At the upcoming PSP Expo, APSP will unveil an exciting new initiative: Escape, a major digital marketing program aimed directly at consumers.

The word "escape" conjures up two images: getting away from something undesirable, like the scorching summer heat and the grind of day-to-day life, and breaking away to something far better — like the cool, refreshing waters of a pool or the soothing warmth of a spa. Both are central messages to the new marketing campaign, which is being created and funded entirely by APSP.

For the industry, the campaign offers one simple goal: to spur its recovery. While the industry has swung back to tepid growth since 2009, APSP hopes the campaign will help the industry as a whole reach a more robust sales climate.

Still in Recovery Mode

According to Lisa Grepps, APSP's director of marketing and communications, "When the recession hit, people started looking very closely at how they were spending their money. They were especially cautious about investing in big-ticket items; pools and spas were prime examples. Many looked at our products and decided to move on."

Other big-ticket industries like recreational boating and RVs were also hit hard by the recession, but Grepps says they've bounced back more strongly. Part of the reason, she says, is the successful consumer initiatives those industries launched, including the Discover Boating and Go RVing national marketing campaigns. Year after year, these campaigns have helped the boating and RVing industries grow in popularity — and Grepps says it's time for the pool and spa industry to follow suit.

"It's our industry's turn," Grepps says. "Many of our members have been asking for something like Escape, and we're responding to them." She views Escape as a powerful vehicle for reintroducing American consumers to the desirability of owning a pool, spa or hot tub. To that end, the campaign will address a variety of barriers that research has shown are keeping many homeowners from purchasing the industry's products.

"Through Escape, we hope to show consumers it doesn't cost as much as they think to own a pool or spa; that outfitted properly, pools and spas can actually be quite thrifty when it comes to water usage; and that there are a wide range of benefits — both physical and emotional — that come from being a pool, spa or hot tub owner," Grepps says.

One Campaign, Multiple Facets

Escape is a multifaceted program that will incorporate — among other things — the following:

  • A website specifically branded for the campaign:
    The Escape site will not appear as an APSP project, but as its own entity that will explain the benefits of pool and spa ownership, offer advice to help visitors decide which product is right for them and help them get in touch with industry professionals — all APSP members — who can help them achieve their dream backyard.
  • Tools to help APSP members do their own marketing:
    For example, images will be embedded in the Escape site that APSP members can use on their own websites, in their social media presence, in their retail stores and other venues.
  • An advertising program — primarily Internet-based — to tout the lifestyle the industry can provide.
    APSP commissioned Planit, a full-service marketing, PR and design agency, to develop a number of ads featuring a range of messages and images. Planit's impressive roster of clients includes McCormick, DeWalt, NPR, Acura and Universal Music Group.

The ad materials produced by Planit have been tested on 300 potential pool and spa consumers by the market research firm YouGov. Participants in the test ranged in age from 36 to 64, owned single-family detached homes, had a minimum household income of $75,000 and were "at least somewhat likely to purchase a pool or hot tub in the next five years." The test results played a central role in deciding which ads will run in the Escape program.

The bulk of Escape's digital advertising outreach will take place between November's PSP Expo in Las Vegas and April 2016, a period when most homeowners who are interested in purchasing a hot tub or buying a pool plan their project. The idea is to build excitement in potential pool and spa owners and spur them to contact a retailer or builder and make the purchase.

Start Slow, Build on Success

Grepps is under no illusion that Escape will jumpstart the entire leisure aquatics market in one season. Still, she is optimistic that over time, the campaign will make a big difference in the success of the pool and spa industry. Sustained commitment is key.

"We're beginning with something small so we can make sure we're doing it right," she says. We're starting in a very measured and reasoned way — planning everything in advance — so we can build on the success of the campaign year after year."

What can APSP membes, and members of the industry in general, do to help? "We need people to get onboard and use the tools that we provide to their best advantage," Grepps says. "We need everyone in the industry to get excited about the campaign. That's the thing: Let's do this…let's do this together!"

The Escape Toolkit

The nuts and bolts of the campaign

APSP's Escape consumer marketing program will offer the association's members a number of practical tools, at no charge, which they can use to highlight positive messages about pools, spas and hot tubs. Some of the tools listed below will be part of the initial campaign, and others will come into play as Escape develops and grows from year to year.

  • An online app themed to the campaign that compares the cost of pool ownership with the cost of other high-ticket items such as RVs and boats. This could be embedded into APSP members' own websites.
  • An Escape-themed loan calculator app that quickly demonstrates to potential customers easy financing options for their pool/spa/hot tub purchase through LendingClub. This, too, could be embedded in APSP members' websites.
  • Escape logos, digital ads and social media assets that members can use.
  • Email templates themed to the campaign that invite existing owners to renovate their pools and spas, and that encourage potential customers to take the plunge.
  • Escape-themed artwork that can be used for banners, billboards and advertisements by individual professionals or APSP chapters.

Contact Lisa Grepps at lgrepps@apsp.org with feedback regarding these ideas, as well as any additional suggestions you may have.

Tags: APSP