Image, personal branding matter a lot

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Erwin Versoza

Erwin Versoza

The Outdoors Club shop looks like it is not in an ideal location because it is situated along a major bank row in Greenhills, San Juan City.

But the location of Outdoors Club is part of the marketing strategy of its owner, Erwin Versoza, who once did business in Banawe, Quezon City, wholesaling automotive accessories to various shops there.

“You cannot find an accessory shop like this anywhere else in the Philippines. Normally, you go to Banawe [in Quezon City]. You don’t go to Ayala [Avenue] if you are selling car accessories. So I made it appear that I am the Rustan’s for car accessories,” he said.

It was in 1999 that Versoza decided to set his sights on motorists who were willing to shell out money for expensive car accessories that will also make them feel good.


“Let’s put it this way. I’m selling coffee and everybody knows coffee is P6 to P5 [per cup]. Then one day I told myself ‘I’m going to sell the P500 coffee,’” he said.

Undeniably, all of the products sold at the Outdoors Club shop are of the high-end type and have price tags that would make the usual shopper of car accessories in Banawe think he or she stepped into the wrong place. Among the items on display at the shop are bike carriers, roof racks and luggage boxes bearing the Rhino-Rack or Mont Blanc brands.

It was in 2012 that the Outdoors Club started carrying Rhino-Rack products from Australia.

“So we picked up at around 2009, 2010 and 2011, and we dropped Thule products and moved to Rhino-Rack, the leader in Asia,” Versoza said.

LEAP OF FAITH
Strangely, it was not foresight that Filipino motorists would eventually start exploring the outdoors that prompted Versoza to set up Outdoors Club. He, however, agreed that it was more of a leap of faith and faith in the brands he was marketing that prompted him to put up the high-end accessory shop.

“I believe in my products that they will sell and sell they did. It’s also a matter of packaging, I packaged it in such a way that it’s like a product you don’t necessarily need, but you must have it as a symbol of your affluence. That is my strategy,” Versoza said.

“The products that you see here, yes of course they have functions. Yes, of course, they are robust. Yes, of course, they are probably number one in their category, but that is irrelevant to a Filipino buyer. To a Filipino buyer, these [products]are as symbol that ‘I have arrived,’ something like that,” he said.

Apparently, the only way for people to demonstrate that they have achieved a high level of success is not to proclaim it verbally to others. Versoza understands that quirk, which explains why successful people seek status symbols.

“For example, I believe that I am wealthy man, I want to manifest it. You cannot say ‘I’m a wealthy man.’ You cannot say that. It’s taboo for a human being to proclaim something [like that]. Somebody else must say it, but nobody else would say it. The only way to say it is this [buy expensive products],” he said.

Selling to the high-end market also made more business sense to Versoza, because the people making up that market are willing to pay for quality.

“Instead of me telling everyone this has quality, I just put a price and let you decide on your own,” he added.

CHANGING LIFESTYLE
Among the major factors that led to the growth of Versoza’s business is the way motorists are exploring the outdoors.

“About 10 years ago, I have these friends from the bike industry, all of sudden they’re going out of town, but it’s not the usual hotel-style stay,” he said.

“They [Asian neighbors] were ahead in the outdoors lifestyle. We were a bit behind, then I saw about 10 years or eight years ago, people were going to strange places that you normally don’t go to. And then we caught up with that lifestyle, all of the sudden the Philippines caught up with that lifestyle too,” he added.

Motorists who also explored the outdoors with their bikes are those with money and achieved a level of success that allow them to have more free time.

“The people who go out town, going outdoors, of course they must have time. If you have free time, definitely you have a little bit of money,” Versoza said.

BUILDING AN IMAGE
Like other businessmen who are into the after-market for automotive products like Sammy Liuison of Wheel Gallery and Lester Codog of Foilacar Industries, Versoza believes that the motorization trend in the Philippines will result in good business for them. Economic numbers also still look good.

The size of the vehicle market in the Philippines, however, still pales in comparison to those of Thailand and Indonesia, where 800,000 and one million vehicles are sold each year, respectively.

“Our population is huge, it’s the second to Indonesia [in Southeast Asia]. But we are the lowest in terms of per capita [income]. Indonesia is already a million [vehicles]a year, Thailand is like 800,000 per year,” Versoza said.

Yet his business is not about selling in large numbers because in every market, there is a market that is willing to buy known, good brands that command a high price. That market is not necessary made up of people who have P100 million in the bank.

“There are people who have, let’s say P1 million, P2 million or P3 million and they have a very high regard for themselves, so they want to have this, they want to have that but not necessarily not knowing what it is for. But they want to have it. These products are something that you must have. Yes, it looks like it’s for the rich, but not all rich people will spend so much money,” he said.

When it comes to selling in terms of unit sales, Versoza said the Outdoors Club is not a about selling in the tens of thousands.

“It’s like Mercedes Benz, 300 units or 1,000 year is enough. It’s not my business to sell 10,000 of this, 10,000 of that,” he said.

Besides selling directly to motorists who want to explore the outdoors, Versoza also supplies bedliners for pick-ups like the Mitsubishi Strada.

The Outdoors Club also supplies car accessories to select brands in the Philippines.

“So if you go to Subaru, if you go to Volkswagen, if you go to Peugeot, Mercedes Benz, we [the brands Outdoors Club carries]are all there [at their showrooms]. We are also the exclusive roof rack for Ford,” Versoza said.

He added that the image of the Outdoors Club showroom also imparts an image of what type of businessman he is, of one who clearly understands the needs of affluent motorists who want quality products that project their status.

“Because of this [showroom], car companies notice me, my passion. This personifies me and the products that I represent, so they deal with me,” Versoza said.

“I branded myself that way, that’s why my showroom looks like this, it smells wonderful, it looks beautiful, it looks clean. I don’t know if you can find something wrong with the place,” he added.

The Outdoors Club showroom also has a Lexus or Mercedes Benz SUV parked inside it.

“Lexus and Mercedes park their cars here because they believe in me, the showroom. Will you display a Lexus at Megamall or Star Mall? It’s a testament of their trust in me,” Versoza said.

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