Selling cycling - making you want what you don't want

Selling cycling – making you want what you don’t want


As part of an off-the-cuff, ongoing series on selling cycling to the portion of the general public not already cycling, today I thought I’d take a quick look at some of the ways in which companies sell their products to people who don’t necessarily want them. Essentially, making you want what you don’t want.

As I have not yet stumbled into the envious position of having ample time to put these posts together, this will be a somewhat cursory look at this topic, but with any luck it may sprout a few good ideas for you along the way.

Now, there are many successful ad campaigns for products that we know people need, but don’t necessarily want. Like vitamins for kids. Or vitamins full-stop. Or products that supplement or replace things that traditionally require making commitments and sacrificing vices for long-term gains, like lifestyle products such as Healthy Choice meals or exercise programs.

Even though it may be surprising to some that eating well can actually be highly satisfying to your taste buds as well as your waistline, and exercising can be fun and fulfilling, people who are typically the target audience for these products are often under the impression that they are not.

Hence, the need to sell them, and be clever about it.

There is a litany of reasons why people choose not to cycle, from disinterest, to laziness, to the fear of disfigurement or dying a horrible, agonizing death. Or Lycra, for some reason. Basically, it’s unattractive to many people, and we need to be smart about how we sell it.

Learn from the best

If we look at vitamins, for example, we can see that, like cycling, there are many factors to overcome in order for the purveyors of said vitamins to increase their market share. Kids and adults alike don’t really want to take vitamins. They’re basically medicine, and medicine is totes grody to the max, right? So, like the responsible adults that we are, we have to make all you under-nourished germ-receptacles want what you don’t want, so we can get our vitamin on up in here.

The sell: to kids. You don’t want to get all sick and disgusting. You want to be healthy. Is that really all that effective? My uninformed and irrelevant impression says, “meh”. For one, kids don’t have money, nor is this selling a particular brand that they can pester their parents about until they give in and buy it.

The sell: to parents. It’s easy. You want healthy kids, and kids love these vitamins because they taste good. You don’t want the hassle of giving them normal vitamins (or ensuring that they have a balanced diet, which, let’s face it, may not seem as easy for some as for others), so buy these. It’s that easy. Now we’re getting somewhere. Appealing to both one’s guilt of not doing the best for their offspring as well as appealing to one’s selfish nature is a strong move.

The sell: you don’t want to be a gross loser like the stupid blokes. You do want to be an awesome hot guy like the one eating Healthy Choice. Basically, it’s just peer pressure. Which does have a history of being effective. Not bad.

The sell: to mothers. You don’t want to die and leave your children alone and starving on the street corner. You do want to live to be a dependable provider for your family. Buy One A Day. Sorted, you horrible, horrible person. Besides, look at all the fun you’ll have!

This is tremendous. The sell: it’s easy. So easy. You know your horrible life where you exercised and ate well and took THREE (3!) fish oil capsules a day (which you wouldn’t need if you actually did eat a balanced diet, amiright?)? Three!!! Forget it. Now you can have the life you want, with only one capsule to swallow, along with your self-respect!

It’s simple! (applying this to cycling: solving for traffic, danger, gear, hair, sweat) It’s got a money-back guarantee! (cycling: I’ll have to buy a whole bunch of stuff I may not even like) I don’t have to even think about it! (cycling: there isn’t a better option I should consider) It makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my heart heath, opines the person labouring to read the cue-card. (cycling: customer buy-in, taking ownership of their life through the use of this product) No fishy aftertaste! (cycling: sweaty rides, helmet hair, being labeled a “cyclist”, etc) And finally, “I love Mega Red! It’s a great product, and I love taking it!” Well, what more science-based evidence do you need?!? (cycling: yeah… “I love Cyclingᵀᴹ! It’s a great product, and I love doing it!”)

What? There’s more? Did someone say FREE GIFT?!? Say what? Free shipping? Hang on – did you say it’s not available in stores?!?!

Just to clarify this for anyone who doesn’t like exercise (which I totally don’t understand): if you hate exercising, you’re doing it wrong.

Now, from many of the official pro-cycling campaigns I’ve seen, they’re about all the right things, like it’ll save you money, and you’ll get healthy, and it’s fun and good for the environment, etc, etc, but what I suspect is that although the message is good, perhaps it is the way it is delivered that needs work. Perhaps the message needs to be more manipulative. Like the really successful ad campaigns are. Getting what we want, collectively, has gotten us where we are today, which is to say, in a bit of a pickle. Now it’s time to make you want what you don’t want, so we can eat that pickle and then cycle off the calories.

And on that note, as I have taken up enough of your time for today, I will leave you in a low-to-moderate state of suspense as to the conclusion of this chapter, where we’ll casually explore some ways that we can exploit people’s weaknesses for the purposes of making them better at life. Because cycling!


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