How do you sell bikes to non-cyclists?

Are you a cycling brand looking to engage with the 60 million people in the UK who don’t currently ride or own a bike, let alone call themselves ‘cyclists’?

Cycling Industry News asked the award-winning marketer for her views on developing the brand, developing new ways to buy for people who don’t yet ride a bike and certainly don’t think of themselves as cyclists if they do…

Allow me to introduce myself: I Joe Rigby – a potential new customer for your cycling brand – someone who wants to reduce the £1,000 I pay for travel every year.

I am also a professional in the field of marketing, working as a manager of agencies and media partnerships at Zappi, a leading consumer rating platform. We empower companies with digital data to create things that people love – whether it’s brands, advertising or new innovative products.

Z cost of living crisis encouraging people to look for cheaper ways to get from A to B, my question to you is, “Have you re-examined your marketing strategy to fully explore this opportunity?”

“Give me an example of your work” I hear you say.

We have been an integral part of the creative development of recent times The #BikeIsBest campaignworking with Fusion Media deliver a message that has a significant impact on a clearly defined target audience.

Who is this new audience and what does it look like?

They don’t look like your current target audience. They are not cyclists. Maybe they haven’t had a bike since elementary school. Buying a bike is something they may have done only for their children.

If consumers find a new category confusing or difficult, they respond by delaying their purchase. I want to help you, as a brand owner, significantly simplify this consumer journey, increase sales and grow your business.

I’m going to start by sharing my journey to purchase as someone who is currently putting off buying a bike.

Understanding the needs of this new audience.

To date, I have had three motorcycles in my life. On my fourth Christmas, Santa left me a green Budgie four-year-old bike, on my tenth birthday my parents turned it into a gold Dawes folding bike, and when I was elected as a Labor MP, they gave me a baby blue Bobbin bike. I’m currently looking for a new bike because I cycle seven miles to work and would like something lighter. I will make my next purchase based entirely on how the bike fits with my personal style. I have a lovely yellow suit and am considering wearing a yellow headpiece to create a wow effect. Then again, a red bike would also go well with my mint green suit. If only I could have one in every color!

Avoid forcing this new audience on your existing marketing personas.

The priorities I listed above are not just mine. There is an untapped market of millions of people who will decide on a bike the same way they decide which sofa to buy – will it fit my personal brand? These are people who will never identify as cyclists, not within the current framework of what a cyclist is. If in the future we reach a state where cycling returns as a form of mass transport, few people will consider themselves cyclists. We will be people who sometimes use the bike to make some trips, like going to the store, visiting a friend on the other side of town, and maybe commuting. Some may go further and add a trip on country roads or beyond. But we won’t be cyclists, just like my nana’s generation weren’t called cyclists, they just used a bicycle to get around in society.

“Cyclist”, as a modern term that is often used in a negative sense, came about when the number of people using bicycles dropped dramatically. The small percentage of people in the UK who continue to use bicycles are labeled as cyclists to show that they are in the minority, and we all know the many tropes that accompany ‘cyclist’. The consequence of this other is that it creates hesitation about trying to go out on a bike, which is what other people do.

On Twitter, I’ve become friends with other women who don’t consider themselves cyclists, but use a bike to get around. After reading their posts, I decided to experiment with how I dress when I bike to work. I swapped out my Sweaty Betty leggings for my aforementioned yellow and green bodysuit. I also added dresses and skirts. The clothes I used to carry around in my bags to change into for work have become the clothes I wear for cycling. I tend to drag myself along the road at a top speed of 13mph and my sweat level doesn’t require a change of clothes. This experiment changed my cycling experience. I have noticed that drivers are less aggressive, more likely to slow down when I cycle towards them from the other side. I even had a nice conversation with London taxi drivers at the traffic lights.

I am in no way suggesting that people shouldn’t wear cycling gear. Wear whatever you want to feel safe and comfortable. I noticed that this experiment of dressing “normally” pushed me even further away from identifying as a cyclist. I look forward to the time when, like in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, we become just people in different clothes, riding bicycles to get to different places.

We are very far from this reality. We have to convince millions of people that they too can use a bicycle.

Social media is not a digital billboard with one-way “broadcast” traffic – conversations have power

Women in the cycling community on Twitter know the impact they have when they are seen on the road. Often we can be the only woman in a group of cyclists at the traffic lights on the way into central London. We realize that just by being on the road, we do more than pedal, we show that people like us can use a bike. I really admire these women, women like @Auntiekay28, @cyclinginaskirt and @carlafrancome, who show up with their bikes to make a difference.

Often we can feel like a small group of evangelists. And we take the jabs online from those who are angry at cyclists, from people who have stopped seeing us as just women on bikes, who celebrate the freedom it gives us.

Time for a seismic shift in how bikes are marketed

For us to move closer to an era where cycling is no longer different, we need the cycling industry to adapt. In many ways, the bicycle industry is where the automobile industry was a few decades ago. Cars were marketed to men as vehicles of power, status, and supreme masculinity. A purchase that will make you faster, more successful, increase your prowess. I was working in advertising at the time. Working on a car account was every male account executive’s dream. There was no higher calling than playing around with limited lexigraphy to pick up new lines about how much hotter you’d be if you drove this car. It took decades for the industry to pay attention to the data that women were involved in the decision to buy a car, because women were actually buying their own cars. Suddenly the car industry had to change quickly, and in the early days, in rather clumsy ways to sell to the female market. Remember Paula Hamilton in that VW Golf ad.

Create the lifestyle ad you want

Bicycle advertising was a departure from the classic early car advertising. The car is shown sitting majestically against a mountain backdrop or backlit in an urban environment devoid of other traffic or signs of human life. Information about how the car was built or what engine it had was always added to the copy. Now, car advertising aims to create a lifestyle: Dad having a good time with his daughter as he drove her to school, the happy memories made when the family spent quality time together on that scenic road trip to the south of France without traffic. These ads speak to millions of people who don’t care what’s under the hood, just like I don’t care about bicycle gears, they buy something that enhances their personal brand. The choice of color is also important – how will I look in this car?

How Zappi helped connect the idea of ​​cycling with non-cyclists

It’s time for the bike industry to also move on from the way it advertises bikes. If the goal is to sell more motorcycles, then we need to consider more than one audience.

Now most bicycle advertising is aimed at cyclists.

#BikeIsBest recently launched a great campaign aimed at non-cyclists. It featured some of the women I mentioned earlier. It showed them just getting around on their bikes, mostly in casual clothes. Fusion Media, the company that created the ad, partnered with Zappi to help create a lanyard that appeals to non-cyclists. Three different lines of straps were tested on a non-cycling audience. The data helped Fusion Media further develop the line that appealed most to this audience. “If we can, you can” in the final campaign, a beautiful call to action for the nation.

A shift to marketing motorcycles that appeal to a wider range of lifestyles will attract new consumers. Our entry-level bike can always be the same, just in different colors. We may never buy that 21 speed bike. But we bring volume – there are millions of us waiting to be told we need a bike if we want to enjoy life to the fullest, it’s worked so well for the car industry.

“My dream for the bike industry is that the bike account is what brings the advertising talent to move the agency.”

“One day, the Cannes Lion Grand Prix will be awarded to an ecstatic team of creative agencies for their campaign that got millions of people buying bikes they didn’t even know they needed.”

Don’t take my word for it, here’s bike industry veteran Laurens van Rooyen talking about the announcement that cargo bikes will be sold in French showrooms: “Okay, it’s a big deal! Speaking of reaching the 80% of the population who don’t yet ride a bike, rather than the 20% who do. A big step by DOUZE Cycles and Toyota France.”

So, if you’re a bike brand or distributor wondering how to reach the “80% of the population who don’t yet ride a bike,” consider me your target customer:

The only brand I see that speaks to me right now is Bobbin Bikes. Just as my dad spent a decade visiting the Mercedes website and grooming sales reps, I often visit Bobbin’s Instagram feed to wonder if yellow is really my color.

Want to win my business, get me (and millions like me) away from the subway, the car, or even the Bobbin motorcycle, and get a world wide award for it?

Let’s usher in a golden era of brilliant cycling companies aimed at non-cycling people!

Image credits: Zappi.io


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