The 2017 Go RVing television, print, and social media advertising all but ignores truck campers. Here’s what’s really going on with Go RVing’s truck camper snub, and why it matters to all of us.
Go RVing is a national marketing campaign produced by the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA). The campaign runs 30-second prime-time television commercials, full-page print ads in major magazines, and interactive videos and banners on top websites, social media platforms, and search engines – all to promote RVs and the RVing lifestyle to the public.
As an example of the high level of exposure the $17 million dollar Go RVing campaign generates, the 2017 Go RVing media plan for print includes full-page ads in Country Living, The Oprah Magazine, Outside, Parents, Popular Mechanics, and Redbook.
Funded By RVIA Seals
A significant portion of the advertising production and media placement for the Go RVing campaign is financially supported by the RV industry through RVIA seals. The $63 RVIA seal fee is built into the purchase price of every truck camper produced by a RVIA member manufacturer. You may have noticed a RVIA seal on the back of your truck camper (see example below).
RVIA seals are designed to represent US build and safety code compliance. RVIA member manufacturers self-certify their compliance with a list of over 500 US safety codes (ANSI/NFPA 1192) including electrical, plumbing, heating, and fire safety. RVIA representatives periodically visit RVIA manufacturers unannounced to verify compliance.
The Case of the Missing Truck Campers
What sparked this article is the RVIA and Go RVing’s 2017 posture towards truck campers. Here’s a quick run down of the current situation with the Go RVing campaign:
1. None of the 2017 Go RVing television commercials feature a truck camper.
2. None of the 2017 Go RVing print ads feature a truck camper.
3. On the 2017 Go RVing website, the “Why Go RVing” page does not feature a truck camper spotlight.
In fact, the two times they show a truck camper in the main “Why Go RVing” spotlight page, the descriptions underneath promote travel trailers and horse trailers.
4. On the 2017 Go RVing website, the “Discover RVing” page does not feature a truck camper testimonial.
5. None of the 2017 Go RVing AWAY videos feature a truck camper.
6. Truck campers are nearly absent from Go RVing’s extensive social media presence.
Across all Go RVing social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram), we could only find a half dozen truck campers pictured in hundreds of posts from 2015, 2016, and 2017. And those pictures were simply re-posts from other sources, not original Go RVing campaign content.
7. The Go RVing web tools misrepresent or totally exclude truck campers.
The web tools on both the US version of the Go RVing website and the Canadian version the Go RVing website misrepresent and/or totally exclude truck campers. This may not sound like a big deal, but it will in a minute.
To be fair, there are truck campers on the Go RVing (USA and Canada) websites. For example, both websites show a thumbnail image of a truck camper on pages representing the RV types. If you click on this truck camper image, you’re taken to the only page on either Go RVing website devoted to truck campers.
After some extensive digging, we discovered one Go RVing video titled, “Easy Living” on OutsideOnline that features a Lance Camper. Unfortunately, this professionally produced video is not featured on the Go RVing website, nor has it been promoted on the Go RVing media plan or social media platforms.
The Mostly Accurate Go RVing Truck Camper Page
The Go RVing truck camper page features a rotating image with a logo-free Lance Camper crossing a bridge, followed by someone making a child bunk over a truck camper dinette (in what looks like a Lance), and another logo-free Lance in a grassy field.
The page describes a truck campers as, “…a portable unit designed to be loaded onto, or affixed to, the bed or chassis of a pickup truck. The slide-in units are easily loaded and unloaded from the bed of the truck, freeing the truck’s bumper to tow boats, ATVs and other trailers.”
This is an odd, but mostly accurate description. It’s odd to call truck campers, “portable” as all RVs are portable by definition. And truck campers are loaded into a pickup truck bed, not affixed to a chassis. The rest of the description is accurate enough, but the depiction could be more appealing.
The specification box under this description states the size of truck campers ranges from 8 to 20 feet. Truck campers are universally measured by the floor foot (example, a 9-foot camper), not exterior length. However, if you measure exterior length, the 8-20 foot range is about right.
The cost is nearly accurate. The least expensive truck camper is a Capri Cowboy Short Bed Base at $4,595. The most expensive would be a base Eagle Cap 1200 triple-slide at $49,973 MSRP, but options could easily add another $5,000. If the RVIA made their cost range between $5,000 and $55,000 it would be spot on.
Under “Features” the Go RVing campaign makes some fairly accurate comments about truck campers and truck camping that seem to pigeonhole truck campers as, “easy” “economical”, “compact”, and “small”.
Other feature descriptions present the truck camper as an off-road vehicle – “rough or windy roads”, “base camps”, “remote locations” – that happens to have RV amenities – “…include toilets, showers, kitchen facilities and storage.” Honestly, if this was the worst of it, we wouldn’t say a thing. Unfortunately, it’s not.
Go RVing USA: Find My RV Tool
The Go RVing (USA) website has a section called Find My RV Tool. This page is designed to help newbies discover which type of RV is right for them. On the right hand side of this page it asks, “Do you prefer a vehicle you can tow, or drive?”
If you click “tow”, the Find My RV Tool suggests a travel trailer, fifth wheel, truck camper, expandable travel trailer, or folding camping trailer.
Red Flag 1: Since when was a truck camper a towable product? There are no wheels on a truck camper. Truck campers would be a real drag to tow.
When you select “drive”, the Find My RV Tool suggests a, “Type A Motorhome, Type B Motorhome, and Type C Motorhome.’’
Red Flag 2: You can drive a truck camper rig just like Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes. Put another way, truck camper rigs have much more in common with Class C motorhomes than they do with towable travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers.
Red Flag 3: What is a “Type A” Motorhome? Is that a motorhome for people who are competitive, impatient, and aggressive? I guess that means “Type B” motorhomes are for relaxed and reflective folks who enjoy playing the game, but don’t care about winning? I’m kidding (of course), but nobody says Type A or Type B motorhome. It’s Class A, and Class B – for goodness sake.
The Go RVing survey digs a deeper hole in the next question, “What type of vehicle will you use to tow?”
Red Flag 4: Once again, the question is at fault. Yes, you need a truck to haul a truck camper, but not to tow. The only towing a truck camper does is to tow a boat, utility trailer, ATVs, or other toys.
The next question asks, “How many people would you like your RV to sleep?” It then allows you to select up to six people for a truck camper!
Red Flag 5: Sleeping six in a truck camper is possible in a very select number of multi-slide models, if everyone is under the age of five, or short, skinny and extremely friendly.
Most truck campers sleep up to four, and that’s only when one couple sleeps in the cabover and another couple sleeps in the converted dinette. Exactly how Go RVing proposes to sleep six people in a truck camper is something I’d like to see. Come on Go RVing campaign, show us how this is done!
The last and final question of the Go RVing Find My RV Tool asks, “Do you want to feel like you’re sleeping: Indoors (or) Outdoors?” The question that highlights truck campers is indoors.
Red Flag 6: Somehow nobody at Go RVing knows about pop-up truck campers! How else can you explain the fact that they (a) don’t show or describe pop-up truck campers anywhere on the Go RVing campaign or website, and (b) don’t suggest a pop-up truck camper for folks who want to feel like they’re sleeping outdoors? Wow.
Go RVing Canada: What’s Your RV Persona?
If you think that was bad, wait until you experience this next Go RVing web tool.
The quiz begins by asking, “You are about to take off on your next vacation. What does your luggage look like?” The possible answers are, (A) Just the essentials, (B) The overnight bag and my bicycle, (C) My 6-piece luggage set. It’s necessary, and (D) Can I bring along my fishing boat?
Knowing that truck campers, “Go Anywhere, Camp Anywhere, and Tow Anything” I answered D. I continued this quiz answering the questions as a truck camper owner.
At the end of the quiz, the Go RVing Canada website told me I should be in… wait for it… a travel trailer!
“Hey Angela. Try the RV Persona Quiz on the Go RVing Canada website and tell me what it says.”
Two minutes later she answered, “A travel trailer. What?”
No matter what we tried, we could not get the Go RVing Canada RV Persona Quiz to recommend a truck camper. This after answering that we prefer a truck, like to keep our preparations spontaneous, improvise with one pot meals, camp solo or with my partner, enjoy extreme landscapes, etc. We tried everything and it always, always, always said we need a travel trailer or a tent camping trailer. Who knew?
The Go RVing Truck Camper Challenge
To get the T-shirt, you must tell us which answers you chose on the quiz, screen cap your result, and send it to [email protected]. Good luck.
Knowingly Representing Inaccurate Truck Camper Data
As if the USA and Canada Go RVing marketing campaign truck camper snub wasn’t bad enough, the RVIA itself has been severely under reporting truck camper sales for decades – and they know it.
The RVIA reported 2016 total unit truck camper sales at 3,200. Based on our extensive truck camper industry knowledge, we believe the current truck camper unit sales are well over 7,000 per year – more than double the RVIA reported data. According the RVIA data, that would put truck camper sales far ahead of Class B motorhomes (3,500/year).
Truck Camper Magazine’s own readership and lead generation data further proves the size of the truck camper market greatly exceeds what the RVIA data implies.
In 2016 alone, Truck Camper Magazine’s Google Analytics reported 1 million users, 2.1 million sessions, and 4.3 million pageviews. Even more telling, Truck Camper Magazine generated 20,500 leads for truck camper and gear manufacturers. How that level of readership and lead generation then results in just 3,200 truck campers sales per year is hard to imagine.
Why are the RVIA’s numbers so low? Along with Statistical Surveys/SSI (another influential US-based RV market data group) the RVIA reports retail sales data from just eight states and seven truck camper manufacturers. This would be fine if there weren’t 42 additional states in the United States and another 15 active truck camper manufacturers.
What’s most upsetting is that (a) both of these organizations know their data is woefully incomplete and (b) their sales data is used extensively by major companies and organizations to make important decisions about the truck camper market.
Why This Matters To You
Most of this probably reads like inside baseball for the truck camper industry and maybe even a little aggressive toward the RVIA and SSI. However, there are real consumer consequences to the truck camper product getting snubbed by the Go RVing campaign and having the true market size misrepresented by the RVIA and SSI sales data.
1. Insurance companies see the Go RVing campaign and use RVIA and SSI’s incomplete data.
This answers why most insurance companies don’t know what a truck camper is and focus on the travel trailer and motorhome market. Do you want better truck camper insurance options?
2. Truck manufacturers see the Go RVing campaign and use RVIA and SSI’s incomplete data.
This explains why the big three no longer make Camper Specials or even try to accommodate the needs of the truck camper market. Do you want the truck manufacturers to better accommodate truck campers?
3. OEMs see the Go RVing campaign and use RVIA and SSI’s incomplete data.
This explains why companies like Honda have no interest in developing a built-in version of their popular Honda EU2000i. If more OEMs knew the true size of the truck camper market, they would build more and better truck camper products to pursue it. Do you want more and better truck camper products and accessories to become available?
4. RV dealers see the Go RVing campaign and use RVIA and SSI’s incomplete data.
This is definitely why we see so few dealers carrying truck campers. Ask a dealer who doesn’t carry truck campers and they’ll say something like, “Truck campers don’t sell” or, “Nobody buys those anymore.” That’s decades of incomplete RVIA and SSI data talking.
Over the years I have talked directly with decision makers at hundreds of insurance companies, major truck manufacturers, gear manufacturers, and RV dealerships across the United States and Canada. On the whole, they firmly believe the RVIA and SSI sales data and, as a direct result, have zero interest in truck campers. Zero. Interest.
Two Must Read RV Pro Articles On This Topic
Truck Camper Magazine has worked behind the scenes to combat this problem for many years including speaking out in RV Pro in October of 2015 and again in August of 2017 (see below). The RV Pro articles go into additional detail about this situation and are must-reads for the entire truck camper industry and anyone who cares about it.
Above: RV Pro from August, 2017. Below: RV Pro from October, 2015. Click the images to read the articles.
Valuations and the Future
For the truck camper industry, proper representation from the Go RVing campaign and honest data reporting from the RVIA and SSI would mean more customers and dramatically improved value for truck camper businesses.
If you’re a truck camper industry leader, please read that last sentence again.
If the RVIA and SSI reported the true size of the truck camper marketplace – likely double or more from what they’ve been reporting – your truck camper manufacturing business, gear manufacturing business, or dealership would command a much higher valuation when sold. Put another way, your truck camper business is currently worth significantly less because of the knowingly inaccurate RVIA and SSI data. That’s no joke.
Proper valuation is also important to the consumer because we need strong, stable, and well financed individuals and organizations to take over our truck camper manufacturers as the current leadership teams retire. This is critical as many truck camper industry leaders are approaching retirement age right now. To attract the best takeover candidates, the RVIA and SSI data needs to reflect the true size and strength of the truck camper marketplace with their published data.
A Way Forward: Go RVing Campaign
It’s often easy to point out what’s wrong with a situation without offering a solution. In respect to truck campers, here’s a positive way forward for the Go RVing campaign:
1. The Go RVing campaign could commit to producing television, print, online, and social media advertising featuring truck campers and the truck camping lifestyle. This advertising would then be inserted in the 2018 Go RVing Media Plan.
2. The Go RVing campaign could commit to further integrating truck campers into the Go RVing website including at least one truck camper spotlight in the “Why Go RVing” series, one truck camper testimonial on the “Discover RVing” series, and one truck camper video for your AWAY video series.
3. The Go RVing campaign could commit to properly representing truck campers on all Go RVing web tools including the “Find My RV Tool” on the Go RVing USA website, and “What’s Your RV Persona?” on the Go RVing Canada website.
4. The Go RVing campaign could commit to integrating pop-up truck campers into the Go RVing campaign.
A Way Forward: RVIA and SSI Sales Data
In respect to truck campers, here’s a positive way forward for the RVIA and SSI:
1. The RVIA and SSI could commit to making the collection and accurate reporting truck camper sales data a top priority.
2. Until that goal is achieved, the RVIA and SSI could include a statement about the inaccuracy of their truck camper sales data everywhere the data is published.
3. The RVIA and SSI could immediately make a public statement about the inaccuracy of their past truck camper sales data. This will begin to heal the deep wounds caused by the inaccurate sales data reporting from the past twenty plus years.
The purpose of this article is to constructively push for fair representation for truck campers from the Go RVing campaign, and achieve accurate sales data representation from RVIA and SSI. We are excited to work with Go RVing, RVIA, and SSI towards these shared objectives.
If the Go RVing campaign, RVIA, or SSI reach out to us with a response to this article, we will publish their comments in Truck Camper Magazine immediately.
Truck Camper Magazine readers and truck camper industry leaders are also welcome to respond and your comments will be published in Truck Camper Magazine.
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