Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cycling Marketing Rant...

You may not know it, but you are being marketed to right now. Can’t see what’s happening? I’ll give you a hint. Whatever you do don’t look behind you. Chances are you didn’t see anything. However, if you look closely you might notice a Zenith alarm clock. To your right could be a designer coffee table. Over your head you might wonder why the air conditioning vents are labeled. Once you leave your house, you’ll have to get into your car. Branding starts to hit your head the moment you start your engine. WHAM! The radio turns on and you hear an ad for Pepsi. Then along the way to the market your subconscious picks up the constant images on billboards. Wherever, whenever and however – the marketers will try to get into your head. Is this a bad thing? No, of course not; we need guidance on what products to choose from on a daily basis. But what happens to the marketers who don’t have your daily attention? How do they get into your head?

The shadow marketers I’m going to look into are involved in the cycling industry. Currently, they have a hard time trying to convince you of need. Do you really need a bike? What kind of bike should I ride? Where should I buy this bike? Who is Lance Armstrong? These questions and many others are part of the general public’s concern regarding bikes. They don’t know much about cycling, apart from the fact their kid might be into it. For many, bikes are absent from the mind. They don’t provide value, yet.

For bicycle marketers to succeed in the vast consumer world – the one outside the high-end market; they must realize that a brand must carry value. For example, the higher gas prices that many of us are experiencing might be the push for someone to buy a new bike. Thus, the technical work-cruiser market could open up. Slap on some fenders, a basket, a bell and some lights and you have a sure seller. Perhaps a rider might feel the need to upgrade to a racing bike, or mountain bike. They’ll know that the technical cruiser brand was successful (valuable) as a work bike so why skip brands. In other words, they’ll choose to go with the same bike. The point of all this nonsense is that the racing bike shouldn’t be the first bike one sees at a shop. Why? Because the value spectrum of the normal user is low; they just don’t see how it helps them. But, back to my friend with the Zenith alarm clock. How do we get in front of him?

The answer, in my opinion, revolves around value positioning. We all agree that riding a bike to work will save you money, right? If you do, read onward. If you don’t then post a comment on how much money it takes to fill up your tank with gas. Chances are 15 fill ups will pay for the bike. OK, a bike is less expensive than a car. But my friend – with the Zenith alarm clock – doesn’t realize this because he is lazy. He would rather drive his car to work than ride a bike. So our first goal is to detail the savings. We start by conducting surveys. We find people who ride bikes and ask them how they feel about the ride to work. They tell us they love it (I’ve asked). They tell us that they want to rid themselves of their car (I’ve heard). We quantify the overall opinion and state that riders would rather do the bike thing than the car thing. Next, we publish our little survey out to the world. We send it via news wire (this means we send a press release out to the regional press). Some news agency picks up the info and publishes the results in the newspaper. Let’s pretend our survey was totally local. The total time would be minimal, but could impact one worker to take up the joyful experience of saving money and riding to work.

My point is that bicycle marketers are moving in the wrong direction. Pro Tours, celebrity athletes and hip downhill riders aren’t going to move product. Only value moves products. People look at the kid with the dredlocks and the hat on sideways and the emotional appeal gets to them. However, at the time of purchase, if the value isn’t there then out the door!!!

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