Bill Richardson’s shed

New Zealanders, like most people, are very proud and they love to talk up their country, except, it appears, when it comes to Invercargill. I have lost count of the number of New Zealanders that have said ‘you can give Invercargill a miss’ ‘there is nothing to see’ ‘it rains all the time’. Well I have to say that I completely disagree; there are a number of reasons to visit Invercargill – a very good reason is to visit one of the finest transport related museums in the world – not just New Zealand – the world.

Please take a tour of Bill Richardson’s Transport World or  as the sign in the museum’s foyer describes ‘Bill’s shed’. This museum outlines the evolution of transport and provides an excellent example of the 4 recurring patterns or 4 market quests.

Please take a wonder around Bill’s shed.

H. W. [Bill] Richardson was born in October 1940, to a family already with a reputation for being hard working and with a good head for business. He grew up in tough times, the Southlands of New Zealand is a harsh environment, however, he stated that he was fortunate as a child to be surrounded by hard working stoic men who, sensing his love for trucks and machinery, encouraged and nurtured his passion.

Today, we are fortunate that this passion was nurtured and motivated Bill to collect a large and magnificent collection of trucks, cars, bowsers, farm machinery, and memorabilia.

His vision and success as a business person provided the opportunity for this passion; therefore it worth exploring the following statement on his business philosophy. Marketing students will note how it succinctly incorporates the sentiments of The Service Profit Chain (Heskett, Sasser, & Schlesinger, 1994)

“I’d rather be known as a good employer, good to our staff. I want HW Richardson Group LTD, and its associated companies known as good companies to work for, businesses that always strive to do well, give good services and are fair to everyone the deal with. If our people remember these things, there’s no reason why the company can’t carry on for many, many years.”

The Richardson Family Story: Firm Foundations, (p.48),

a marketing academic’s view

As a marketing academic I view collections such as Bill Richardson’s differently to what a transport enthusiast would. When I explore this collection I can’t help but consider all the brands that were once strong and robust but have since disappeared.  Clearly, designing and developing best satisfying products – products that best satisfy the customer and the organisation is critical to the survival of any organisation. The demise of brands also highlights the importance of brands as employers and how ultimately it is profitable sales that produce jobs – and remember profits, from a marketing perspective go beyond a financial profit; there must be a profit for the customer, the organisation, the channel partners and society.

As you wander through the collection and study the display [e.g., the collection of classic Fords] you can almost imagine the marketers and the engineers working together to make each improvement – with each model focused on improving on the last and creating a unique product value proposition that would meet the dreams, desires and demands of their customers.

If you try hard – you can imagine that each one of these vintage vehicles was once on an assembly line, then delivered to a showroom and then purchased from a salesperson that explained the features and benefits to a consumer.

As you walk through this collection, perhaps because of the breadth and depth of the collection, the evolution of transport, the evolution of marketing and the 4 recurring patterns of marketing and society are apparent. The 4 recurring patterns or 4 market quests are:

  • The quest to better serve the customer
  • The quest to overcome the challenges facing society
  • The quest for better use [application] of existing resources
  • The quest for more effective distribution of information, products, & people

The collection also reveals an evolution and how utilitarian and hedonic qualities such as being – affordable, reliable, comfortable, repairable, mobility and status could be part of the unique product value proposition of the vehicles on display, and how, today, these qualities are intrinsic for survival.

The importance of market research is also highlighted as not all ‘innovative ideas’ were ‘sound’ – now and then as you walk through this collection you ask ‘what were they thinking?’. Therefore, the collection also motivates us to question where the automotive industry is heading and whether the present strategies are ‘sound’.

Consumers state that it is getting more difficult to differentiate one brand from another others state that it appears as if the performance of the technology is more interesting to salespeople than vehicle performance. Furthermore, today, some consumers are more attracted by convenience than ownership – consider the growth and options within Mobility as a Service [MaaS] – this group of consumers see the inconvenience of vehicle ownership. Some consumers see that the total costs of vehicle ownership outweigh the total benefits and reason that they can hire a suitable vehicle when and where required.

The questions related to brand loyalty are interesting – Will the ‘new’ consumer be more loyal to the MaaS provider than the vehicle manufacturer?

Throughout the evolution of marketing there have been opportunities and threats, it will be interesting to see how marketing practitioners manage the challenges that are unfolding.

What is interesting is the courteous response to the [few] negative comments on social media and their willingness to learn.

Marketing theory suggests – that successful organisations view episodes of dissatisfaction as a way to learn, to improve quality and to reduce costs as a % of sales. 

In some countries the fuel pump is referred to as a ‘bowser’ you may be interested that the bowser was first introduce by S.F. Bowser & Company [Sylvanus Bowser]. You can see an examples of the evolution of bowsers including one by S.F. Bowser.

What the collection of bowsers highlights is the importance of channel partners and how continuous improvements are needed to ensure firstly product adoption but then more efficient and effective supply to ensure the convenience of the customers is met. This collection of bowsers demonstrates how with each small improvement petrol stations improved the facilitating and supporting services they provided. A service that was essential for the car industry itself – and a timely reminder that if electic cars are to be fully adopted an efficient and effective method of refueling electric cars will need to be in place.

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