Robot’s Useless Reviews – Marcomm

Marcomm is a term used by marketing people to indicate all marketing communications materials. That used to consist of catalogs, brochures, and other printed, user-facing media, but now maybe blurs into web copy, video, and drone-delivered ultimatums. The things I am about to say about marcomm are all things I have contributed to, and so these are mea culpas as much as they are trenchant observations about the banality of today’s bike industry hype-folks.

Also, you should understand, it’s hard to get people excited about a thing using words, especially when a lot of different versions of that thing already exist, AND the thing has existed for a long time. In other words, how do you make a pedal sexy?

The first thing you can do is have that pedal, just a hunk of carbon fiber or plastic, embedded with metal bits usually, be “paradigm-shifting.” I have shifted a few paradigms in my time as a wordsmith. It sound big and impressive, but when a pedal can be paradigm-shifting, you have to ask yourself, “how small are these paradigms?” If you’re like me, you only look at your pedals VERY occasionally, and then mainly just when they’re too caked in mud to clip into. I want them to work all of the time, and I don’t want to have to think about them or look at them. So selling me a pedal is a little like proving negative, hard to do. “These pedals are innocuous AF!” is hardly a winning tagline. And so, we shift the pedal paradigm.

Mind-blowingly pedally!!

Another route I have chosen often is what I’ll call the “cobbled-road of deep soulfulness,” or CRODS. When you’re buying a set of wheels, you want to know that those wheels are born of a monastic devotion to the art of rolling. You want them to be peppered with some in-group signifier, like the old pave’, that indicates they are authentically authentic in the most authentic way. These wheels sit in cafes, in full kit, drinking espressos, and staring moodily out the window. They come directly from the CRODS, and when you buy them, you too will be CRODSY.

When you have some sort of technological advantage with your product, what you might want to try is the sort of low-key denigration of your competitors that doesn’t appear to be shitty, but lets riders know in no uncertain terms they need to upgrade to your thing or risk looking like real, beyond-the-times kooks. For example, you might say “the bleeding edge material science we employ in making <coveted object> doesn’t have nearly the performance or manufacturing downsides of conventional carbon fiber.” Wait?!? What? Everyone else sucks, and only your are good? Roger that. I’m in.

Absent a paradigm-shift, the authenticity play of CRODS, or the straw man, technology argument, many writers will just scatter blast you with adjectives, and if some of them are topical buzzwords, all the better. Feather-light, performance-oriented stiffness, with a future-looking design sense. Bombproof, huck-worthy, durability that loves dirt as much as you do. Finely crafted by hand, by artisans, whose multi-millennia experience yields cycling art, not just stuff you can use to get to the grocery store.

Someone said (I thought it was Nietzsche, but the internet didn’t confirm that for me) that language makes common, that which is uncommon, that is to say experience. In other words, words are an insufficient tool for expressing unique and subjective experiences. As a writer, that’s rough news to take on board, and there’s an irony to the fact that the writer’s game is to express feelings with which the reader can identify. We’re all different! We’re all the same! What all this means for marcomm is that the game is over before it’s begun. Whatever glittering wordsmithery you hatch to describe your derailleur hanger will be dispositive for some buyers, the thing that makes them drop their hard-earned, while for others it will be a scoff-inducing turn off. The largest group, in actual fact, never bothers to read the words at all.

The picture, as it turns out, is worth more words than you would ever dare commit to print. The photographer is a real artist, a master of light and truth. And s/he wields the photo editing software like a wizard with a pantry full of animal parts and powdered arcana. The writer hyperbolizes and plays fast and loose with the truth, while the photographer lies to the eyes, conjuring a new truth, whole cloth, from the things s/he knows you really WANT to see.

That, is real communication. I don’t even know why I’m still typ….

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