Kevin Shaw: Leave Your Brand Rivalry Out of It

Most of you wouldn’t know (nor would I expect you to) that I cut my teeth in the world of professional publishing not in the powersports industry, but automotive, being hired directly out of school to work at (what was then named) Primedia, the publisher of Hot Rod Magazine, Car Craft and Motor Trend. I am a diehard Mopar lover (Dodge, Plymouth, Chrysler), so I was whisked off to Primedia’s Tampa, Florida, office to work at Mopar Muscle Magazine. Over a dozen years later, I’m the owner, publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Mopar Connection Magazine, the only daily, digital Mopar-enthusiast magazine licensed by FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles). It’s a sister publication to The Watercraft Journal and splits most of my time throughout the year. When I’m not out on the water, I’m in the garage and vice versa.

I say this to preface that I am no stranger to brand loyalty. Clashed between the ever-present Chevrolet vs. Ford rivalry, us Mopar enthusiasts are the third-wheel in this civil war. The vitriol between these warring sects is ludicrous to be frank, as any true car lover can find some beauty, some notable accomplishment or a single engineering marvel in their rival’s history that is praiseworthy. [Despite my loyalty to Dodge, I quietly lust for a 1965 Ford GT40 Mk I, because it is the car that knocked the Prancing Pony down a few pegs, and that alone, is quite an amazing story.] The same of course, can be said for most loyalty/rivalry situations, be them favorite colleges, professional sports teams, etc. If you’re so blindly loyal to anything, you’re likely missing quite a bit.

Here I am wearing a Holley t-shirt, yet Holley doesn’t advertise in our sister publication, Mopar Connection Magazine. How can that be? I know, I’m confused too.

So that is why the Sea-Doo/Yamaha/Kawasaki loyalty conflict is so petty in my view. The personal watercraft industry is minuscule in size (estimated at a total gross of roughly 65 million annually), and yet, in recent weeks, I have fielded the most inane accusations of favoritism, bias and literally being “bought out” because I have dared to share a modicum of praise for one brand or another. And often, it happens multiple times in a month, being blasted for favoring one brand and then the exact other within weeks of each other. The finger pointing extends even beyond me, but to contributors of The Watercraft Journal, and even to friends within the industry. The idea of taking sides in an industry this small is obscenely stupid [unless of course, you’re a sponsored racer, then by all means, you should be shilling that stuff as much as you can. Keep that gravy flowin’, I say.]

Case in point: Every month we publish two episodes of our free video series “Long Haul” on our YouTube channel. It’s a great show that showcases many of the latest personal watercraft, offers a little greater insight into our review process, and also shows off some really cool locations where we test them. Less than 2 weeks ago, we aired our latest episode reviewing the 2018 Sea-Doo RXT-X 300. Coming in at just shy of 13 minutes, the review is pretty lengthy and almost completely positive. And rightfully so, as I state in it, it’s likely the best Sea-Doo that Sea-Doo has ever built. Unfortunately, when people heard this line their brains translated it to: it’s the best friggin’ watercraft ever built and everything you love about anything else is stupid. Also, your mom is fat.

Interestingly enough, I wasn’t the only one to share the same sentiment. Jerry Gaddis of heaped pretty much the exact same degree of praise for the new Sea-Doo and he too was labeled as a sellout and a traitor, despite being neck-deep in a Yamaha GP1800 project. The backlash from Kawasaki and Yamaha loyalists was insane for both of us, and while I cannot speak for Jerry, it was personally infuriating. A text message came through my phone three days ago asking, “So you like the new Sea-Doo I take it. Is that real or are they paying you?” This was from a friend that I’ve known for a decade, and cut me deep.

Was Sea-Doo paying for me to lie? No. In fact, Sea-Doo hasn’t even shared our video – and they’ve shared reviews of the same ski that were far less praising, used nearly zero unique photography and even posted a smugly condescending review that questioned why you wouldn’t rather just buy a boat instead. But no, not our video. So if Sea-Doo was paying for me to compromise my principles and lie about how good the ski was, they’re not even bothering to let anyone know about it. Oh, and don’t even get me started on saying anything nice about a Spark. Ugh. There sure are a lot of people who love to hate on those things. Too bad they’re the number one selling personal watercraft for three years running. But I digress.

So yeah, when I say something nice about the brand or specific ski you like, I “get it.” When I say something nice about the brand or specific ski you hate, I’m a sellout. Hmm… Maybe, it’s less about me and more about you. For the next few months, we’re going to be alternating between Sea-Doo and Yamaha reviews. Back and forth. So it’ll be fun to watch the comments come rolling in. But remember, I don’t have a dog in your brand loyalty fight. I like ’em all pretty much equally but for different reasons. And note that Sea-Doo and Yamaha both advertise with The Watercraft Journal, and they like it when we’re honest and straightforward. It actually makes for better product. [The only time I lie to you is on April Fool’s Day, and still many of you fall for it.]

Go Get Wet,

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Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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  1. Justin K 3 December, 2017 at 22:46 Reply

    From someone who sells Seadoo for a living and rides a Kawasaki (Seadoo don’t make a stand up) and used to Work for Yamaha at a corporate level i couldn’t agree with you more. Brand loyalty is great and hard fought for but aggressive one eyes vitriol like that which you describe is …. weird. It’s a jetski. It’s not a third world dictator. Calm down and be grateful for the fact that you have the quality of life to enjoy something like a jetski and remember that that is all others are trying to do too. Maybe we should also consider that no matter which way you jump these days it’s hard to go wrong and that is a result of guys like Kevin keeping them honest.

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