I’ve always loved riding bikes. From the first time flying down a grassy hill without training wheels to the feeling of finishing a grueling 200-mile race, cycling has created some of my best memories. When you spend hours on a bike every day, you pick up on the small nuances — its response to rider input, the way the suspension absorbs bumps in the bike lane, and even how light glimmers off the paint at sunrise.
Small, independent bicycle builders know that the relationship between riders and their bikes is a customized experience. They put everything they have into their hand-built frames and high-grade components. So marketing themselves in a way that truly captures who they are and what they build is crucial. The Vanilla Workshop, Breadwinner Cycles and Independent Fabrication are brands that exemplify this kind of marketing. These companies don’t plaster gaudy logos on their frames. Their products aren’t sold in big-box stores with flashing neon signs. They don’t shout. Their websites feature evidence of a business that cares about the details — close-ups of hand-welded frames, images of the actual bike builders piecing together components, and elegantly simplistic paint jobs. Pulling back the curtain on the workshop adds a touch of realism and helps engender trust in a quality-made product.
Sure, logos can still be found, advertising budgets and brand collateral still exist, and they still have someone on top of social media. But the products stand front and center. Calls to action are subtle, simply inviting visitors to learn more or place an order. And here’s the most important part — it works. These companies have waiting lists of up to three years for frames that cost more than my first car.
I’m not saying that there isn’t a time and place for bold, in-your-face marketing. There are scenarios where that type of branding is extremely useful. But before you pull out the bullhorn, all I’m asking is for you to hop on your bike, go on a quick ride and ask yourself what your customers care about. Do they care about the intricacies of your product? Do they care about the little things? Most of the time they do. So maybe it’s finally time to let your unique product speak for itself.