One of the things I do is advise people in the bike industry on topics of sales and marketing. I’m an advisor. Sometimes I create “content” that serves the purposes of either selling or marketing. Sometimes I even sell things. It’s in this way that I maintain my industry friendships and scratch out enough of a living to be able to come here regular and tap dance for your amusement. I’m a tap dancer.
Some of the people I work/have worked with represent high-end brands. I’ll leave you to fill in the blanks on that, what constitutes “high-end,” who qualifies. And before you bring it up, I will acknowledge the paradox of a chucklehead like me doling out paid advice to people who make some of the industry’s best stuff. Perhaps they appreciate my irreverence, or my distaste for “bullshit.” Maybe I’m blinding them with a polysyllabic vocabulary delivered in simple, declarative sentences.
It doesn’t matter. Let’s leave that there.
The challenge for high-end brands is that there is a limited supply of high-end customers, i.e. people who can afford their stuff. The cycling market is rather like a pyramid, with the wealthy at the top. The overwhelming majority of cyclists are either not affluent or have a value matrix (my words) that precludes them spending the hard-earned money they have on anything as frivolous and transitory as a bicycle or its various accoutrement.
My task is normally to concoct a value proposition for the brand or their individual products that breaks through that veneer of resistance, that thriftiness. There is a part of me that feels conflicted about this, as if I am, in some way, coercing people to spend more than they feel comfortable. My overriding feeling though, is that money spent on bikes and cycling is money well spent. Humans are dumping their savings into cryptocurrency, NFTs, and flavored vodka these days. It might as well be pet rocks, black-light posters, and herring, for chrissakes.
One trope I encounter often among high-end brands, especially as regards their investments in social media, is that they want to develop the aura of aspiration around their brand. The kids might not have the liquid asset to buy now, but by becoming an object of lust now, we sow the seed of eventual purchase. It stands to reason that if you covet that handmade thing now, later, when you’ve made something of yourself, you’ll circle back to acquire it, a sure signal, to yourself and others, that you’ve made it.
I have my doubts about this proposition. I think people have short memories and the competition for their attention is fierce and growing fiercer. I think a brand’s time and money is best spent marketing and selling to the people who can buy their stuff now. The truism that social media is a prime mover in this regard doesn’t seem so true to me.
I used to tell my clients, “Social media is fun, but remember, likes ain’t bikes.” In other words, double-tapping a photo is much easier than swiping a credit card for a capital purchase, and you don’t have to explain it to your significant other.
This week’s TCIF asks, have you ever bought a thing you coveted when you were younger? How did that feel? Satisfying? Empty? What was it? Or are you like me, suspicious of your own nostalgia, and reluctant to go backwards to move forward?