Unfiltered Friday: Are Staggered Release Cycles Confusing Customers?

One of the more popular conspiracy theories that has circulated golf’s consumer base in recent years is based around new golf equipment release cycles. This is especially true with new drivers, as the perception that brands intentionally release a new option every year purposely “misleads the consumer.”

This is not true, of course, as we have mentioned on our site many times in the past.

However, a new budding trend has drummed up old feelings of being mislead: staggered releases of full product families. Models of a new driver, for example, that feature different spec characteristics yet are marketed as part of a product family initially released months prior.

Some Recent Suspects

This past week, both Titleist and PING announced new additions to their TS and G-Series driver lines, respectively. The former included two new models — the TS 1 and TS 4 — equipped with specification tweaks that appeal to different swing speeds and spin profiles. The latter introduced a high-MOI, lower-spinning option with the G410 LST.

At the surface, this is no big deal. Having more options is better than having fewer, especially when you consider the challenge brands have to meet the needs of multiple player demographics and skill levels. However, there is still a risk of sending the wrong message.

Take Titleist for example. The TS driver family has been welcomed warmly by fans of the brand and is seeing strong adoption among amateurs and on TOUR. The TS 2 and TS 3 were released over 10 months ago, however; just long enough for Titleist’s faithful to upgrade their drivers before the new season.

While the naming convention of the drivers imply more was yet to come (“Where’s 1 and 4?”), consumers were forced to make a choice. Do you wait for other models that might be coming out at some point, or do you spend $500 on one of the models available now?

Players who have just gone through a fitting might have more to say. For a brand loyalist hoping to upgrade by doing the right thing of visiting their local club fitter, they would have been exposed to two driver options: the TS 2 and TS 3. The release of the TS 1 and TS 4 implies this was the plan all along (of course), but that consumer getting fit 10 months ago was none the wiser.

Would they have been fit more appropriately into one of the drivers released later?

Of course, the opposite is also true. Perhaps neither club was a perfect fit for the player at that time and they decided to hold off on a purchase. Maybe the player felt disappointed, subject to playing the same driver for yet another season. This player, then, would be pleasantly surprised by a later release that fits their profile better. Hope is not lost!

Unless, you know, that player decided to go with another brand.

Transparency is Best

My intent here is not to belittle one specific brand. Every brand, to some degree, does something similar to what I’ve described above. Wilson Golf just announced a “new” version of their C300 Forged series irons in a black gun metal finish, for example. While not my cup of tea, there are some of you who apparently like their golf clubs to look like garden tools. You do you, boo-boo.

My point here is to encourage companies to be more transparent with their product menus. I understand the practice of not showing your hand right away, but I’d argue giving us a peek — or at the very least a date — of what’s to come would be a huge customer satisfier.