21 October 2008

What If We Marketed Cycling Like We Market Cars?

Had a conversation with a friend, Joel, about what would happen if we marketed cycling like we market cars. Sure, many car adverts show the vehicle driving crazy in rough terrain, making you feel like the Marlboro Man with a driving licence, but many appeal to regular people and portray the car like a desirable part of your life.

The now-famous series of Renault Clio adverts from the 1990's featuring 'Nicole' and 'Papa' - one of them is featured above - portray the Clio as perfect for a handsome dad AND an attractive young woman. It's a lifestyle accessory used for transport.

You could easily put Nicole on a gorgeous Batavus or Velorbis instead, portraying cycling as a normal part of everyday life.

In Renault's more recent campaign for the Clio the car could also easily be replaced with upmarket bike brands. It doesn't take a lot of imagination to see it. And it wouldn't be unappropriate to use the inherent flirting undertones since cycling, in European cities anyway, is sexy.

It would be so refreshing to see adverts like this for selling bikes or bike culture. I am sure the effect would be immediate and positive. We highlighted a Hungarian advert that is quite cool, but imagine what could be done if we ditched the sporty, 'weekend cyclist in all the gear' angle and actually targeted the millions of regular people who can make a difference if they rode normal bikes in their cities. Just focusing on the bike and the lifestyle. Not telling people that in order to ride they need all manner of outfits in man-made fibres, space-agey equipment and testosterone injections. Just average city-dwellers going about their daily life on a bicycle.

Using a bit more imagination, it would be a great advert if these guys - with certain script changes - were talking about a bicycle.

And this could certainly apply to bicycles. There are thousands of these on every Danish beach all summer long and they arrived, more often than not, by bicycle.

In order to move on from decades of branding cycling as a sport or recreation for a small group of enthusiasts, cycling and bicycles need to be marketed better if we are serious about getting more people onto bikes in urban centres and returning the bicycle to it's rightful place as a feasible transport form in modern cities.

Sure, the main hindrance is that car manufacturers have massive bank accounts to chuck into advertising whereas many bike brands are more limited. Why not set up some marketing collaborations? The French girl/English guy Clio advert could work if it was a Dutch guy on a Batavus teasing and flirting with a Danish girl on a Velorbis. Taking the piss out of Amsterdam and Copenhagen. For example.

As we've written before, somewhere on this blog or copenhagencyclechic.com, cycling is already marketed as a normal activity for getting around.
This is a screendump for Raleigh's Danish website:

And this is the screendump for Raleigh USA:

I know hundreds of people who resemble the girl on the Danish site but I don't know any who resemble the guy on the US site. If you're in the US, it's probably opposite - if you even know any cyclists at all. Just look at the Batavus website for the US. They make competitive bikes and ATB's but they are clearly selling the lifestyle first. Good move. There are far more customers among average people than there are among weekend enthusiasts. Basic marketing.

The millions of potential cyclists out there will be more inspired to ride each day if they saw regular people on bikes instead of sub-cultural images of hard-core cyclists. As ever, a disclaimer is necessary. I love anybody who loves cycling. I just want to see more people choosing the bicycle and therefore I focus on how to reach regular people who harbour no desires to zip down mountains but are just looking for a cheaper, more enjoyable way to get to work or school.