Take an Enthusiast to Lunch

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There are two reasons I prefer lunch meetings to phone calls. First, when you know you have an hour, you’re less hurried and can cover more ground in a leisurely manner. Second, there’s something to be said for all the non-verbal cues you can pick up in a face-to-face dialogue. Did I just see you roll your eyes?

Before wading into the following discussion, it might be helpful to define terms first. What do I mean by an enthusiast? Specifically, I mean a car enthusiast.

According to one website, the defining element of a car enthusiast is, “Cars get them so excited [that] they just can’t spend enough time working on them and loving them.”

Here’s a definition that I found at a car forum:

“A car enthusiast is somebody who has an unusual preoccupation with their car, wants to spend time with that car, wants to bathe the car, wants to love it, wants to make it look as good as it can possibly look and go as fast as it can go. The hobby breaks up into two directions: Either they want to make the car exactly original, the way it was when it was brand new or they want to customize it and personalize it in some fashion. In either case, they spend a large amount of their discretionary time with their car.”

This is not to say other people who enjoy their cars aren’t enthusiasts. What I’m trying to get in the crosshairs of my scope here is a clearer picture of the guys and gals who are really into cars. For whom waxing their cars is a joy, not labor. They think differently about their vehicles than the rest of us. For the sake of this column, I will say that these are people who, among other things, change their own oil.

When I’m describing these people, what are they really all about? Let’s focus on the import tuner thinking space now. There are certain traits shared by nearly all these people who modify their vehicles, even though they live in very different cultures. They share a certain persona, and it looks like this.

They have a passion for some specific genre of vehicle, and they throw themselves into it. They invest their money, time and energy into making, caring for it and personalizing it. It’s a creative outlet to build something functional that reflects who they are. There is some piece of an identity in the vehicle they choose to modify.

Currently, about 80 percent of passenger car owners fall into the “do-it-for-me” camp. Since this is such a big reservoir of potential customers, you’re probably asking yourself, “Why should I care about the rest?”

First, it is helpful to remember how influential enthusiasts are. When friends and neighbors have a car problem, it’s frequently the neighborhood car guy they go to for advice. Today, with the advent of the Internet, these car nuts have now extended their reach, through online forums, to the four corners of the world. Many, if not most, have their laptops with them in the garage so they can download schematics and wiring diagrams or gather other information. They sometimes make noise from their cyberspace soapboxes.

Car enthusiasts embrace synthetic oil is because they respect the engineering that has gone into these high-tech oils. They’re knowledgeable about cars and engines. They know it’s the best. They’ve seen it proven, and they value that. They pay the extra money to put premium synthetic oil in their engines because they’ve invested so much energy, time and money into building their vehicles. They know they need to protect them. This is the basic value proposition for synthetics. (While at lunch with an enthusiast, you could let them know you carry premium synthetic oil because you care about performance like they do.)

It may also be possible that this car enthusiast who enjoys changing his own oil still needs a place to send the neighbors when they need their oil changed and don’t want to do it themselves.

That’s not the reason to take an enthusiast to lunch. The real goal is to come to a better understanding of the enthusiast mindset. A Greek philosopher once said, “We have two ears and one mouth, so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” There are things we can learn by listening to those who are in a different place than we are.

A lot of these people have a low opinion of fast oil change businesses. By taking an enthusiast to lunch, you may get an opportunity to break the stigma that many of them have about quick lubes. 

ED NEWMAN is the advertising manager for AMSOIL INC., an independent manufacturer of synthetic lubricants. He can be contacted at enewman@amsoil.com. For more information, visit: www.amsoil.com

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