Last Christmas I hosted the Chongqing motorcycle industry. The meeting, at my house, was a success, as most attendees agreed that they were facing the same problems when considering the future direction of the industry.
Inspired by this I started the Chongqing Motorcycle Industry Council, members of which would convene on a monthly basis in an informal fashion to discuss future export market development and technical upgrading. The council includes export clerks and managers, technical and research and development staff and of course journalists. All are agreed on an industry future through merger.
Back in 2009 Chinese motorcycle heavyweight Loncin bought out fellow manufacturers Kinlon, adding their weight to a company which already boasted a technical working relationship with BMW. This merger propelled Loncin to the status as biggest motorcycle exporter in China and was thought to be a sign of the shape of things to come. Although the motorcycle giants are safe enough in their autonomy, the smaller sized companies are busily vacuuming each other up. Continue reading →
With a masthead that reads like a Who’s Who of popular consumer oriented bike books from the last 30 years (give or take), Barnett’s BikeCraft officially stepped into the deep end this month with the print version of their previously announced custom moto mag. At a time when print’s hold on the American psyche is under intense pressure, the decision to assemble a team of high-profile displaced editorial and creative types seems counter-intuitive. But it works.
Publisher Mike Barnett’s appreciation for print extends back to when the El Paso based Harley dealer popped the cork in the late ’90s on their first vanity press project, the no-cavier-for-me beer and bbq crowd Barnett’s Magazine. Originally styled as a new and used classifieds pub pushing dealer inventory in times of scarcity, the glossier than rival Motorcycle Trader dealt mainly in V-Twin pedigrees. This lasted until the economics of sustaining a print model against a global glut no longer made sense and the move to a dot-com online edition was finalized.
At about the same time, the moto journalism talent pool was suddenly bursting at the seams, courtesy mainly of HFM’s decision to scale back – way back – on most of their North American titles before ultimately putting them on the block. With staffs at all the genre pubs slashed razor-thin, competent, experienced, premium print skill was suddenly on the market. Serendipity knocked, and a new print publishing venture featuring a fair number of Cycle World alums shepherded by long time former editor-in-chief Dave Edwards, along with notables from CW competitors, was suddenly viable.
back to basics – take the long way home and you’ll get there sooner
How important is it to have experienced pros in your corner, especially for a startup? Take the treatment of all the product announcements, career snippets, random ricochets, and anecdotal memos that accumulate like dog hair under the living room sofa. Notice the runacross header with the catch-all title “Goggles”? Lacking the equivalent of refrigerator magnets, it serves as a frame for the collected odds and ends ranging from Post-Its to short essays. This took thought and skilled graphic design to arrive at a clever solution done well that looks easy yet escapes so many others.
Just eight pages in finds So-Cal designer-builder Denny Berg (left, above) profiled for his unique body of work designed and built during his tenure with aftermarket parts manufacturer Cobra. For nearly 20 years this graduate of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design has created one innovative custom after another, each an exercise in form following function. Denny’s long been one of my favorites, widely regarded for his effortless style and laid back demeanor. Will the affable, accessible N. Dakota native ever get his own “reality” show? Uh, no. Which only means he’ll continue to inspire serious devotees of the craft with his dignity intact and his intellect secure.
looks familiar – for a reason
Barnett’s BikeCraft features art direction courtesy of CW expat Elaine Anderson, whose signature style after nearly three decades at the helm of America’s most popular bike book is unmistakable. The inaugural (No. 1, Summer 2012) issue of the seasonal quarterly takes advantage of plenty of editorial elbow room to hilite over a dozen richly illustrated features – bobbers, trackers, cafe racers – with inspired photography. There’s plenty of room for white space friendly, easy on the eyes, open leading type design that actually encourages rather than challenging readership.
With editorial, design, and content of this caliber and the small luxury of publishing as a quarterly, I’d have liked more attention to repro specs. Stepping up to a premium paper would add an extra dimension of crispness and detail this level of creative deserves. And the glaring lack of a robust supporting web site that’s less ’90s archival and more contemporary – I’d settle for a look that’s anything this side of 2006: Rolling Stone, anyone? – means an inexplicable squandered opportunity to connect, engage, and convert. Not porting the print concept online means turning one’s back on a market the size of, well, the planet. Not to mention the whole ePub thing going on these days.
Otherwise, it’s a worthy effort for a seasoned crew embarking on a challenging voyage. Here’s hoping they can stay the course.
Several years ago I put together an easy to follow guide that offers solutions for three of the most common errors made by DIY publicists. Since then I’ve noticed a significant increase in the number of powersports announcements distributed under the hi-jacked heading of FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE! So poorly constructed they’re cause to wonder if a Kazakhstan goat herder isn’t ghost writing for the crowd source marketplace, they neither inform nor promote. No offense to my herder friends.
There’s a phrase common enough to pr practitioners (hack) that’s either a label of shame or badge of some distinction, if only among peers. Without naming names – and, sadly, you probably don’t know who you are – I’m gobsmacked at what the aftermarket seems willing to accept under the guise of published, presumed to be positive, information about products, services, and events by the former.
This isn’t about the errant comma, occasional misplaced modifier, or missing apostrophe. I’m raising the alarm over the wholesale abandonment of fundamental principles of grammar, any notion of style, and the essentials of literacy. Who needs complete sentences when an odd lot assortment of disjointed words strung randomly together into incoherent phrases passes as sense.
“air quotes” run amok amid out of control malaprops
I’m usually not a hard-core stickler for AP style, but. The increasingly sloppy gibberish masquerading as product praise not only offends my professional eye, but to the point does serious damage to a manufacturer’s online reputation and in-store brand. Unless, that is, the brands footing the bill think LOL ridicule is a desirable goal.
And it’s permanent. Once published to the web, these unintentional examples of no-talent hilarity circle the internet forever, ghost ships of puff piece silliness showing up on Google search “doh!” in perpetuity.
If you can’t hire a pro – and by that I mean someone possessed of a) basic writing skills and, b) a fundamental understanding that English, not Farsi, is North America’s marketing lingua franca – please take advantage of my basic tips for improving reputation and readership.
The continuing struggles of the powersports market coupled with the rise of social media haven’t been kind to Advanstar’s Dealer Expo signature event, even less so to its flagship b2b pub Dealernews. This fact was painfully born out when Joel Martin, head of Martin Racing Performance and a leading scooter segment authority, blasted the media giant on his blog for their spin describing last month’s 44th annual trade show. Then he reloaded. In the background I could hear Foster The People humming Pumped Up Kicks.
Mr. Martin took it personally when, after extensively documenting the event for his own blog and YouTube channel, he failed to recognize the franchise version of the very same show.
There are no winners here. A shrinking powersport dealer network that depends on industry press for an accurate picture of how the market is performing, where it’s going, and trends to watch for, gets shortchanged on reality. And there’s the brand that is Advanstar, and the issue of trust and reputation management. Independently verified opinion polling? Missing in action – just the self-congratulatory quotes from corporate employees.
It’s true that, especially for first time attendees, the view is more that of green meadows and perpetual sunshine. But for long time participants well aware of the meteoric rise in market performance from the mid ’90’s to the mid ‘oo’s, there’s no masquerading the increasingly dire situation facing brick and mortar retailers.
time to make lemonade
Who then to fault? Aftermarket manufacturers, industry media, and dealers themselves. All can be called to task for repeatedly failing to ask critical questions, invest in essential marketing, and for blindly continuing to embrace a business plan that’s lost its mojo. Other industries have adapted to similar challenges – Performance Racing Industries’ Orlando event comes to mind.
The industry desperately needs a venue or venues that, like any other dedicated channel, provides a well managed opportunity for buyers and sellers to gather in a common marketplace for a couple of days to assess, visit, become informed, learn, and above all profit. It’s a void Marketplace Events hopes to exploit with their newly launched American International Motorcycle Expo set to open next year. Stay tuned.
The collection of expertly designed messages and icons includes “knucks,” the answered prayer for every personal injury attorney who enjoys masquerading on weekends as a Sons of Anarchy patchholder. Add fighting rings and you’re done.
PARIS Lagardère SCA today announced a €651M binding offer by Hearst Corporation for the sale of it’s international publishing empire (102 titles in 15 countries), including the industry leader Cycle World brand, part of the HFMUS portfolio of titles.
elle trademark retained
Lagardère would retain control, however, of it’s iconic ELLE trademark, which it will continue to license for various markets including mobile, print and product, and thus benefit from future royalties.
According to the press release, the parties have until Q3 2011 to complete the sale.
In yet another example of how outclassed domestic powersports marketing is, now comes this head-turner from BMW Germany in the form of what could be tagged an alternative form of neuromarketing. The spot stars factory Superbike rider Ruben Xaus onboard an S1000RR in a black and white film noire quick cut that by itself is less than remarkable. Pretty, pouty, and predictable.
but on the other hand
The other hand is a fascinating little tidbit of technology more amusing than motivational. Using what appears to be relatively simple rear screen technology to flash project a logo, the spot, by German uber agency serviceplan, creates an afterimage on the retinas of the audience. Yeah, it’s going to get attention.
A BMW spokeswoman said, “We literally got inside people’s heads, involving them instead of boring them and generating a more intensive connection to our target group. Our brand should be innovative, emotional and dynamic.”
Hmmm. Given how twitchy German bureaucracy is about any kind of Orwellian influencers, let alone a method requiring YOU MUST OBEY! to interpret the eyeball afterglow, this may not be a long lasting campaign. But it will be memorable, make no mistake. And as for the subliminal alarmists: uh, if you have to direct behavior to experience behavior, it’s not.
quit picking up mud
When I see efforts like this, efforts that accept the challenge of creatively differentiating the brand from the same old same old, I say hell yes, go for it! Like Leo Burnett famously said, “When you reach for the stars you may not quite get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”
Dunlop’s 68-page Download Magazine is their most recently distributed PDF contribution to online publishing. This issue includes features on the Isle of Man, Robbie Maddison, the Barber Motorsports Museum, X-Games, and a conversation with Elena Myers—the first woman in history to win an AMA road racing national.
Visuals are gorgeously done – showing that print and digital can play well together.
Want more? There’s some interactivity; links include archival access for a look back, videos, product comparisons and the team moto web site upgrade.
News out this morning from Ad Age has Harley’s media planning/buying to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom (first globally in media buying – new adds include Darden Group, Best Buy) while doing a 180 and casting their creative future with newcomer Victors & Spoils following Carmichael Lynch’s ship jumping last August after 30 years of mostly hidebound (“screw it – lets ride”, jeans over boots) treatment. At the same time, Publicis shop Digitas is greenlighted for digital, a too long neglected portal. Continue reading →
In a major head turner in the world of off-road, Scot Harden, long time former marketing director at KTM, announced his departure after a short-lived reunion with his original and current employer Husqvarna.
Harden said it, “…was certainly a tough decision,” but left plenty for others to speculate on as far as where he’ll land next by saying that, “… there is some exciting new terrain for me to explore.”
His departure signals what in all likelihood will be his last involvement with the BMW owned Italian manufacturer of originally Swedish off road rides. The Southern California rider began his career as a factory rider for Husqvarna when it was still a Swedish owned company, a position he’d hold for over a decade before moving on to other OEMs.
During his time with KTM Harden scored major successes on the world rally stage, most notably his Red Bull sponsoredDakar and Baja teams, before returning to Husqvarna in 2008.