Apocalypse marketing: ETAP’s “unsinkable” sailboats promoted as way to survive end of the world

Mon Feb 27 2012, 12:49 PM

The Belgian brand’s website links to doomsday forecasts that say its brand is one of two ways to survive 2012’s Armageddon

ETAP Yachting, the Belgian sailboat manufacturer, is now using a novel approach to marketing its “unsinkable” sailboats — the forecasted apocalypse of December 21, 2012. The company’s website links to a video by Patrick Geryl, a Belgian author and doomsday forecaster, who says the earth’s magnetic field should reverse around the time the Mayan calendar ends on December 21, 2012. Geryl said the end of the world will include nuclear meltdowns, volcanic eruptions, and flooding of “pure unimaginable horror”.

Geryl suggests that people either take to mountains in South Africa or buy an ETAP yacht. “ETAP is the only producer in the world of comfortable, unsinkable yachts,” Geryl wrote in his 2007 book, How to Survive 2012.

Geryl, who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, told BusinessWeek.com that he hasn’t been compensated for promoting the ETAP brand. “I only do it because they are the best and there are no alternatives,” he told the website. “This is for the survival of humanity."

Toni De Pape, managing director of MIC Industries, which owns the ETAP brand, told the news site that he saw nothing unusual about featuring all ETAP endorsements on its website. He said it was not MIC’s intention to make Geryl the new unofficial spokesperson for ETAP, but added that “whatever helps our brand is OK with us.”

ETAP, while providing a link to Geryl’s video tribute to the yacht brand on its website, moved to distance itself, at least a bit, from the message.

“Etap yachting takes no responsibility for any publications made by third parties and has no direct connection to publications about “Survive 2012’,” it put on the website.

ETAP, which had a decent following in Europe and North America, was acquired by German shipyard Dehler in 2008, but went bankrupt eight months later. MIC purchased the ETAP assets in March 2009, but former brokers in the UK and US have yet to see any new boats come from Belgium.

“The people at MIC are engineers, so they were the perfect company to manufacture boats,” David Morris, new-boat sales manager at Tollesbury Marina in Essex, UK, and an ETAP dealer for 12 years, told the website. “They’ve not filled us boat dealers with any confidence at all. It’s really quite sad what’s become of the ETAP brand.”

De Pape said that production is continuing. “Never have we thought anything about stopping,” he told the website. He says ETAPs are back on the market and now available in Europe, India, and China. De Pape said boats will be exported to the UK and US “in the next weeks or months.”

But Captain Jean “John” De Keyser, owner of Yachting Vacations in Punta Gorda, Fla., said he met representatives of MIC “on two occasions, and it doesn’t look as if there has been any progress with new construction.” Morris believes that in terms of production, “nothing going on, except for that very strange website.”

Author Geryl says he persuaded MIC to post information on the website about ports where owners could meet and form alliances with each other to face the end of the world. Geryl says 10,000 owners would be enough to “start a new civilization.”

De Pape says MIC plans to build 200 to 300 yachts this year. The doomsday ports, he told the website, are “something for our customers that could be of interest.” He sent BusinessWeek.com an email later, insisting that “ETAP Yachting has never sponsored nor is connected in any sense to [Geryl’s] book and publications.”

ETAP did not respond to an email request for comment by IBI.