Ask the trade: What does the bike industry get right and wrong in its marketing?

Following part one of our panel’s discussion on how to create new customers, we quiz them on the success of the industry’s marketing…

What does the bike industry get right & wrong in its marketing? 

Jenni Gwiazdowski, London Bike Kitchen
I’m really tired of the ‘sufferfest’. Bike riding is fun, useful, environmentally friendly, healthy, money-saving and all these things are skipped out on in most marketing. I enjoyed the latest
Specialized video featuring Peter Sagan vs the Grannie on an e-Bike. That was funny and emphasised just that.

There’s zero people of colour and people with disabilities in media; that needs to change as well. If you can’t see it, you can’t be it. People need to be able to see themselves in marketing
to identify with a product.

Adele Mitchell
Campaigns that are ‘pale, male and stale’. For instance, we’ve all seen too many MTB videos that follow the same formula: (‘bloke arrives at trail in van, unloads bike, puts helmet on, shreds some singletrack, shreds in slow mo, high fives, gets back in van’).

Being innovative and inclusive is the best way to get attention for your brand, and I think it’s worth thinking about the more deep-rooted reasons why people ride beyond the usual. The Trarharn Chidley #iamendurance film for Sealskinz is a definitely worth a watch as it explores the benefits of MTB for mental health, for instance.

Irene McAleese
Imagery is often targeted toward the ultra-enthusiastic, lycra-clad cyclist and it doesn’t necessarily speak to a larger group of cyclists that aren’t as interested in their outright performance, they ride because they enjoy it or it’s healthy or convenient.

Chris Garrison 
This isn’t just about how the industry is ignoring women, it’s ignoring every marginalised group. The industry has done a great job of playing to the aesthetic appeal of cycling: you can ride a bike in amazing places and see things that are difficult to access by foot. The creativity being displayed by photographers, journalists, and designers within the trade is astonishing.

However, that creativity is also a reflection of the people doing the creating, largely white, male, and non-LGBT people. They are essentially talking to themselves and being directed by marketing bods, who are being directed by executives, who are all deeply homogenous in both the way they look and cognitively.

Before we go hailing the ‘progress’ (which is a false prophecy anyway) that the industry has made around women, let’s not forget that even the women we see are very much cut from the same cloth as the people running the show. This isn’t just bad from a visual standpoint. It also means that any women who are trying to influence marketing direction have to push against the  dominance of the people to whom they report.

Another element of this is the constant appeal to the high-end of the market. This ‘appeal to aspiration’ perpetuates the idea that cycling is the reserve for wealthy thrill seekers does nothing to draw in those who view bikes as toys, rather than a means of transportation and health maintenance for children.