Next month marks the 10-year anniversary of BigDog Mower Co., which was launched by Excel Industries, the manufacturer of the Hustler Turf Equipment brand.
Yet it has not all been smooth sailing for this brand that started out successful and then struggled for several years to make an impact at all.
“Initially, we planned to leverage our strategy and success that we had experienced with Hustler Turf to carve out market share for BigDog Mower Co.,” says Chad Lane, vice president of strategic marketing and business development for BigDog Mower Co. “However, we found ourselves pivoting a few years after launch. BigDog was lacking a compelling reason for dealers to sell the product and for consumers to purchase the product, given all the established brands in the market. Our initial brand and marketing strategy was simply not connecting with the market as we had hoped.”
Lane says part of the reason the brand struggled was due to the belief that the decades long success of the Hustler Turf brand would inherently transfer to BigDog. They quickly learned they needed to differentiate BigDog and find ways to stand out from the competition.
After nearly four years on the market, the company took the time to conduct an honest evaluation of the brand to figure out what it was doing right and where it needed help.
“It took a year for us to isolate each element – brand, brand strategy, our story, product appearance and positioning – and develop a comprehensive repositioning strategy for each with our customers in mind,” Lane says. “We officially relaunched BigDog Mower Co. at GIE+EXPO in 2013.”
Some of the elements they changed with the brand include going from “BigDog Mowers” to “BigDog Mower Co.” Lane says this helped add more prestige to their title. They also focused on leveraging the positive aspects of dogs.
“Our team tactfully selected the American Labrador for our logo to represent BigDog as a symbol of strength and loyalty, which inspired our tagline, ‘Always loyal. Always ready,’” Lane says.
Keeping with the dog theme, BigDog’s seven-year warranty is modeled after “dog years.” The brand also has its BigDog Best Friends program, which benefits dog rescue organizations by providing donations.
“It was also important for us to give back to those who are loyal to our country, so we developed our BigDog Heroes program,” Lane says. “BigDog Heroes provides military, veteran and first responder personnel with a discount on select products.”
Another element BigDog changed was the customer experience. Lane says they were selective of their 500+ dealer network so customers would have extraordinary customer service. They also offer a premium+ option for end users who want all the upgraded options from the beginning like improved seating, driving and mowing performance.
While BigDog Mower Co.’s key market is consumer-focused with a range of customers, Lane says what these consumers have in common is a desire for quality and extra features that enhance their mower experience.
“BigDog Mower Co. is primarily a consumer brand, but the products are used by some commercial contractors,” Lane says. “The landscapers who choose BigDog do so because our company has decades of experience providing high quality, reliable professional mowers. Our BigDog commercial range is not as broad relative to some brands, but the models we do have perform very well.”
When it comes to what sets the brand apart from the many other zero-turn mower brands out there, Lane says BigDog “has arguably the best limited warranty and the smoothest steering compared to any other zero-turn mower brands in the market.”
He adds that BigDog mowers come standardized with LED lights, engine guard and upgraded seats. Since the repositioning, Lane says BigDog has grown in sales and distribution.
“Since our repositioning, we’ve welcomed many new high-quality dealers into our network,” Lane says. “Our customers and dealers have offered a lot of positive feedback on our products, accessories and our Best Friends and Heroes programs. We’re thrilled about the progress BigDog has made and anticipate much more future success.”
As for the future, Lane predicts that in another 10 years, BigDog will have continued to expand its dealer network as well as its product range.