Zeiss Sharpens Focus

Iconic Brand Unleashes Premium Optics, Aggressive Marketing And Enhanced Dealer Support.

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is attracting a lot of attention in the marketplace, much of it directed at the company’s new VICTORY HT binocular that offers 95-percent light transmission. In addition, Zeiss has become more visible — more mainstream — with aggressive ad campaigns, television sponsorships, upgraded warranty programs, promotions and consumer rebates.

The driving force behind the “aggressive” Zeiss is Mike Jensen, who became president of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics on Sept. 1, 2011.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity I have with Zeiss. This brand has been overlooked. For lack of a better term, it’s been kicked to the curb. We’re changing that very aggressively and very quickly,” Jensen said.

Jensen has 25 years of industry experience, including retail sales, wholesale distribution, and senior positions with other premium optic brands and gun companies.

“I grew up on a retail gun shop floor, filling soda machines for the family business when I was 6 years old. I’ve spent years in the industry and I understand what dealers need. Now I have an opportunity to take a brand like Zeiss — which is traditionally understood to be more of a boutique product line — and present the brand to independent dealers and say, ‘We are here for you,’” Jensen said.

Dealer Support

Jensen is firm in his company’s support of independent dealers.

“If independent dealers aren’t making money on your product line, they won’t carry it; they’re not healthy and everybody loses. This industry is based on the independent retailer. If that independent dealer can’t survive against modern retailing — Internet and chain stores — and he can’t be profitable, this industry is in trouble,” Jensen said.

Zeiss is directing a lot of effort into its dealer program.

“Our product line has to be profitable, and dealers must have faith that we are going to support them,” Jensen said. “It was very important for us to push our support to the next level. We have to do the appropriate marketing so consumers understand the benefits of our products. It’s our job as a brand — it’s not the dealer’s job — to drive consumers into the dealer’s store. That’s what we’re doing for the dealers.”

In a very short time, Zeiss has made changes to attract consumers’ attention.

“This year, we have a new advertising agency and we have an entirely new advertising look. All of our packaging is new, with an emotionally high-quality packaging concept. We have all-new point-of-purchase material and all-new hangtags, which identify the key features to the consumer,” Jensen said.

Jensen says when consumers look at a “sea of binoculars in a showcase,” they need to quickly learn the product’s key advantages.

“When a consumer looks into the showcase and asks, ‘What’s that No-Fault Policy tag mean?’ — all of a sudden, we’re communicating through our point-of-purchase material to the consumer through the dealer. The consumer knows the benefits, and the dealer has the confidence to support our brand,” Jensen said.

Zeiss’ new No-Fault Policy was announced in March.

“We have one of the strongest warranties in the industry, and consumers know that. On top of that, through the No-Fault Policy, we’re saying if a guy spends $1,000 or $2,000 for a binocular and goes out on his first elk hunt, falls and breaks it, we’ll cover the repair or replacement,” Jensen said.

The No-Fault Policy has a positive impact for consumers and dealers.

“That consumer has invested in our brand, and we need to look that consumer in the eye and say for the first five years of that product, we will repair or replace any of our new products, going forward, for free. That puts confidence in the consumer’s mind, and the dealer knows he’s not going to have to fight with a manufacturer for support,” Jensen said.

Profitability & Availability

Zeiss has taken a strong position concerning minimum advertising pricing.

“A dealer’s margins must be protected. We’ve gotten very aggressive by putting teeth into our MAP (Minimum Advertising Pricing) policy. I won’t mention names, but we’ve shut down some of the largest Internet retailers, if not the largest in the United States, that would not abide by our MAP policy. We said, ‘Sorry, no more,’” Jensen said.

Jensen and his team have also changed the way Zeiss launches products.

“This industry is notorious for launching a product line and getting everybody excited about it, and then shipping months later. We’ve made a decision to not launch products until we know we can start shipping them. If we do announce a product and it’s not available in our warehouse at the time we launch it, we let the dealer know exactly when the product will ship,” Jensen said.

When new products are shipped, they won’t all go to large customers.

“We absolutely will not take our first two or three shipments and ship them to our big customers. I made that agreement with my sales team and our big retailers. It’s a very clear, but very aggressive, go-to-market strategy,” Jensen said.

Number One Philosophy

What is Jensen’s bottom line as president of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics?

“Zeiss is going to drive consumers into dealers’ stores with top industry products. If it’s not the best in the world, it will be the best in the price segment it’s in.

“What’s more important to the dealers is how we are going to support their businesses. I am 100-percent focused on supporting their profitability. That’s my number one philosophy in this company. If the dealers aren’t successful, we can go home,” Jensen said.

For more information, visit www.zeiss.com/sports or call 1-800-441-3005.
By Russ Thurman

Shooting Industry August 2012

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