Let’s Hype This Bitch! – 60 Day Wait for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200

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Ducati has reported that the first 500 initial pre-orders for the 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 have been filled, and there is now a 60 day waiting period for the new sport-tourer. Citing a strong reception to the Multistrada’s “four-bikes-in-one” capability, Ducati sees an additional 500 units to be sold in the coming months. This last statement seems sort of like a no-brainer, after-all another 500 bikes will be sold eventually, right?

Actually, the entire statement is sort of strange when you consider what 500 pre-sold orders really entails in a markets like the United States & Canada. With a plethora of dealers in these countries, the reality is that this statement amounts to dealerships pre-selling their initial inventory, which consisted of one or two motorcycles. Yes, the Ducati Multistrada 1200 is sold-out for the next two month, but when you ship only 500 units to the entire North American market, you can almost guarantee being sold out on a bike during its release, right?

Good marketing or bad supply chain management, that’s the question here (maybe it’s both?). On the marketing side of the equation, Ducati has gone to great lengths to hype the Multistrada 1200 before its launch at Milan last year, with spy photos popping up every couple of weeks, showing the beak-nosed sport-tourer under duct tape camouflage. We’ve never seen that many photo leaks before here at Asphalt & Rubber, and for good reason…those kind of events happen for a reason.

The 2010 Ducati Multistrada 1200 is immensely important for the Italian company, not only is it debuting during a time when sales are slumping, and revenues are dropping, the bike signals a marked shift in the company’s overall structure as a manufacturer, and a distinct change to the corporate image and brand values. Virtually the entire industry is operating at or near break-even levels for production, so new models like the Multistrada 1200 are expected to help bolster numbers back into the black. Additionally as Ducati moves from a sport/superbike based company, to a multi-segment manufacturer with a performance edge, the launch of the revamped Multistrada is increasingly important to move Ducati one more step up the mountain to this goal.

It’s hard to find someone who will publicly admit this, but the original Multistrada was one of Ducati’s success stories as far as sales are concerned, selling over 4,000 units. Like its predecessor, the Multistrada 1200 has its fans and haters, and perhaps that’s an element to the Multistrada brand name. Regardless of where you fall on the fan spectrum of the Multistrada 1200, it cannot be questioned what the success of this bike has to could mean for Ducati.

Since the launch of the Hypermotard series, we’ve seen Ducati more purposefully explore segments outside of WSBK bread superbikes and retro classics. With sportbikes gaining the ire of local authorities both domestically and more so in Europe, the prospect of being a sportbike only company is becoming unrealistic. Additionally the added popularity and higher margins found in the sport-touring segment are more than appealing, and for Ducati both of these reasons bore the ethos of the new Multistrada.

With so much riding on the wheels of one motorcycle, the great lengths Ducati is going through in order to assure a positive reception of this machine are becoming apparent. Check the listing of “Bikes” on the Ducati corporate website, and you’ll find: Model Year 2010, Configurator, & Multistrada 1200. Interesting, no? Ducati North America has also tapped the Multistrada 1200 to tackle Pikes Peak, much in a similar way the company promoted the Hypermotard (which faced similar concerns as the MTS 1200) when it debuted. This is done no-doubt to show the Multistrada 1200’s racing heritage lines, and to also dispel any notions that this bike isn’t a performer (even in the dirt).

All of this buzz seems like a scene straight out of Entourage, where one of television’s great gems of a character, Ari Gold, fandangos his client into the latest blockbuster film by using pressure, finesse, and most of all hype. Taking a page out of Gold’s repertoire, Ducati’s marketing campagin for the MTS 1200 is full of pumping the market full of media interactions (some meaningful, and others well…not so meaningful), which at the very least continued to get us talking about this motorcycle. With this latest announcement, which I still haven’t really understood the purported purpose of, we can only assume that Ducati has finally taken a page out of the tech industry marketing manual (they are across the street from Apple, Inc. you know).

In the tech world, it’s hard to find a product launch that isn’t rife with anticipation, buzz, and an inevitable under-supply of product come launch time. It’s a strange ballet, that is not so different from a car company trying to sell you an extend warranty.

“Yes, we make one of the finest built automobiles in the market, it will surely out live yourself, but you really should buy this added warranty…you’d hate to pay out of pocket for a work defect 5 years from now, wouldn’t you?”

In the same vein, tech marketers (and now Ducati) put forth hours of work and considerable capital to create an aura around a product, and to get people (more accurately, the right people) talking about their product…bonus points if it’s in a favorable light. But then when it comes time to actually sell machines, the carpet is swept out from underneath our legs, and we’re told supply doesn’t meet demand…well who created the demand? The parallel here is that these companies purposefully do something to generate consumer interest, and the purposefully do another thing to avoid meeting consumer demand.

The presumption is that this continues the buzz machine, which helps sell more product in the long-run. It worked for the Wii, it worked for the iPhone, it looks like it’s working for the iPad, but of course with these shining three examples comes a laundry list of failures.

Like any company running a good buzz media campaign, you walk a fine line. Could a delay in supply keep potential customers from making a purchase? After all who wants to buy a motorcycle towards the end of summer? Pumping the hype machine is a lot like revving the throttle on a motorcycle, it doesn’t really get you anywhere if you don’t put that power down to the ground. This of course brings us back to the question: good marketing or bad supply management? Has interest been generated to exceed demand? Or has Ducati been unable to work around the clock to meet the unexpected demand from consumers? You make the call.