Cutting right to the chase, this is a post about eye candy. More specifically Mizuno eye candy. And I think many are in agreement that when it comes to iron-based eye candy, nobody in golf does it any sweeter than Mizuno.
I can try and sugarcoat it for you (like a Sour Patch kid, for example), but many of you probably aren't interested in anything more than a gratuitous picture thread. There's no denying that what we've seen so far is basically golf porn of the highest order. It's hot...like classy European hot. No fat chicks here.
My point is, for those of you whose pants are suddenly fitting a little tighter, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures. There's nothing wrong with a bit of instant gratification every now and again.
For the select few of you who are a little more curious about what Mizuno is up to (and in reality, I'm not able to provide any design and engineering details), I'm willing to make the case for you that Mizuno, along with a few others have jumped on to a new trend in golf equipment marketing.
Seen, But Not Heard
When Mizuno's European division started releasing pictures of Mizuno's new irons and wedges my thought was that with the Open Championship in town (at least in terms of relatively geography), the guys in Europe got overly excited (who can blame them), and let the proverbial cat out of the bag ahead of the Mizuno's oft-predictable schedule.
With media types like myself blowing up their phones, what a nightmare this must be for Mizuno USA.
It turns out, that's not remotely close to what happened...except for the part where we blew up their phones.
Recent History Repeats Itself
You might recall that not too long ago, pictures of Titleist's 714 series irons started showing up on the company's social media channels. Titleist called the irons "Tour Prototypes", offered next to zero design details, and promised to release more information in the fall.
Golfer's loved the eye candy while I (and I assume other writers) lamented the total lack of actual information. We (MyGolfSpy) even suggested that the Titleist release was a blunder of sorts that reflected Titleist's inability to keep pace with the rest of the golf world. It turns out they may have been ahead of the curve.
Fast-forward to July 8th...seemingly out of nowhere TaylorMade begins releasing photos of their "Tour Prototype" driver through the company's social media channels. When pressed for information, company representatives remained largely mum on the curious bits of technology (the SLDR weight, the gaping hole (with apparent screw hole) next to said slider...err SLDR, and what if any new hosel technology has been baked into the design). When I pressed for the smallest of details, I got the shortest of replies; "Speculate".
TaylorMade being TaylorMade, they one-upped Titleist a bit by posting tour player reaction videos. And speaking of those tour pros, despite the driver not initially making its way into the hands of any TaylorMade A-listers, guys like Boo Weekly, Ken Duke, and others took to Twitter to rave about how much ball speed the new driver had given them. Some even posted launch monitor photos. I'm sure that all happened organically. TaylorMade had nothing to do with it.
And yet, despite the photos, and the tour validation (be it real or scripted), TaylorMade remains silent with respect to any of those design and performance aspects that hardcore gearheads crave.
In both cases, Titleist and TaylorMade have basically said, you can see the product, but you can't hear about it (except when our tour guys tell you how awesome it is).
Fast-forward again...this time to the beginning of this week when pics of Mizuno's new MP-4 and MP-54 irons started showing up on the company's social media channels (stop me if you've heard this before).
To Mizuno's credit, they didn't bother to insult anybody's intelligence by calling anything in the new MP-series a "Tour Prototype". This is real product, folks, and Mizuno's willing to own up to it.
As with Titleist and TaylorMade, Mizuno is also being extremely tight-lipped on the actual design of the products. The photos give you just enough to create rampant speculation. All that R&D stuff...that can wait until closer to the actual launch.
What's the Deal with This Strategy?
While chances are you won't find anybody who will flat out admit to it on the record, the controlled release of pictures (and nothing but) is all about control and buzz building. I would suggest to you that while a steady trickle of photos is the best way to build excitement and anticipation, the release of actual information can kill that buzz just as quickly.
Despite being among the first, Titleist probably benefits the least from the strategy. They've controlled the release, and that's a win (and that's plenty good enough), but Titleist is almost certainly going to remain true to tradition. You basically know what you're going to get. With new product, particularly new irons, there very likely aren't going to be any surprises. Titleist fans like it that way, and it's definitely part of what makes Titleist Titleist.
For TaylorMade the strategy is even more divine. Right now, with almost no actual information, SLDR could be almost anything. Does the actually SLDR work, OMG! check out the ball speed, what's the deal with that hole near the Fade Setting? Even if they're not, the possibilities are endless.
Maybe you love it. Maybe you hate it. It doesn't matter. Right now SLDR could be anything. SLDR is everything you'd ever want a driver to be. And even if our keen sense of reality tells us that in all likelihood SLDR is just another driver like most any other, there's still an aura of mystery that surrounds it. That's what TaylorMade wants.
Once the actual details are released, they mystery disappears, and the excitement along with it. Once we know exactly what we are dealing with, it can only be what it is. Nothing more.
And That Brings Us Back to Mizuno...
In this game, Mizuno isn't really any different than anybody else. Even for Mizuno there's plenty of momentum to be built from photos alone. If a picture is truly worth a thousand words, why bother putting so much as a single character in print before you have to?
Pictures are made all the more powerful when you're Mizuno and you habitually create among the most beautiful irons in golf. In that respect the pictures suggest nothing has changed, and that's what Mizuno fans crave. If you're Mizuno you'd be foolish to say anything before necessity forces your hand.
We Know a Little...But Not Much
While Mizuno is as tight-lipped as Titleist or TaylorMade about their new releases, here's what we know about the forthcoming Mizuno releases right now:
The MP-4 continues the cycle of provide a replacement for Mizuno's most player-centric (blade) iron every 2 years. The MP-54 replaces the now 3 year old MP-53; which as it happens falls at the opposite end of Mizuno's MP series (it's the most forgiving in the MP series). The MP-64 (released about this time last year), and the awesome MP-59 (released about this time 2 years ago) remain current.
While I'm not at liberty to discuss the specifics of what I may or may not know right now, this fall is shaping up to be big...maybe the biggest ever for Mizuno. There is plenty more to come, and you can expect a similar approach (trickle the photos, info to follow much later) with the other new stuff as well.
For now the MP-54 is nothing less than the most exciting new cavity back on the market (or soon to be on the market). The MP-4...my god, it's destined to be one of those timeless Mizuno irons that's talked about for decades to come. It's a classic, and it hasn't even been released yet.
This is exactly why the strategy works, and while we're going to see more of it. For fans of any given brand, the zero-information photo releases offers the consumer a product that offers everything that's possible. And while that can open the door for tremendous disappointment if your product fails to deliver on the promises your photos make, when you're Mizuno and your irons basically never fail to deliver on the their promise, what do you have to lose?