CASES Case 2-1 Climbing To The Top! Written by Dr. David Matthews, SUNY Adirondack; students Sandra Dickinson and Christina Green, SUNY Adirondack
Where can one go and relax while having a thrill-seeking adventure? Ever heard of vertical yoga? Would you, could you, imagine being 30 feet off the ground in a tranquil state of mind, knowing you have just reached a new high? Tom Rosecrans began an adventure of a lifetime when he bought out two partners of Rock Sport Indoor Rock Climbing (www.rocksportny .com). A small-scale facility with varying degrees of difficulty ranging from beginner to advanced bouldering, the setting may be small in square footage but it sure fills the desires of experienced climbers. Never having owned his own business, this high school teacher powdered his hands and held on tight, taking his venture to new levels ten years later. With over 36 years of rock climbing experience, Tom has experienced destinations on a global scale, including two expeditions to the Himalayas.
Running a business of passion could be overwhelming, so Tom kept things relatively manageable, never really trying to outdo or grow the business beyond modest proportions, satisfied to own a part-time “hobby” business. However, the situation has changed and Tom has decided now is the time for adjustment, and with good reason. A few months ago a newer, bigger, brassier indoor rock climbing gym opened just 20 minutes away and is drawing excitement from Rock Sport’s current customer base as well as the public. With few choices and immediate need, Tom must use market research to determine how to increase Rock Sport’s target market and client base through innovated new programs.
Outdoor rock climbing, or mountaineering, began in Europe in the early 1800s, though the first mountaineering club wasn’t started until 1857. Rock climbing for recreation came much later in the 20th century, when styles, grading, and equipment were all brought together and turned the adventure into a sport. 1 In the 1980s alternatives were made for busy climbers; indoor facilities that took less time to manage were designed to 152 PART TWO: Internal Influences have different degrees of difficulty and to allow realistic experiences for the sport enthusiast.
Climbing is both physically challenging and psychologically rewarding. For example, major progress can be made in improving one’s cardiovascular health, muscle tone, and weight loss. But one of the great benefits of rock climbing is the thrill and joy it brings, as well as a pure sense of achievement. Children love the challenge in a risky environment, while parents enjoy the safety features in today’s indoor gyms. Having fun with family, friends, or finally reaching one’s personal “trail” goal is satisfying. A simple focus group conducted at a gym even revealed customers speaking of “peak performances and experiences,” conditions indicative of the intrinsically satisfying “flow” state of motivation.
However, there are some negative perceptions in society today regarding rock climbing, many stemming from cautious Baby Boomers. Survey research revealed the following possible obstacles: fear of falling, fear of heights, low self-image while climbing (embarrassment), and even the fear of failure. All were cited as reasons why adult participation in rock climbing has declined over the years. On top of this, cost and time limitations were also mentioned by survey respondents. Tom’s biggest challenge is drawing in new people or markets to try rock climbing. He is convinced the sport can be viewed as another “soft recreation” alternative similar to kayaking and bicycling. In fact, he has made it a personal mission to get more Baby Boomers like himself to try the sport. The children’s market is not the problem. Hundreds of Generation-Y parents are bringing their kids to the facility for birthday parties and non-competitive meets. In addition, students from the local community college are also regular customers who share their experiences on social media like Facebook. No, the younger demographic segments are not the issue. As such, Tom is now challenged to change this negative attitude among the Generation-X and Baby Boomer market segments.
Other indoor gyms have grown their businesses by making the needed changes in facility offerings and programs. In the past, strong athletic men were the avid climbers; today the average climber is in his or her mid-20s, with the number of children right behind and growing rapidly. 3 There are stories of toddlers climbing indoor rock walls in just diapers, and even five and six-year-olds on open mountain ranges climbing better than most adults, which shows how they will become the new generation of the sport. Women have slowly gained interest in the sport mainly due to themed nights and special events. Many believe that rock climbing is for the 130-pound, athletic, outgoing type and miss that rock climbing can fit anyone who is willing to try. There has even been a national marketing campaign introduced to stress the safety of climbing.
Currently, most of Rock Sport’s customers are the children of Generation Xers in the athletic programs and some college students. Tom would like to encourage Baby Boomers and parents of the children that use his facility to give indoor climbing a try. Convincing the older generations of the health benefits and the fun and exciting adventures is tricky in today’s society. Their opinion of adventurers is young and fit, not parents and grandparents. Changing the views of these age groups is challenging and can cost quite a bit of money and time if not done correctly.
Soon Tom will pass the business off to his daughter, but not without leaving her a strategy that ensures sustainable growth forward. Ideas include moving into a larger facility, revamping the website, increasing social media use, and bringing in yoga and Pilates instructors to lead classes. Creating large competitive events that showcase the facility and spread awareness are other possible ideas. As such, Tom is challenged by what the future holds and eager to turn ideas into action plans.
2. What do you think motivates one to rock climb or try this sport? Is the value provided utilitarian or hedonic? If you never tried rock climbing, would you now consider it? If so, what would be your motivation?
4. Using the multiple trait approach to consumer behavior, analyze which specific consumer traits would explain one’s motivation to rock climb. For example, the Five Factor Model of personality traits is one framework that can be used.
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