive skin, was generally purchased on a doctor’s recommendation but accumulated responses over two years to an in-package questionnaire revealed that 10% of the soap’s users bought the soap on impulse, leading Stiefel to suspect that an updated look might attract more impulse purchases. No time like the present, right?