Sam Moore is the head of brand and marketing at Knog.
Marketing, Brand, and Bike. The three most misleading words in "Bike Brand Marketing"
Define the word “marketing”. In your head – don’t shout it out – that’ll ruin it.
Chances are, a lot of you would first think of the four – or seven if you’re showing off – “P”s of the marketing mix. Or perhaps your mind jumped more directly to advertising as a catch all. Fair enough if it did. Or perhaps your business lays it on thick with trade shows and events because it works, so that’s what marketing means for you. Or maybe when hearing the word marketing your mind jumped to the greatest advertising initiatives and icons of our time: the Marlboro man, the Pepsi Challenge, Red Bull…well, everything Red Bull. – Red Bull is a drink, I hear? –
Now think about your business’s marketing plan. Even if it isn’t one formal document – roughly, what’s the marketing plan?
Does that reflect your definition of marketing? If you’re a 4Ps kinda person, does the marketing plan pay equal weight to how you’re strategising pricing as it does to the media plan (unlikely). Or is it just a media plan –more likely?
Now what does your marketing team do? You know – think about the job titles in the team, including freelancers, and what they deliver day to day.
Do they have KPIs around Process and Product? Probably not.
Whatever the answers are, and they will be hugely varied across any audience that might read this, it is not a deficiency in the audience, but a deficiency in the word.
Let’s come back to “marketing” later. What about “brand”?
Knowing “branding agencies” intimately, the overuse of the word “brand” is a personal bugbear. It is a word used for logo: “brand guidelines” are often misunderstood to be a logo style guide. It’s used to demarcate a job role: "brand managers" are often actually closer to product managers tasked with the commercial outcomes of a brand within a wider portfolio, like the "Jack Daniels brand manager at Diageo" for example.
“Brand" is also used to outline the formalised idea of a…brand (there you go again, not enough words). This is how the brand agency folk would use the word. A “brand" – synonymous for the purists with “brand idea” or “brand purpose” - is the organising principle. For Apple, it’s “humanising technology”, for Selfridges it’s “Hedonism”, for Nike it’s “Winning”. That is their brand, much more than a striped Granny Smith, the colour yellow or a swoosh will ever be.
But again, it’s not about agreeing the definition – it’s agreeing that there isn’t one.
So what about “bike”. This isn’t particularly helpful either. Of course the definition is clear – we know what a bike is. But in using it as a category of marketing is it helpful? According to some statistics, there are about 7 million people who cycle in the UK. But if you add together the readership numbers of the top 10 cycling websites and magazines, it doesn’t come close. The point is, most cycling customers won’t describe themselves as “cyclists” in a neutral context. And as a statistic, most won’t read much of the things we advertise in. So it’s up to us “marketers” to figure out how they do define themselves. What are the threads? Who are these customers when they’re not cycling?
So to sum up this little rant, here's the utopia I would love to see.
- No more use of the word “marketing" when referring to anything less than the entire gamut of bringing your product to market. If you mean “communications" (advertising, PR, email) or "trade promotion" (sampling, trade shows) or “creative" (design, copywriting) then use those words – or any word that is more specific.
- Understand that everyone in the organisation – literally – is responsible for the “brand”. Whether your brand’s definition has been written down, or is more of just a vibe, it’s leadership’s responsibility to live it, and it is everybody’s responsibility to demonstrate it in their roles. It is not a marketing exercise or a strapline.
- Know that the hardcore customer can be defined by “bike”, but the more common customer will be defined by something else, and at different times. Dad/Mum, footballer, foodie, traveller, gamer, Game of Thrones-er, camper, drinker, intellectual, heathen, and so on.
Oh shit. Now I’ve verbalised this, I’ve gotta go – I have some work to do to fend off hecklers around me shouting “hypocrite” quite justifiably.