A cup is filled with water, exactly to the halfway mark. Do you call it a half-full cup of water, or a half-empty one? Personally I like to go for the half-full option – and thankfully it seems I’m not the only one who sees the brighter, more positive side of life.
You see, the recent off-road caravan shoot-out in the magazine (April issue) drew a mixed bag of reactions.
Conqueror won that shoot-out, as voted by our three-family panel. Echo 4×4 was second with its Kavango, and the market leader, Jurgens Safari, followed in a surprising third place with its best-selling Xplorer.
Predictably, Conqueror was rather pleased with the performance of its Commander, while we did not hear from second-placed Echo 4×4. It was soon clear, though, that the Jurgens Ci head office was not a happy place after the results were published, with the management team disappointed that the Xplorer had played second fiddle to both the Conqueror and the Echo 4×4 products.
The Xplorer is the best-selling product on the market, so how was it possible that it finished in third place, they pondered? Surely the magazine’s methodology was flawed? And what about the judges? Were they really as impartial as we had said they were?
We had a constructive meeting about the results, and I forwarded our entire questionnaire, exactly the same as our judges had used, to Jurgens for their perusal.
A month or two went by without us hearing from the Jurgens team. Then, out of the blue, a call came to meet up for breakfast, to share some numbers.
At the breakfast it soon became clear what Jurgens had been up to. Instead of dismissing our test as a load of hogwash, the marketing team had come up with an interesting – and possibly a first for this industry – plan of action.
They had booked a camping resort for a weekend. Next, they went out and bought one of their competitors’ caravans, and borrowed the other. And by “bought” I mean they actually paid more than R250 000 for it.
Next, they invited their management team and dealer principals, then a selection of Campworld sales people and, lastly, staff from Safari 4×4 Centre that also deal with Jurgens Safari products, to the resort. In the end a total of about 70 individuals were involved in the tests. Leisure Wheels’s score sheet was used by all to allocate marks in a number of categories – exactly as we had done in our shoot-out.
The results, as one would expect, leaned heavily towards the Jurgens brand. But that’s not the important thing here.
The Jurgens marketing team also asked all their respondents, after experiencing the competing products first-hand, to identify areas where the Xplorer could possibly be improved upon. So the Jurgens marketing and product development team ended up with a short but extremely valuable “to do” list. These are generally small changes but from practical and aesthetic points of view they will certainly ensure an even better Xplorer for the future.
It didn’t stop there. Jurgens also took all three similarly equipped caravans to a weigh bridge. Suffice to say that one should not always take what is stated on the data plate attached to the draw bar as a given. Like, not even close, in fact.
If you are planning to buy a caravan, best make the effort to take it and your vehicle to a weigh bridge and see what you are really up against. This could also influence the legality of your rig, not to mention reveal a potential safety hazard when you are towing a vehicle that weighs 300kg more than you thought it did.
The fact that the Jurgens team had the wherewithal to embark on this exercise will also benefit the way we do our panel-based shoot-outs in future. We’ve never claimed our shoot- outs to be perfect, and we’ll certainly be implementing some “upgrades” for our next caravan shoot-out. These will most certainly include a visit to a weigh bridge.
In the end the consumer is the one that benefits from this process – and that is why Jurgens Ci’s approach was so refreshing, so pro-active… and ultimately, so smart. Instead of shrugging its shoulders and pretending that all was ship-shape and that our shoot-out was a forgettable farce, Jurgens used the process to its advantage and turned what was initially a negative result into a very positive outcome for the future.
Man, if only some other big companies would adopt this resolve. I tip my hat to the people behind the Jurgens Ci brand. It certainly is a company filled with lots of half-full cups of water kind of people – and they are darn hard to find these days.