Eclipse Aviation: Selling the sausage, not the sizzle

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Eclipse Aviation launched with so much sizzle that people are missing what a really good sausages the Eclipse 550 is.

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I have been at Heli-Expo – the world’s largest helicopter exhibition – this week and it was an extremely upbeat show full of new helicopters, new orders and new helicopter leasing companies. The helicopter market really is booming at the moment.

As with all airshows, there were literally hundreds of announcements from hundreds from companies. Aviation OEMs really like making announcements. And who can blame them. But there is a fine line between marketing a product well and completely over-hyping it.

Marketing people talk about “selling the sizzle and not the sausage”. They mean that you should excite customers about the fantastic smell and taste of the sausage – and not mention the collection of off-cuts minced up inside some intestine. Good marketers do this. The problem is when you over sell the sizzle.

The most obvious example of this was Eclipse Aviation, which promised to revolutionise flight. Eclipse was launched with thousands of press releases and interviews. Almost as many as the 1000 Eclipse VLJsthe company promised to deliver each year (although that sounds ambitious, they needed to deliver 600 just to break-even).

We all know what happened. Eclipse filed for bankruptcy and went down as one of the biggest aviation failures of all time.

However, a few customers led by Mason Holland, re-launched the company as Eclipse Aerospace. Last week, two of my colleagues flew on the Total Eclipse and were very impressed by the aircraft. The Eclipse 550, which was certificated last year, is also doing pretty well in the tough VLJ market.

Despite its revival, Eclipse Aerospace still lives in the shadow of Eclipse Aviation and arguably does not attract the market attention it deserves. In Eclipse’s case, the very good sausage was overshadowed by the ridiculous amount of sizzle.

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