When you say DEMA, many dive industry professionals think only of the DEMA Show. But DEMA is a lot more than just the DEMA Show.

DEMA is the Diving Equipment & Marketing Association. It was born under a different name. Initially, it was created by the dive manufacturers, and the acronym meant Diving Equipment Manufacturer Association. Later on, manufacturers agreed to expand the role of the association and include the other stakeholder groups in the dive industry.

DEMA is located in San Diego, California. It claims to be an international association. However, it is significantly more active in the USA than anywhere else (on legislative issues, for instance). Some of its services are only available to its members in the USA.

Before we discuss the services offered by DEMA, let’s have a look at its structure.

1. The DEMA Board of Directors

This is, regularly, a hot topic in the dive industry.

The DEMA Board of Directors is composed of 2 elected representatives from 5 different categories, for a total of 10 board members. The groups are as follow.

  • A1 – Manufacturer
  • A2 – Training Agencies
  • A3 – Dive Publishing, Media, Consulting and Non-Retail Service Providers
  • A4 – Retailers
  • A5 – Travel & Resorts

A4 & A5 represents, for the most part, the two different types of dive centers we’ve defined, with one exception. Retailers (A4) are what we called the “Origin Dive Centers” or “Local Dive Shops.” Our “Destination Dive Centers” are in A5, whether it’s a live-aboard or a land-based dive resorts. For DEMA though, travel agencies specialized in scuba diving are also in A5.

DEMA Board Elections

To elect members to the board, every DEMA member (in any of the 5 categories listed above) is allowed to vote. However, not all votes are equal. In each category, there are three levels of membership fees that come with a different amount of votes.

  • Silver: 1 vote. Annual membership $200.
  • Gold: 5 votes. Annual membership $525.
  • Platinum: 25 votes. Annual membership $2525.

DEMA collects about $330K annually in membership fees.

There are a lot of people in the dive industry complaining about DEMA, but when the time to vote comes, only a handful of members bother doing it. For instance, in 2015, only 141 companies sent a proper ballot in; in 2018, it was 135.

PADI’s Influence on the DEMA Board

This is another hot topic. The DEMA Board is often accused of being an extension of PADI.

There are a bunch of reasons why PADI has an influence on who gets elected to the DEMA Board and on the decisions taken by the DEMA Board of Directors. In most cases, the reason for it is everybody else!

The Number 1 reason PADI has influence on the election to the DEMA Board: PADI actually votes!

Another reason, linked to this first one, is the number of votes PADI has. The word on the street is that each different PADI companies (UK, Australia, etc.) are a ‘platinum member.’ Therefore, PADI has numerous sets of 25 votes. And since most members don’t vote, PADI has, by default, a significant impact on the election results. The year I was elected to the DEMA Board, I dig into the number of votes. I estimated that at least half the registered votes came from PADI. Therefore, any candidate supported by PADI is the one who will get elected.

A 3rd reason is related to PADI being the largest training organization in the dive industry at the moment. Therefore, a majority of A4 and A5 members are PADI members and most likely vote for PADI and PADI members.

Outside the retailers and resorts, quite a few companies running for election to the board are doing business with PADI in one form or another. For instance, Caradonna was handling PADI Travel online (until PADI acquired Diviac). Bonnier was publishing the PADI magazines (until June 2019 when PADI acquired all of Bonnier’s scuba diving publications). And so on.

Therefore, it always seemed to me that when the time came to vote on a Board resolution, many board members didn’t want to go against the grain.

Structural Issues with the DEMA Board of Directors

Regardless of who has more influence on the Board elections and the Board meetings, the structure of that Board becomes, nowadays, questionable.

There are five different categories of Board members, representing five different segments of the dive industry. It may sound like a happy family, but… A decision that would be good for a group could easily be wrong for another one. As we discuss how to change the dive industry business model to be more adapted to today’s market place and customers expectations, we cannot count on DEMA to lead the way – simply because changes to the structure of the dive industry would have a much different impact on each segment. It’s like a gridlock during rush hour!

In other words, by the way the composition of the DEMA Board of Directors is set, DEMA is stuck in a perpetual status quo. We cannot expect DEMA to be a leader for change.

And it’s OK. DEMA is a trade association. It’s companies in the dive industry that need to lead change.

2. Services Offered by DEMA

We’ll look, first, at what we consider the two most valuable services offered by DEMA.

Socio-Demographic Profiles & The Quest for New Customers

This is an outstanding service offered to dive shops in the USA. If you haven’t taken advantage of it yet… What are you waiting for?

It comes in 2 parts:

  • The first part is about understanding the population within a short driving distance of your dive shop.
  • The second part is about analyzing your current customers to determine their socio-demographic profile.

For the first part, here is a map showing an area within a 5-minute drive to a fictitious Tom’s Dive Store:

Source: DEMA’s Website

Five minutes is a bit restrictive. We suggest you work with a 15-minute or 30-minute drive time to your dive shop. However, this is an arbitrary statement. In reality, the distance people are willing to drive to get to you will depend whether they want to buy a scuba diving course at that location or dive gear. We’ll get back to this topic when we dive into the Octopus Strategy: Dive Gear vs. Dive Training.

Beyond the driving-distance map, DEMA can provide you with a truckload of valuable information to help you identify and reach target clients in the zone around your dive shop. You could even get addresses of potential customers within the red area of that map (for an additional fee).

And the beauty of this service is that you only need to provide DEMA with your physical address! Therefore, you could also use this service to analyze neighborhoods where you are thinking about opening a dive center. It would help you pick the location with the best target market.

The second part of this service offered by DEMA is about analyzing your current customers.

This service helps you understand where your customers are coming from, and what is their socio-demographic profile. For this report, you need to provide DEMA with a list of your current customers, with addresses.

And for the report to be useful, you need to have a fair size sample. If you only have three clients with an address in your database, then, obviously, the analysis wouldn’t provide anything useful!

You’ll get quite a few things back. First, you’ll get a map with a red dot identifying the location of each one of your past clients who were included in the data you sent to DEMA. Then, you’ll get something useful to market to similar clients, a Market Game Plan graph. It will look like this:

Source: DEMA

So, in this case, your best target clusters (socio-demographic profiles) are 02 (Establish Elite) and 01 (Summit Estates).

DEMA will provide you with a full socio-demographic profile of the clusters you want to target, including:

  • Age
  • Household Income
  • Estimated Net Worth
  • Where They Live
  • Length of Residence
  • Marital Status
  • Presence and Age of Children
  • How many in the household?
  • Home Ownership Status
  • Dwelling Unit Size
  • Market Value of Home
  • Occupation
  • Education
  • Ethnicity
  • Buy Online?
  • Buying Channels Preferences
  • Magazines They Read
  • Radio & TV They Listen To
  • Activities They Do

If you have a large enough database, you could do this analysis for different types of products and services you sell. For instance, you could analyze your past clients who purchase scuba diving training courses. Then run another analysis for those who purchased regulators. There’s no limit to it, as long as you provide DEMA with a statistically significative sample.

To get more in-depth explanations of this service and why it is highly valuable to you, we strongly suggest you read the “Prospecting for Customers in the New Normal” article published in Dive Center Magazine in April 2014. Besides, you should always read Dive Center Magazine. It will help you better manage your local dive shop.

Note: Using this service for marketing planning means that you will be working on recruiting clients with the same profile as your past clients. It makes sense in the short term, especially if you urgently need to increase your revenues. However, in the long run, what we need to do, as an industry, is identify the profile of non-divers who could become scuba divers if we were to redesign the way we deliver products and services.

Legislative Monitoring & Actions

This is not a service that you receive directly from DEMA. It’s something DEMA does for the industry – and it does it reasonably well.

Have a look at the “Public Policy” tab on the DEMA website. The legislative committee is quite active, and many of the issues and policies it tackles could have a significant impact on your business.

It’s worth being a member of DEMA even if it’s just to support this committee!

I still have a word of caution here. The dive industry is relatively small, and DEMA is a small industry association compared to so many other associations. Therefore, it is possible that in some cases, we would have a more significant impact by joining forces with other associations like the Outdoor Industry Association. They are incredibly active on this front. Just have a look at the OIA Policy Agenda.

Other Services Provided by DEMA

There are many more services offered to you by DEMA, including some dive industry data to help you with your business and marketing planning.

Consult the DEMA website, especially the content of the “Benefits” tab and join. And vote!

3. The DEMA Show

We won’t spend much time on this topic, here. Most (if not all) dive industry professionals, from all stakeholder segments, have heard of the DEMA Show and most likely, have attended it a few times.

In fact, there are plenty of dive professionals who don’t know much about DEMA the organization, but they know the DEMA Show.

The DEMA Show will be the object of a future post.

DEMA Tools & Market Study

If you need help using the DEMA tools to analyze your current customers and the market around your dive center – or determine the best location to open your local dive shop, let the Business of Diving Institute help you. We’ve done it before!