Local marketing an uphill struggle for cycle brands
The RRPs are generally quite different - to the power of ten, 20 or more – but the universe is very similar for the owners of cycle and car brands. They share prospects, customers, fans, routes to market and, increasingly, commerciality.
They’ve been around, together (but not quite together) for well over 100 years and it wouldn’t be unfair to say that they’ve matured at different rates when it comes to marketing at local level.
Can cycling take the lead…and what short cuts can it take by using techniques honed in the hugely competitive automotive sector?
Actually, the cycling industry is very similar to the automotive industry. Both have followed similar paths in terms of distribution, wholesaling and retailing – both were created in a very different time and both are now on the brink of an extraordinary shift in the way that consumers start and, most importantly, complete their buying journey.
Brand is king, surely?
Carmakers have made great in-roads recently in looking after their brands’ value when it comes to promotion, marketing and presentation at dealer-level. This is where there’s a great danger that it can all go terribly wrong, with dealers over-selling themselves and their own businesses and often completely leaving out the global, brand messages that have attracted punters to their store, website or social channel in the first place.
The most common misconception we hear is, “People have been coming back to us for years, they love dealing with us…” Of course, the real reason people are returning is to buy the product they’ve always wanted, often in spite of the differing levels of service they receive.
But the car brands have managed to keep control of their brand messages and dealers’ activities in a couple of ways, one more successful than the other.
Rules are Rules
First, the carmakers are the brand owners and the dealers are (usually) franchisees. So, it’s easy to build in rules to the franchise agreement about marketing, right? You’d think so. But we see every day how those standards often slip and even get relieved to ‘negotiate’ other commercial favours between manufacturer and dealer. In other cases, non-compliance can literally bring financial penalties. One way or another, the RULES are very often a bone of contention between the manufacturer (or distributor) and the retailer.
Things get even more awkward when the dealerships are taken up by the big groups who, because of their size, have even more reason to believe in the importance of their own brand rather than the manufacturers’. They usually have enough marketing budget to make themselves seen and heard and it’s not always in harmony with the manufacturers’ and distributors’ own messages. An impasse is the most likely result, with dissatisfaction for both sides.
Rules are Rules – Help them!
Let’s be clear (and honest), car dealers aren’t the best when it comes to marketing. There, I’ve said it. They still have an unusually strong love for the local paper; they hammer everyone on their database with every offer for every model, every week and they often agree to have a banner ad on the world’s most obscure website to tick the ‘digital box’.
I’m being a bit unfair, but it paints a general picture. The big groups are a slightly different kettle of fish; they’re more likely to have a marketing team that knows its way around the ever-changing landscape.
In the cycling sector we have many more independent dealers or small groups for whom marketing is largely a puzzle or a problem instead of an opportunity to create more business.
What they all need (and crave) is help - in any form – and this one fact, truly, is a brand’s trump card. It’s also why cycling really can learn a lesson from its motoring cousins. The big car brands are falling over themselves in their rush to help their networks with local marketing and they’ve learned some interesting things that are easily transferable.
Capitalising on the (often expensive) marketing resources and assets that are created for global and national advertising and promotion is the answer – making them available and, most importantly, usable and relevant at local level is key. And you can do this in a number of ways; using a Marketing Asset Management (MAM) system underpins many of the car brands’ local marketing services, but sometimes a more agile Managed Marketing Programme suits some functions.
Everything is tailored to suit budget, needs and objectives so that every brand, no matter how small (or hefty) the marketing spend can benefit from a programme that’s operated by specialists in local marketing. Your dealers, retailers, network (or whatever you call them!) will have access to effective local marketing materials that are cheaper, easier to use, relevant and in the right media space at the right time.
If you make it easy for your network to use they’ll use it, it really is that simple.