May 17, 2022

Could Your Motorsports Efforts Use a Heavy Dose of Minimalism?

Samuel Pawlak

Ulrich Baretzky, former head of engine development at Audi Sport once said...

“Noise is a form of energy, and the less your hear, the more you’re using for propulsion.”

Ulrich was responsible for designing the engines that powered the Audi R10, R15, and R18 to over a dozen victories at Lemans. I think he knows what he’s talking about, and I think this same principle applies to marketing.

So, why then do I think the motorsports industry would benefit from minimalism in this department? As if motorsports wasn’t loud enough as a sport, some feel the need to create even more noise in their marketing efforts.

This noise is created when there’s a lack of focus, maybe a lack of understanding on who their target demographic is, or maybe it could also just be there are inefficiencies internally. Things like divergent strategies, an unmotivated marketing team, or a heavy technical debt on the digital side that no one wants to touch can all act to create a lot of unnecessary noise in the system. Whatever the case may be, I wanted to share some examples of this noise, as well as some potential remedies. These apply to entities of almost any size from small teams, all the way to the biggest pro racing series in North America.

Examples of Excessive Noise

Example 1 - Sometimes I’ll see a social media post from a motorsports entity/company that strikes me as being off-brand or not aligned at all with what I expected from them. But it’s not completely off-base either. Rather, they’ve fallen into this uncanny brand valley where I’m not sure at all who they’re talking to, and based on the post’s likes/engagement, it appears their fanbase felt the same way. It’s the real life equivalent of someone who doesn’t make eye contact in conversation but rather looks at something just off to the side of your face the entire time. Truth be told, I’ve 100% done this too. I think Ikoniqa’s audience will find value or engage with one thing, only to find that I communicated the content as if I was speaking to someone else entirely, thus missing the mark. For a moment, I forget who my core audience was, and embarked on a personal interest instead.

Another example….a lack of consistency. By consistency, I’m not so much referring to how often one engages with their audience, but rather, the format and appearance. Regardless of how often you engage your audience, if they don’t recognize you in the first place, you’re wasting potential energy. In other words, there's a lacks of brand recognition. I think I’ve maybe overstated it at this point, but one brand I have to give credit to that is always on point here is Formula 1. Just browse any space they occupy online and they spare no expense to let you know it’s Formula 1. Wieden+Kennedy in collaboration with Liberity Media Group are a great example of operating and communicating their brand effectively. Copy their homework!  

Another simple example of creating unnecessary noise is when brands feel the need to occupy every corner of the social media sphere for the sake of…well, I’m not really sure actually. This namely includes attempting to maintain content for social media accounts on everything from Twitter to Flickr (yes, Flickr is still a thing… I guess). Social media is not my specialty, however, understanding and spotting when a resource is being spread too thin when it could be concentrated heavily into a couple social media platform that best align with your business and your target demographic doesn’t take a social media specialist to point out. There’s a reason Ikoniqa only has an active LinkedIn and Instagram account. LinkedIn is where blogs and insights like this go, and Instagram is where all the pretty pictures of our work go. Keepin’ it simple. That being said Instagram is turning into TikTok so we’ll see how long the value of our IG account lasts, but I digress.  

Another example, not exclusive by any means to motorsports, but certainly prevalent, is this strange urge to jump on every new trend that pops up. Everyone’s developing their own app? We should develop our own app! Now everyone’s doing their own podcast? We should have a podcast! You get the point. And listen, sometimes it totally works if that trend just happens to be a great tool to help achieve your goal. However, a lot of the time, it’s a huge waste of resources because we aren’t viewing the opportunity costs to execute these tasks through the lens of our brand’s mission, nor are we thinking about the target audience.

Side Note: I’m in a weird position where I would love to use real world cases for all of the aforementioned examples, but at the same time, I don’t want to pretend I know exactly why they’re making the choices they are, nor do I want to upset anyone as I’m likely just one person away from knowing them. The motorsports community is tight. That being said, if I do ever call someone out, it probably means I’m a huge fan and would love to work with you :) The goal has always been to solve the big problems and design better solutions in motorsports.

Possible Remedies & Creating Efficiency

Anyway, here are some ways to diagnose the noise in your own motorsports business, and thus run more efficiently…

1.     First - Dig up, dust-off, and re-read the business’s mission statement. If you don’t have one, simply determine what the goal of the business is beyond of course the bottom line (because let's be real, every business’s goal is to grow the bottom line). Then, simply map the mission statement to all the marketing efforts being carried out. Most of them likely align perfectly, but some may show signs of weakness. Review the inputs vs outputs of all marketing strategies and start asking what can be eliminated, and where to re-allocate or eliminate resources. People tend to spread themselves thin. In a world where we feel like we need all the tools all at once, we probably just need 2-3 well thought out and tested marketing strategies that speak directly to our audience. To add to this, there’s already so much noise you’re competing with in the market, trying to dominate all channels is a futile effort. The metrics we have access to today also make this process far more objective than it used to be, and it’s something I do personally every quarter to optimize the business.

2.     Evaluate who the target demographic is (in detail). Their general behavior might consistently map to a profile you’ve built, but what changes is the generation of people that fill that profile. And each new generation communicates completely differently from the prior one. Has the generation you originally mapped to moved on? Are you now speaking to the next generation of fans, teams, or drivers in a language that only communicated to the older generation?

3.     Less is more. Minimalism in marketing is not about doing less, it’s about doing more of what’s working, and less of what’s not. It’s about condensing, consolidating, and refining the brand’s message. It’s about building a customer/user experience that simply delights and informs vs overwhelms and confuses people. And last but certainly not least, it’s about building a brand that communicates…simply.

Motor racing is the loudest sport on the planet. Don’t overthink your marketing strategy, don’t overcomplicate it, stay on point, and you’ll barely have to make a sound to be heard amongst all the chaos.

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