Affinity Stays on Target

LOS ANGELES This weekend when 8,000 recreational vehicles (RVs) roll into the Georgia National Fairgrounds & Agricenter, in Perry, Ga., Mike Schneider will meet his target audience face to face to gauge the response to Affinity’s recent re-branding effort.

The annual show is the one of the big events of the year for Affinity, Ventura, Calif., which restructured in recent months. The company is now divided into a media group (more than 40 publications reaching 6 million subscribers, including Highways) and 50 Web sites; clubs catering to 1.5 million members, led by the Good Sam Club; 18 RV shows and 35 consumer shows and events; and ventures, including co-branded insurance with GMAC coverage and deals with Barclays Bank.

Schneider, president and CEO of Affinity, said the demographic of the 8 million U.S. RV owners is more impressive than folks often suppose: “Middle class, with an above-average income of around $75,000 a year, net worth of about $300,000, late 50s,” Schneider said.

“This isn’t Nascar — even though RVs are used for that — but the baby-boom bubble, knocking on the door of retirement, is the marketing sweet spot,” Schneider added. “As that bubble grows and RV manufacturers improve their product, a market that has grown nicely has the potential for booming. It attracts passionate people.”

The pull was strong enough to lure Schneider himself, who started in journalism for Los Angeles, Time and City News Service, before hooking up with what was then called Trailer Life Publishing in 1978. He left the company to study and briefly practice law, finally returning to the enterprise on the business side, under new ownership.

“Our vision is as broad as the great outdoors,” said Schneider, who spearheaded the rebranding effort, replete with new strategy, logo and mission and culture statements, by Brand Logic, Santa Monica, Calif. “The new mission statement is that we want to be America’s champion for the fun, freedom and adventure of recreation in motion. And we want to be the Expedia [media portal] of getting to the outdoor community.”

The top advertisers with Affinity publications continue to be Ford (which makes RV chassis and tow vehicles) and Yamaha (motorcycles, generators). Schneider said the rebranding aims at increasing Affinity’s market share.