Do Rapid Release Cycles Intentionally Mislead Consumers?
For an industry that has more competitors and moving parts than you could possibly imagine, the golf equipment industry does a fantastic job of keeping their customers informed, engaged, and coming back for more. However, the volume of products available can be overwhelming, which can confuse consumers and lead to false conclusions as we try to make sense of it all.
I’ll cover a few of these misconceptions in a series of brief posts, but I encourage you to offer your own views in the comments section below. You can also contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Part 1: Do OEMs intentionally mislead consumers via rapid release cycles?
I recently received a series of messages from a reader who was absolutely convinced that golf’s biggest brands maintain equipment release cycles meant to intentionally mislead their consumers. While I vehemently disagreed with the points he argued, it was not the first time I’d heard this hypothesis, nor will it be the last.
Golf’s original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) are the brands that we all know. Any company that produces parts and equipment that can be marketed by another manufacturer falls into this category. Think Callaway, TaylorMade, PING, Srixon, Cleveland, Bridgestone, Mizuno, and others.
For years these companies have been locked in competition to find a place in your golf bag, and this has become more difficult over the last five years. I’ve argued the quality gap between one OEM to the next is more narrow today than ever before, which actually helps consumers more than it hinders. You almost can’t go wrong with anything you purchase.
In an attempt to widen this gap — at least in the perception of the consumer — many OEMs have gone the route of “more is better” in terms of releasing new equipment to the market. Release cycles have sped up considerably over the years as golf’s major brands appear to churn out new equipment at a break-neck pace.
While not entirely accurate — many OEMs operate on biennial release cycles, if not longer — the sheer volume of brands following different timelines can alter our perception. More “new stuff” is released across all brands more often, so golfers feel like they just saw a new product release last month.
While perception is reality, it’s important to remember that OEMs do not want to intentionally confuse the consumer via their release schedule. That confusion occurs when the same brand releases more than one similar product in the same calendar year, and it’s something brands must do a better job at explaining.
Callaway Golf is an example of a brand that handles this well. As Harry Arnett explained in episode 152 of the GU podcast, the 2018 release of Callaway Rogue required a detailed explanation of how it differed from the Callaway Epic line, which was released months prior. In this instance, the Rogue was not a replacement for Epic; the two lines were to co-exist as a means to cast the widest net to capture the largest scope of golfers who fall into specific equipment categories.
Did consumers catch on to this difference? It would be naive to think all golfers knew that Rogue did not “replace” Epic, but this isn’t Callaway’s fault. It’s human nature to assume the new shiny toy is “better” than the last, especially since the majority of industries follow this exact logic with their new products. I received numerous emails from readers and podcast listeners who made this abundantly clear to me.
Callaway is just one example, of course, but it’s a case that further validates there is no perfect recipe to follow when releasing new products to the public. There are far greater risks to the OEM than the consumer when release cycles speed up, as I’ve discussed in the past. Overproduction and excessive inventory are incredibly hazardous forms of waste and should be avoided at all costs.
So while no successful company intentionally misleads their consumers (even typing that sentence feels dirty, but it’s a sentiment shared with me often enough to prompt this post), brands should never overlook the reality of consumer perception regardless of planning. Properly educating customers can be more valuable than the revenue generated from a one-time sale of a new product, and can continue to pay off for years.