I’m definitely no expert on marketing and advertising, but it seems to me that cycling might be going about selling itself the wrong way. I’m not talking about selling bikes, mind you. I’m talking about selling cycling.
You know, by encouraging people to get healthier and become happier, more responsible citizens of the world, and by stating facts produced from research.
That’s not really what successful marketing strategies are made of, is it? Facts? The truth? Usually, the really successful campaigns bypass reason and logic and the naive approach of simply suggesting that the thing they’re selling is really a pretty good idea.
Lame. You drink something because it makes you sexy or cool, not because it has fewer calories or is really hydrating (or if that is the case, it’s then because you’ll become instantly obese or die). You wear a certain perfume because it turns you into a red-hot sex-machine and transports you to bizarre land of weird impulses and ridiculous clothing. You eat a certain product because of the way it appeals to some emotion, not because it’s got a specific level of nutrients. See, bananas actually have the vitamins and minerals needed for being sexy, hanging out with sexy friends, having good wholesome fun in the park. I bet you didn’t realize that. Or the way that the right brand of cat food will make you feel like you matter as a person. The really good ones seize upon a fear, or laziness, or vanity, or whatever vice is most related to a particular product, or a desire to take the easiest possible way to become good, or accepted, or happy.
Cycling? The kind of cycling that needs to happen in order to shift our focus from using cars for everything? Well, we sell cycling specifically as something that is “totally normal”. Huh. Sounds exciting. That totally motivates me to alter my lifestyle from the current kind of normal I think I am to another kind of normal that merely requires me to complicate and endanger my life (or so it seems to many people). Do we maybe need to jazz the marketing strategy up a bit?
I don’t have any concrete solutions, really, but that’s not going to stop me from speculating wildly…
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The cosmetics industry prays on fear, primarily. Fear of aging, of looking less attractive, of losing your appeal. Ultimately, of being alone.
Perfume, as stated: undeniable sex-fiend.
Anything to do with kids: a gripping fear that you are in fact a horrible mother and you don’t care about your baby, setting your child up for disaster or disease, and what would the other mom’s at play-group think? unless you start using product X.
Cars. That depends on what kind. Trucks make you manlier. More capable. Less of a sissy. SUV’s for social status. Sports cars for compensation and social status. Well, sometimes just for fun, but often to display your superior power or agility or triumph over the laws of physics by handing over cash and pressing the go-pedal. Impressive.
And this series of burns, again, from a failed humour magazine turned website:
So could we make up a whole bunch of really unbelievable yet somehow widely believed lies about cycling to make it more desirable? Should we?
Some random ideas include:
- Would a placebo effect work for cycling like it does for most products? Can we sell cycling on something extraneous or just plain false and then trust that people who try it will think they like it because of the stated assumed benefits when really it’s because cycling is just awesome, and at that point, who cares why they like it?
- Probably, if there wasn’t such a pressing feeling of danger from traffic (and the media, lest we forget) that tends to override the enjoyment of simply riding along with the wind in your hair.
- The wind in your hair. That pesky distraction that is MHL’s (mandatory helmet laws) in Australia.
- What about on bike paths? Maybe without the danger aspect it could work?
- What about recreational cycling? Apparently selling that has worked better, because you can definitely use the marketing strategy used for cars by sell the idea that you can look like a pro, ride the same equipment, and basically be better than others because you have flashier gear. That’s a no-brainer, but we’re not after that market, apparently. Those people apparently don’t need or want good cycling infrastructure, nor do they use a bike for anything other than posing at cafes, right?
- As for practical cycling? Where does that stand when it has no higher power to look to, as it were, to allow people to fool themselves into believing they have attained some sort of elite echelon of coolness?
- Does practical cycling need a cool factor that lies outside of cycling itself? Some sort of sexy endorsement? Something that has nothing at all to do with cycling? Seems to work for everything else…
- Whatever the steps you use throughout the sales process, it’s the core message that matters most, I think. “This product, and this product above all else, will fill whatever empty emotional hole that lies deep within you, right here, and right now.” If you can appeal to that, then you have sold your product to a never-ending supply of materially conditioned and emotionally stunted people.
So, cycling. I first have to ask, assuming it’s possible, do we really want to go down that route in order to sell something so beautiful and simple? Do we have to? Is there something we can learn and make use of from dishonest and predatory sales tactics without being dishonest and predatory?
I think that’s got a good start on the topic. Opens the door to further musings, at any rate. Depending on how the rest of this week goes, I’ll come back to this on Friday, or if not, then next week. Until then, let me hear what thoughts and ideas you have in the comments below.
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