The Go fish: A Machado Surfboard Marketing Mammoth

Is the Machado Go Fish the happiest accident in surfboard marketing ever?

Or, more skeptically – “Clever marketing [strategy], boys” (Youtube Comment). Let’s discuss if Machado and co were on the mark.

However pointed their marketing was or wasn’t – it’s worth taking a closer look. After all, it’s a surfboard shaping giant, with a prolific pro and product to sell. In this case, it’s the Go Fish: a Fish Surfboard designed by Rob Machado, promoted here through Firewire’s YouTube Channel.

So, “Participate in some beverages‘”while we examine why this ended up being the most viewed product video in the history of surfboards.

surfing public transport

Some much needed context for analysis of surfboard marketing

If i’m taking public transport on my way to a surf, it’s not entirely uncommon for me to watch a surf video to ‘get in the zone’. Like most, i have my favourites. The one’s i go back to regularly that feature my favourite surfer of the month, or a clip that resonates with the session i’m expecting to have.

Mostly, the one i would go back to is “8 minutes of Marzo Mania”. Or, at least i did before relocating to the Netherlands.

Nowadays, i find it more beneficial to heavily manage my expectations with a video of someone surfing smaller waves of little to no consequence, rather than heaving Western Australian point breaks.

Which brings us to Rob Machado

Surely, the familiar thumbnail for Firewire’s Go Fish reappeared as a suggested viewing, and of course i watched it again.

Seeing Rob Machado surf a “dreamy french sandbar” never loses it’s appeal. And, at over 860 thousand views – most would concur. Plus, it was one of top 10 sold boards in it’s release year of 2017.

Is there some clever marketing ploy at work here? Or is it more down to the YouTube randomness? Let’s shake off the bedazzlement of Rob’s scarlet red wetsuit, and get back to the analysis.

Fish Surfboard Data incoming 🤖

‘The Go Fish in France – Rob Walks you through a fun session’ represents a bit of an anomaly in terms of how popular of a video it is. Now, taking other (big brand) boards with promo videos released in the same year, we can quickly glance at overall engagement rates as our first key metric (data taken Oct 2020):

Board Models (2017)ViewsCommentsEngagement Rate
Firewire Go Fish866,5112280.65%
HS Hypto Krypto51,702100.3%
DHD Mini Twin37,28670.45%
(2014) Hypto Krypto214,695450.48%
Engagement rate = (Likes + Comments)/Views * 100

So, the Go Fish then rivals some of the highest performing surf videos ever uploaded into YouTube. And, ones which aren’t so explicitly product related. Think of any of the Torren Martyn recents (Tesoro Enterrado, Nordurland), Pentecoastal from Wade Carroll etc.

Sure, it rivals the longer form videos in terms of views. Where might it beat them?

Here’s a search for ‘surfboard’ in youtube:

machado surfbooard fish video

Now, let’s disregard the possibility that people are ‘misclicking’ on Cody Simpson’s music video by accident.

And, the searcher decides to forego ‘How To Rip‘ as advice for which type of surfboard they should buy. A striking image of a sunset, with Rob in a eye-catching wetsuit colour, and “fun session” in the title: It’s relaxed, non salesy, dreamlike.

Plus, no caps lock screaming at you. Our Cody Simpson fan slips downward with the mouse and clicks.

“oops! guess i’m watching this red-wetsuit person’ now”.

But, if this were the case – it’s likely that they’d watch til the end. Such is the brilliance (intended or not) of the Go Fish’s surfboard marketing video.

Now we return to the qualified customer persona.

And take a glance at the growth of Firewire’s youtube channel from 2017-2020:

machado surfboards monthly video views
steady growth, but not out of the ordinary for Business channels.

Then, we can say that this video is a bit of an anomaly, even in relation to Firewire’s own channel statistics.

So What makes the Go fish so good?

To find out, let’s examine the marketing copy of the video. After all, Firewire wants you to buy this board, and perhaps Rob Machado has the perfect voice of persuasion.

Machado Savvy Surfboard Marketing

Typically, it’s fair to assume that most surfers conduct a thorough amount of research on surfboard models before purchase.

Buying a new board is likely to set you back in the vicinity of 4 figures, depending on currency, brand and dimensions. Plus, Firewire’s board models sit among the higher price range, among other manufacturers like Lost, DHD, Haydenshapes and Channel Islands.

One could say – they’re a successful surfboard brand. One could also say that’s an understatement.

So, a fish surfboard marketing video such as Machado’s is a great avenue for us to look at if or how their persuasion worked.

To do so, let’s treat it like we would any copywriting example, and lay out some key concepts.

The ‘beats’ of the sales message

Generally speaking, best practices in copywriting for products follow the ‘beats’ or segments as follows:

The Problem

What you need fixed. For surfboards, common messages for this might be “not getting enough waves?” or “HAVE MORE FUN”. In many cases, it’s simply a case of playing on the fact that you “need a new board” to kill off the boredom from the current quiver.

The Mechanism/Catalyst

Discovery of unique, shiny object (product/service) to deliver solution. In our case, this is the Go Fish surfboard itself. But, it’s coupled with the clever marketing messages to be more deeply examined in later paragraphs.

The Solution

Problem solved. Now you are closer to getting more waves, having more fun and participating in some beverages on a french beach like Rob Machado.

But, More Machado subtlety

The video shown doesn’t smack you in the face with obvious marketing ploys. Rob and the co-presenter (podcast) aren’t shouting at you to grab your wallet or pick up the phone. Nor, are they noticeably playing to any consumer emotions in the same way you see in some other industries.

To give the impression of no marketing efforts – is in itself – clever marketing.

until someone decides to analyse a 3 minute surfboard video

Who, in their right mind, would write a few thousand words on the topic? Moving on.

The Emotional Sell

Any good piece of marketing engages the emotion of the potential customer it serves. For surfing, and fish surfboards in particular, Happiness/Joy is the common trope.

You wouldn’t need to think long to remember your favourite ad, and it certainly won’t have been one too salesy. Not even a ‘favourite’ – just a memorable ad.

“Not. Happy. Jan” – For the Australians.

And, for the Dutch: “goeiemoggel“.

If you’re in the shoes of Firewire’s marketing department, which emotion would you be targeting? Let’s imagine the thumbnail titles are re-written as an exercise:

  • Fear/Surprise – “Machado’s advice: Don’t get caught surfing any other board. Get left behind, or Go Fish”
  • Sadness/Empathy – “I thought my love for surfing was lost. This fish changed EVERYTHING”. (image below)
machado fish surfboard alternate thumbnail
Thankfully it doesn’t look like this.
  • Happiness/Joy – “The Go Fish in France. Rob walks you through a fun session”.

The sense of freedom isn’t only typified by the video title, either.

Rob Machado: Stand-out Quotes

If we pull only the transcript – we can see some key phrases to further illustrate the point.

..walks up over the dunes in France to find a dreamy little afternoon sandbar…

..I love surfing in the afternoons first of all, you go down to the beach and you’re loose, you’ve warmed up you probably had a surf in the morning had a good lunch and you just you just feel warm.. the body’s warm – and loose and fun.

on the beach drinking some wine, some French red wine.. i participated in some beverages..

..I was kinda in a groove, I just didn’t want to come in. i was having a really good time – I was loose, having fun. That’s what it’s all about. No Leash, no problem..

..this is one of my favorite moments right – look at that wave… beautiful colours, sandbar..

Rob Machado – 2017, Youtube

Now, we of course don’t picture Rob Machado as the marketing mastermind here, nor are we implying that the audio was at all scripted.

But, if we match the above examples of joyful & happy text with the brilliance of Rob’s surfing – it makes for compelling and engaging viewing.

Plus, even the colour of his wetsuit is psychologically proven to evoke feelings of love, desire and energy.

The pain points

So, to which problem or pain point is the product video addressing?

The value proposition is no different to other Fish surfboard marketing, in that the specific shape or outline is designed to help improve the surfing experience.

So, ‘not enough waves’ – is addressed by way of the narrators tone & words spoken. And, the other pain point of experiencing ‘Boredom/less fun’ with your current quiver is similarly squashed.

Conceptually, these are covered in the 4 big emotional responses associated with ad copy. They’re designed to relieve the ‘pain of purchase’ and ‘add value’ to the product.

The “here’s what you get” – promise:

Let’s distill the main ideas down into 4 terms: New, Big, Easy and Safe. Think of these as the catch-all phrases that come across through the visual and written messaging of the product video, or advertising copy.

In addition, New & Big are interchangeable, as are Easy & Safe. Together, they work to convince the viewer that the product is:

  1. worth your money – especially if an expensive item (like a new surfboard)
  2. A unique offering
  3. A secure purchase – i.e not poorly made
  4. What you ‘need’

So, underneath is a slider showing the examples seen in Machado’s fish surfboard video:

Use slider to show examples

The obvious, is that Rob Machado’s surfing is the most important persuasive tool on offer. But, the voice narration is key to driving certain concepts home throughout the video.

Sure, the common trope from commentors on product videos is that [insert pro’s name] could surf a door/table/window-frame etc and make it look easy. And, whilst this isn’t an exclusive sentiment for video marketing, the Fish surfboard represents the mechanism by which we can have a glimpse of surfing like Machado.

The Four U’s of the Machado Marketing School

More acronyms – great.

By now, we’ve taken a look at the copywriting of the video through the transcript & visual storytelling. And, found that yes – if you look hard enough – you can find the typical advertising principles throughout.

Let’s consider how – overall – the copywriting plus visual imagery combine to hit the U’s of marketing. These U’s are:

  • Unique
  • Useful
  • Ultra-specific
  • Urgency

Firstly, it’s evident that at least 3 of the 4 are covered by the video itself. What is unclear, is if Urgency comes across at all. So, we’d need to make some fairly tenuous claims to say that the Fish Surfboard appears as a product you urgently need to buy.

Firstly, we’ll go through the obvious ones.

“One of a kind”

Yes, the Uniqueness of the Go Fish is clear to anyone who sees it. Being handshaped by Rob Machado, and offered in the ‘Linear Flex Technology’ is a quick point of difference. Plus, it’s the first frame shown in black and white. Also, the outline of the shape itself veers more towards a ‘high performance’ outline. While this isn’t the first instance of Fish Surboards in this style, it’s nonetheless a point on the board for the Unique department.

Will it surf?

Is it Useful? You can “surf it on the back-hand, too”. Early on, Machado speaks of earlier sessions in the surf trip where larger boards were used. Here, the conditions suited a Fish Surfboard. The message: A great addition to any quiver.

Is it right for me?

Ultra Specific – is tied into much of the technical jargon that separates Firewire’s & Machado’s board shaping techniques here. And, it goes hand-in-hand with the unique qualities previously described. But, it also means that the Go Fish’s intended customer is ultra-specific too. Fish surfboards are generally marketed towards all surfing abilities, and specifically to those looking for a less ‘high performance’ feel, than cruisy, “high line” & smooth approaches to surfing. And, By recognising the ‘pain points’ previously mentioned, Machado’s Go Fish fits neatly into the core requirement of most potential surfers.

BUY IT NOW

The most difficult association to make is that of Urgency. Perhaps, we should be thankful that the video doesn’t end with “Hurry, they won’t last long!” – even if the boards sold like hotcakes. In my opinion, this is more indicative of their awareness that surfers in general do’nt respond well to the aggressive marketing tactics seen elsewhere. Plus, it definitely wouldn’t suit a fish surfboard product video set in a dreamy french beachbreak in fall.

Final Thoughts

We began with this question: Intended marketing vs happy accident?

And, it’s somewhat down to which camp you sit it. The skeptical view is that a big business like Firewire would definitely have at least considered some of the above concepts before publishing. The other camp gives them the benefit of the doubt.

One can say “the video is uber successful, and the boards sold in the many thousands. therefore – it is textbook marketing”. Retrospectively, this makes sense and can be argued for.

Sure, i would be inclined to agree. But it’s Rob Machado at the end of the day, and nothing in the video screams ‘high production value’ to the extent of any advertisement shown in the 5 seconds before you can actually watch Rob.

We started on the fence. We’re still there.

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