Whether this year's biggest outdoors purchase is a $4,000 state-of-the-art tactical rifle or a $40 replacement for your leaky hip waders, you've got a decision to make. And it won't be easy as dozens of brands compete for your attention.
As manufacturers and sporting goods outfitters launch promotions for their fall wares, a new survey suggests that hunters and anglers are slightly more self-reliant in making purchasing decisions than are consumers of some other types of products.
Despite millions paid each year for celebrity endorsements, exposition roll-outs, salesperson eduction and all sorts of advertising, the survey found that 72 percent of anglers trust their instincts and personal experience in making brand decisions. Among hunters, nearly 56 percent leaned on brand loyalty, 45 percent based purchasing decisions on personal experience and 45.5 percent trusted the advice of another experienced hunter.
The tendency toward self-reliance seems to be increasing, said Rob Southwick of Florida-based Southwick Associates, since 2009 and 2011 when similar surveys were conducted by the company.
"If anything, I think we found that the percentage of [hunters and anglers] who relied on their own experience was higher than before," he said.
The national survey was based on data gathered from 2,121 anglers and 4,062 hunters. Southwick Associates collects and collates economic and business statistics related to fish, land-based wildlife and outdoor recreation for surveys used by state fish and wildlife agencies, sport fishing and hunting industries, and non-profit groups.
Southwick said the impulse to trust personal instincts and brand loyalty seemed to be higher among hunters and anglers, an aging consumer group that has extensive experience with specific products.
"These are activities that people do -- you know what you want, and if it's your first time you'd lean on [the advice of] someone you know," he said. "We're dealing with people's psychology. If this was dish soap you might be more inclined to listen to a celebrity."
The survey suggested celebrity fishing and hunting endorsements have little impact -- 0.3 percent of anglers and 6.4 percent of hunters said celebrities influenced their purchasing decisions. Anglers, however, seemed to view celebrity bass pros differently. The influence of "endorsements by pros" jumped to 9.5 percent among anglers, but stayed about the same for hunters.
"In this case, a celebrity fisherman is not necessarily viewed as a celebrity," said Southwick, "but as someone skilled in their particular field."
The survey revealed additional differences among anglers and hunters that might be related to the ways products are marketed to them. The influence of radio shows on anglers was just 0.8 percent, but a whopping 73.3 percent among hunters. And while 39.9 percent of anglers said they could be influenced by the word of a friend, only 0.7 percent of hunters said the same.
Other influences on fishing and hunting brand purchases (anglers/hunters):
• Brand loyalty 55.8 percent/ 55.7 percent
• Magazine advertisement or feature article: 19.4 percent/18.4 percent.
• TV commercials or TV shows: 10.8 percent/7.8 percent.
• Expo or outdoor shows: 12.9 percent/12.3 percent.
The value of influences on hunting and fishing purchases should not be underestimated. Hunting generates $25 billion in U.S. retail sales (International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies). Recreational fishing is worth more than $115 billion in economic output (American Sport Fishing Association). Boating adds another $121 billion (National Marine Manufacturers Association).