Peter "PgPetike" Szabo
01 December 2022
This page contains personal opinions, speculations. The content may not reflect the views of those subjected, it may be in error of fact or draws a wrong conclusion.

Align is fine, what about others?

The whole RC helicopter market got shockingly restructured in the past couple of years. There are new names and brands, whilst other are vanishing off. Of course these companies will never share real data about their current positions - this is business secret - but there are the obvious signs about the reality. And some are widely misunderstood.

Align is fine, what about others?
Align TB70 / Credit: Wen Li Haung, ALIGN

Align is just about to release the new TB70 helicopter, which brought a question of many to the surface:

Is the Align TB70 a desperate attempt to save Align?

If you think this is the case, then you are wrong. Align thanked everyone, they are fine. Although as a hobby RC helicopter manufacturer they suffered a big position loss among the large 3D helicopters, but this is just one aspect of the whole. A decade ago, the company was one of the dominating brands alongside Thunder Tiger and their Raptor helicopters, nowadays only very few Align helicopters are seen at the public events and competitions.

And yet, the company is the most significant brand in the smaller classes. There can be many other brands, Align is still selling a ton of T-Rex 300X and T15 models to beginners or hobbyists, not to mention the 450-500 class model range which is still very popular. If this wasn't enough, in the last few years the Taiwan manufacturer secured its position in the agriculture and industrial sectors with Demeter models and their further developed variations. The drone branch is also significant, so being on the top with large helicopters is more a prestige than a vital question. It is absolutely clear; the company won't disappear from the RC heli market anytime soon. However, trading strategy changes are visible.

The number of team pilots has been significantly reduced after that the global marketing efficency of previously shining events plunged. The company is following a completely different strategy from many other companies. They are the very few realising that Facebook is not enough and it does not means too much in the marketing strategy. That very minimal work needed can be done by traditional pilots, and a number of fans, the rest is pointless.

And what's confirming that they are actually right? The European and Western markets are about to extinct. There is a European distributor of another brand which suffered 80% trading loss in a month, after the European energy crisis broke out and also they are literally fighting for their survival despite that the Facebook in Europe is full of their posts. Another one in the U.S. was sponsoring events, their presence on Facebook was also very strong nonetheless they are closing down. And we know about retailer which is trying to survive on purchases of their own team pilots, this is why they have many. And this list just continues.

Brands focusing exclusively on Facebook can thrive for a while, then results will start to drop. Information shared there is fragmenting before it will sink into darkness forever. The vibe and attractiveness of events is in a continuous decline in the past decade. In 2012 an event with less than 1-2 thousand attendees counted as a small, local event. Today an event with 3-400 visitors is huge.

Consequently having team pilots with traditional conditions is pure loss in most cases. The only option: team pilots have to purchase in the same way as conventional customers, only a weak discount is provided for the enormous work they have to put in promotions with no significant impact.

There are certainly exceptions; originally thriving brands like SAB can work this way with many team pilots, they are still bringing on board talented and more or less known people, just this approach cannot be followed by not so powerful brands.

Goosky used their contact network well and they are still being presented strongly on all platforms, there's only one question: for how long can they push this method with only one model or even a second one. They used a very aggressive marketing strategy: Goosky just flooded the pilots with their model. Surprisingly the official Facebook page has less than two hundred followers at the moment.

And there are many others not even kicking the ball on the pitch, no sufficient funding, no long term promotions and marketing strategy, just the hope: the product can sell itself through fans and few convinced pilots.

We experience the effectiveness of social media as well. We can publish anything on Facebook or any other social media platforms, despite that we have almost 10 thousand followers on Facebook (almost as many as Mikado, more than XLPower and almost 5 times more than the number of group members in Goosky community) without putting hard cash into our posts we can barely reach a few hundred people on Facebook. After 1.000.000 page loads, only 13% of the total traffic was generated by social media across all our channels. The majority (65%) came from organic search (Bing, Google, Yahoo combined), thanks to our online presence.

The rest is direct traffic through links or direct visits. And is visited from all around the world - apart from a few countries. If we were only relying on Facebook, this one million would be somewhere around 70-80 thousand and we would barely be visited from a few dozen countries.

You don't believe this? Check out these Facebook pages, then check that, how many reactions are on each post. One reaction can represent roughly 50-200 reached people - depending on the topic.

When you are the Align, you don't need extra effort to achieve something, a good trending product with an appropriate price tag is enough. If you are much smaller or newer, it's much more difficult to pop out. Not that many opportunities left to get known and recognised. And you cannot depend exclusively on social media and unpopular events with your team pilots. Without recognising that something has to be done, more brands and even more businesses will go bust before the end of 2023. And I'm not going to bet publicly, but I have candidates. The next year will be tough, especially on the Western front.

What Align guys are actually doing: they don't need a big hype, what they have is enough; existing popularity of the brand can sell the product which can give them something back from their original prospect among the large helis. This is why the new Align TB70 is following the current design trends. This is why there's no big main gear anymore, this is why the model is lacking the tail support, this is why the main frame geometry is like this. And Align can do this with no serious hassle.

Their original strategy: selling super combos with everything you need on a very reasonable price, can win this competition among hobbyist and everyday modellers. If these people have to choose between a high end ESC and motor along with very high quality servos sold separately, or they can pick an option with moderated but still perfectly satisfying components combined with a full kit for a not super high price, they will choose the second one. And if the spare parts supply is more reliable than for many other brands, that is even better. Let's admit that the spare parts supply has always been more reliable by Align than at other brands. And who cares about competitions and fun flies when they have no significant impact anymore.

If you don't like it, blame the social media world. Until then I'm excited to see more and more TB70 models among hobby pilots.