Branding For Success?

Check out this report of a new branding campaign by Bikes Belong called  People for Bikes. The designs all look happy and unhipsterish, which Suzanne Labarre at Co.Design thinks is a good thing. I agree. But the photo below, promoting bicycle commuting and Bike to Work Week, goes off the rails.

OK, I get it that this is an attempt at whimsy. But ya gotta wonder about an ad agency that sooooo misunderstands the intended audience. It is not the case that women are going to find getting dirty on a bicycle cute. It is not the case that people are going to choose bicycles over cars if riding bicycles makes their lives more difficult.

This image is also counter-factual. One does not have to get dirty or wet riding a bicycle in work clothes. Just check out any photograph at Copenhagen Cycle Chic. If one rides a proper bicycle (i.e. with a chain guard and fenders) one is not likely to suffer the indignity pictured above — an indignity that absolutely will keep average people — average women — from commuting on a bicycle.

You want women riding bicycles to work? Show them this photo:

(Published by permission of Copenhagen Cycle Chic)

What the offending image represents is designers getting a little too cute while understanding a bit too little about the kinds of things that make people not want to ride bicycles.

Thankfully there’s plenty of time before the 2011 Bike to Work Week to kill this idea and dream up something useful.

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Comments 13

  1. Steve A wrote:

    But Andy, don’t you know those shoes have SPD cleats?

    I agree the message got carried away in a misguided attempt to be cute. A better one than your second photo is the asthma commercial with the great Brooks saddle. Or it would be if she went to pick up the romantic picnic stuff at the store.

    Posted 11 Jul 2010 at 8:27 pm
  2. Sabinna wrote:

    I see the standard 20th C mass-market view of the world at work here. In a world of niches, attempting to appeal to general categories (including “women”) is going to fall short more and more. I like the Copenhagen Chic approach, but I can’t say it defines me eg. where I live, I need to wear lycra to work.

    Posted 11 Jul 2010 at 10:57 pm
  3. Coy wrote:

    Chill … I just love the chainring tattoo!!!

    Posted 12 Jul 2010 at 4:30 pm
  4. Acline wrote:

    Coy… OK, but are you the target audience? 🙂

    Posted 12 Jul 2010 at 4:39 pm
  5. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    I agree with your main point: that in an attempt to be cute they actually alienate their target audience. I cannot, however, get past the premise: “If one rides a proper bicycle (i.e. with a chain guard and fenders)…”

    Maybe you’re from the British Empire, where this is the linguistic norm (and rankles me every time), but please don’t tell me that your preference in bicycle accessories is “proper” as if it’s an objective fact. By extension any bike that doesn’t meet your criteria is improper.

    I like the blog, sorry for ranting, but this drives me as nuts as being told where in the lane I’m supposed to ride…

    Posted 15 Jul 2010 at 11:01 am
  6. Andy Cline wrote:

    JAT… I accept that my choice of words drives you nuts. It comes from my being driven nuts by sport cycling hegemony. It would be better, I suppose, if we could find ways not to be driven nuts 🙂

    Posted 15 Jul 2010 at 11:40 am
  7. JAT in Seattle wrote:

    Fair enough, absolutely. (I’m still going to imagine you as some tweedy British academic transplanted in Springfield, MO, though; the image has grown on me over the course of the day)

    stay cool out there!


    Posted 15 Jul 2010 at 1:36 pm
  8. Andy Cline wrote:

    JAT… 🙂

    Posted 15 Jul 2010 at 2:21 pm
  9. Coy wrote:

    Hey, I’ve always thought of little glitches like the occasional chain ring tattoo as something we wore as a badge of honor!!!

    Posted 16 Jul 2010 at 11:56 am
  10. Andy Cline wrote:

    Coy… Not novice women riders who are thinking of riding to work for the first time. You can’t encourage women to BEGIN bicycle commuting by suggesting they’re going to get dirty.

    Posted 16 Jul 2010 at 12:08 pm
  11. Coy wrote:

    You are right as to your 16 July comment. However, if I correctly get the drift of peopleforbikes ad just inside the front cover of the last issue of American Bicyclist (I think it’s called … publication of LAB), they are trying to get bicyclists of all interests to unite for our common good???

    Posted 20 Jul 2010 at 2:36 pm
  12. Coy wrote:

    At the website, check out the “who we are” and “our goals” tabs.

    Posted 20 Jul 2010 at 2:50 pm
  13. Andy Cline wrote:

    Coy… I read all about them before I published this. I’m not criticizing People For Bikes. I’m simply saying this is a bad public service ad because it will not appeal to the intended audience.

    Posted 21 Jul 2010 at 8:11 am