A brand is an idea, an extension of a company’s ideals, that gets projected out into the market/world, tested for truth over time, and in positive cases, can serve as a sort of bank of good will or silent salesperson for the company. Cycling has many iconic brands. Schwinn, Campagnolo, and Raleigh spring to mind. But some brands are like zombies, stalking through market, eating the brains of consumers and producing nothing like the stuff they made their names on.
Even in the three examples I gave above you have three very different cases. Only Campagnolo is still run by a member of the family who founded it. The other two have swapped hands and/or gone out of business, only to be resurrected by parties interested in exploiting the brand equity built by someone else.
Brands, if they can, love to invoke the heritage of the products their reputation was built on.
I have to tell you that this sort of thing makes me really angry. I’m a bit of purist, if I’m honest, and I hate when people take credit for the hard work (and honesty) of other people. I understand that, in many cases, the original owners made some fatal error that forced them to sell. Few of the storylines are so neat and tidy that my judgments make much sense.
Maybe it’s not purity I want (with all its false tests and dangerous tribalism), it’s romance. I want people with good ideas who work hard to prosper, the ones who back up their work honestly, who do the right things. But it’s not like that. All sorts of corners can be cut, especially when consumers are flooded with information and don’t have the time to dig deeper. The cost for passing someone else’s work off as your own is usually negligible.
I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious. It’s actually more like willful naivete.
I’m curious how you feel, though. This week’s TCIF asks, who are the iconic cycling brands you most respect and why? Do you care if an investor group swoops in and acquires a brand and then hires a crack team to cash in on the founder’s vision? I reckon that building the reputation that becomes a brand is one of the hardest things to do in business, but maybe I’m wrong. What do you think?