Making History - Marketing the Future


I wasn't going to write anything today about making history, but I did dash Curt Cavin, the auto racing editor of the Indianapolis Star an observation about how the Delta Wing concept was unveiled. His response motivated me to file this post.
I shared that I thought Delta Wing had blundered by being so clandestine about the project until the unveiling at the Chicago auto show on 2/10 (Wednesday). Now they have most interested parties assessing it purely on its appearance, and, as people are wont to do, shooting from the hip with vehement opinions.  I guessed that the core group behind the effort, which I gather to be Chip Ganassi and designer Ben Bowlby had socialized it with the team owners - this sense I had gotten from some of my own contacts in the business. Among the teams at least,  there appears to be strong support.
The problem is that Delta Wing did not, apparently, share it with anyone outside their club of racing insiders. Unfortunately, this seems to be a behavior endemic to IndyCar racing dating back decades - and one that has never served them well. The fans are hugely important and right now they are deriding the Delta Wing Concept. That was my gut reaction as well. This batmobile doesn't look like anything I ever viewed as an IndyCar. However, after exchanging views with some other people that had snuggled with folks like Mike Hull of Chip Ganassi Racing, I committed to keep an open mind. Frankly, the more I think about it, the more I like it.
Apparently my interpretation from yesterday's blog is fairly accurate in terms of the vision of Delta Wing. This leaves me with a couple of thoughts about what the Delta Wing people need to do with tremendous urgency before all their hard work swirls down the toilet.

  1. Shape up your message. Use computer analogies of collaboration. You talk about the 18-35 demo; this is something they understand. Open source computing - such as Linux is probably the best example. But Wikipedia may be one that a wider range of people can relate to. Explain how this collaboration will make developments available to everyone, jump start innovation and empower a wider range of people to get involved. This is where the connection to young people will happen - by opening up the design capability so that universities can utilize it as a resource in engineering classes. Come on guys, tell this story. Get some Purdue engineering Profs to line up beside you.
  2. Utilize the social networking commonly available. Get bloggers like Press Dog and My Name is IRL on your side. Use the Facebook sites for fans of the Indianapolis 500. Get drivers Tweeting about it, and haunt forums like Trackforum and's bulletin board. Just as you should do with the press and any kind of influencers in your industry pull together conference calls and WebEx briefings. They will eat it up. They, like me, love to be a part of IndyCar.

Delta Wing sounds like an important message that deserves a fair hearing. The strategy - and I am being kind - in communicating it may be its downfall and that would be a shame. While we're talking about making history, shaping the future, saving the sport let's consider something else. It is time for IndyCar to knock off being such a club and include the fans. Their opinions matter tremendously even if they don't know what they are talking about as I am afraid Delta Wing is about to find out - the hard way.
P.S. Check out Curt Cavin's interview of Delta Wing Designer Ben Bowlby on the podcast of his Thursday night radio show.