Trend towards hype vs quality???

I recently saw this interesting page on Nimbus Kayaks site. They spoke of a negative trend in kayak manufacture and marketing away from quality and fair marketing towards allot more hype and making it harder for the buyer to know what quality they are getting. Is this something others feel is accurate???


Marketing potential: We have seen a major change in how manufacturers market their kayaks. The industry has now become large enough to support some fairly large companies. As a result, three companies now control about 80% of the kayak production in North America and at times spend more effort creating marketing excitement and hype to sell product than in building better kayaks. As a designer and also as a manufacturer, I find the change in the atmosphere in the industry profound and somewhat disquieting. What was once an industry where there were not too many secrets, where most participants got along, has become a place where the big guys spend their time fighting for market share. Interestingly, most of the small independent players still get along well and enjoy our involvement.

I guess it depends
on your perspective. I’d say that the big paddlesports companies are marketing kayaks the same way other big companies market consumer prodects. Style over substance and content-free advertising is hardly new for mass-market products. It just may seem new for what was a fairly small industry.

That’s also a self-serving passage, making Nimbus seem like a noble David opposing an evil Goliath. Small companies aren’t always better.

Bigger is not always better and smaller is not always better. Just wondering if it is getting harder to know what the actual quality we

are getting is due to increased hype and pressure on big numbers.

A number of really knowledgeable folks have posted of late on how

really well made lay ups offer seriously better made boats. It impressed me that there are real differences in how kayaks are made.

Service and customer support count

– Last Updated: Jun-22-09 12:57 PM EST –

It's almost never that you hear of a kayak falling apart. it's usually the little things that irritate customers. Skeg problems, mysterious leaks etc. If the company backs up it's products by helping customers and dealers solve problems quickly, the paddlers are usually very happy and have only good things to say. Gel coat cracking is pretty much over and generally the kayak lay-ups are very sound. If a customer really finds out that they dislike a hull, 99% of dealers will trade it for another model if it's in new shape and a few weeks old.

There's no doubt that image is a huge player in advertising. And endorsements are the most powerful advertising tool.

Who are the top three?
I don’t know. And exactly what quality issues are they talking about? If they don’t provide any info to support their claims, I’d say that’s hype.

marketing hype
I felt that a number of kayak company ads in the most recent issue of Sea Kayaker might be deemed hype. There are several rec/light touring kayaks advertised with words and images suggesting the kayaks can offer exploration, skills development, and safety in more challenging environments or conditions that many of us might agree on. Not an issue of manufacturing quality-just performance levels for the type of kayak advertised.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-09 2:50 PM EST –

One can split quality between immediate manufacturing or engineering design quality from longer term durability or performance quality. Not sure which Tideplay is referring to. A company with strong design and production quality can manufacture a kayak free from defects off the assembly line or surfacing within the warranty period. However . . .

To maintain or increase operating margins, especially in inflationary periods, companies often pursue cost-out programs to reduce product cost-material, labor, or overhead. This includes reviewing sourcing/suppliers, design, and components used. Kayak companies can easily seek lower costs hardware (bolts), gelcoat materials, deck lines, seat material, or alter a manufacturing process that will not produce a defect but can diminish (or improve) the longer term durability of some aspect of the boat. This is a longer range definition of quality and not immediately apparent when a boat is used in year one, two, etc.

Confluence & Johnson Outdoors
for sure are two of them.

Confluence Watersports makes Wilderness Systems, Perception, Dagger and 4 other brands:

Confluence also owns Harmony paddle accessories

and Adventure Technology paddles.

Johnson Outdoors has Necky and Old Town:

Note that fishing and boating is just one division of four major outdoor categories.

Sometimes good enough…
…is enough for me. In all products there are various levels of “quality”. Usually, items viewed as higher quality come at a higher price. Not always. Then we get into the question of how we define “value”.

Some characteristics that we use to define quality really don’t matter that much to many happy users. You often read threads about the perceived poor quality control of a certain British boat maker yet most of the owners of those boats are very happy with their choices. They feel that the quality is good enough for what they need to get done and maybe place a higher “value” on their “lower quality” boat than than a “higher quality” boat that they got rid of.

Good thoughts here
Complex stuff. I know far too much to even think of beginning to share it. Martin is dialed-in. But there’s many variables and it’s not a black and white scenario.

Buy from people you trust and respect. Companies that share your values. Beware the “lip” service of an MBA…always! As a consumer, the MBA is NOT your friend in the “value” game…trust me.

Johnson Outdoors has…

Ocean Kayaks

Necky Kayaks

Old Town Canoes & Kayaks



Confluence has…
Adventure Technology


Harmony Gear

Mad River Canoe


Wave Sport

Wilderness Systems

good stuff
i am learning some things here. I have been a bit naive about these matters. Good to here from folks here about what is actually happening and how to be informed.

three companies now control about 80%…

– Last Updated: Jun-23-09 3:09 PM EST –

"three companies now control about 80% of the kayak production in North America"

While Johnson and Confluence are well known big players, Eric Jackson sells the most ww kayaks of any brand. "...a commanding 39 percent share of the whitewater market..." -

Big may not be synonymous with "corporate."

Numbers are relative. There are far more rec boats sold than any other, and far more ww boats than sea kayaks. EJ sold more boats in his first year of production (approx 2,500) than Valley did in its 30th.

correct of course
I should have typed “for example” after naming the 2 brands.


– Last Updated: Jun-22-09 5:41 PM EST –

is not directly proportionate to the size of the company. A small company can hype w. the big guys.
Sometimes they generate a special kind of hype by
real or imagined superiority by exclusivity.

The major difference is that the big guys can flood the market with their hype - different forms and more repetitive cycles of advertising to sway buyers' minds. Well, that is the goal of advertising -to create a need, influence choice, and drive a buy decision.

The other factor is that the big guys are producing more units and these have to go somewhere.

Some wind up at the independent paddleshops most of us like to support right along w. the offerings of some of the smaller kayak makers.

The negative market force here, IMO, is that many of the small independent owners have to place a certain minimum order w., say, Wilderness Systems or Old Town. That leaves them less $$ and less floor space for the smaller makers. And these minimums tend to increase every year. The dealer is pressured to take a higher number of units or lose out on carrying the brand entirely. It's not talked about much on the consumer level, and perhaps some consumers do not care as long as they can get their Cayugas or Tsunamis.

IMO though, a variety of models from different makers is a very good for most buyers and the paddling business as a whole.

Most of us like choices. We want our purchases to be better than "good enough." When there is less independent, craftsmanship-driven competition and innovation pushing the Big 2, "good enough" is likely to be determined by MBAs and CEOs, not paddler owners and designers.

Sure the Big2 push each other, but their criteria is driven strongly by mass market standards because they have much more overhead and need volume to pay for it. This in turn can blunt or dumb down the emphasis on design, materials and workmanship to fit the big bell curve of market demand. It is a symbiotic relationship.

Is this an inherently evil plot? No, just how market share works in this country.

IMO the industry is currently much too lopsided for its own wellbeing. Would be a shame if some very good small to medium companies bit the dust cuz there was very little available sales outlet for them.

That is the bigger issue. Hype is chatter. The dollar driven battle for market share is real and has bigger consequences.

recent salty remarks got me thinking
recent remarks salty made about good and not so good layups, vast differences in materials and workmanship that result is significantly better stronger longer lasting kayaks…

i get it that most folks don’t care nor keep things long, hence the general planned obsolescence thing

i think it is good for me and yeah even the planet to make good stuff that lasts. (no soap box). Recent boat purchase showed me how much better some kayaks are than others.

We are lucky to have so many knowledgeable people posting here at Pnet. I remember when Salty had expressed his concerns about the quality and marketing of sea kayaks, but he always backs that up with the actual differences in manufacturing practices.

Most of the kayaks around here are plastic and sit out on people’s docks. They could afford any kayak but probably think $3500 for a fiberglass kayak is outrages, even though it last 20 years, doesn’t use fuel, and no taxes.

As for the high end sea kayaks, I wonder why there are no Rockpool kayaks over this way? The new GT looks really interesting. I wouldn’t have even known about the Tiderace kayaks if not for Tideplay’s reviews, and we do have a dealer for them down here at Savannah Canoe and Kayak.

Valley has very good quality. Not the latest epoxy lay-up, but flawless gel coat, and very rugged and durable, and easy to maintain. I got a lot of comments on both of my Valleys.

I think that some folks…
…equate the latest lay up to the highest quality. I come back to value. I don’t think that a Lexus is going to last me longer than a Corolla. It might make me look cooler or maybe it will make me look like a geek. Great “layup”, love the leather upholstery, but to me, it has no more value then a decently made, tried and true, middle of the road Toyota.

There are some crap looking boats out there that will probably outlast cockraoches. Real horror show, old school parts and pieces.

Are they quality? Do they have value?

just my thoughts
but Necky is junk. I hate their slow, overpriced crappy boats. I cannot put them down far enough.

Junk Junk Junk!

I would never buy another even if they were the only paddle craft left on earth. I HATE Necky, not deserving of anywhere in the Big2 , not even in the top 100,000