Is the inherent awesomeness of motorcycles enough to sell them? Sometimes I feel that the big brands believe that is the case. And it might be, I don’t know, but I do feel that most of the advertising about bikes, gear and even riding is made by custom shops, retailers and aficionados like myself. It might be Sweden being a small market, but I hardly ever see any cool ads on tv, online or even in print. In motorcycle press and on the websites you’ll find it but other than that, there is a void to be filled…
I mean, if you are a rider, you don’t need further convincing because you already know there is no feeling like it. So why aren’t you trying to improve your following by 1) getting people interested in bikes and 2) convincing them that your particular brand of motorcycles is the one for them? It must be so much harder to get that old Suzuki disciple to buy a Triumph or get the retro builder to buy a fuel injected bike with anti-spinn and all that stuff.
What I don’t really get is that motorcycles are a thing of passion and emotion, and that the attributes already associated with riding are so strong that the dream you sell, the illusion you create are more of a reality than had you been in the car business or whatever. It doesn’t have to cost much really. These days you see the most incredible clips on YouTube and Vimeo created by small shops, aftermarket manufacturers, clubs or individuals and they do far more to broaden the interest in motorcycles within the general public than the brands.
Maybe I’m talking out of my ass here. It could be a proven strategy, excluding potential customers and focusing on the existing ones. It could be our national market being too small to afford expensive marketing campaigns, but the market has changed and so has the people. With the sudden increase of fabrication possibilities through 3D-printers, CNC-machines and such combined with the flooding of cheap parts from China, people aren’t as dependent of the brands as they used to be. Aftermarket manufacturers like Roland Sands, my personal favorite, make stock bikes more beautiful and functional which means that brand loyalty becomes aftermarket design loyalty. People today are in general more interested in personalizing their bikes, designing their own parts to create their unique style of bike and riding.
I don’t particularly fancy the idea of using role models in all types of advertising but I can agree that having David Beckham riding his Triumph or Ryan Reynolds riding a Ducati won’t hurt your brand, but you have to be careful when selecting profiles to exploit. “Getting down with the kids” isn’t quite as easy as you might expect and aiming for the older, experienced riders with this kind of marketing is a waste of money because they tend to go for other sale pitches like functions, form or resemblance to bikes they had in their youth.
No, my dear marketing colleagues, take a look at guys like Rolands Sands, Adam Riemann, Alex Chacón and Superretards. They know how to bridge the gap between riders and those who would be riders given the right encouragement.