Every year Interbrand releases a list of the Top 100 global brands – ranking each company on its brand value and then assigning a dollar amount to that value. As such over the years, the Interbrand 100 has become the de facto metric on the strength of a company’s brand. For some time Harley-Davidson has been a stalwart of the Interbrand 100, with the Bar & Shield brand regularly getting the nod from the consultancy’s specialists — after all, how many brands are responsible for enthusiasts tattooing its logo on their body? However the past few years have seen a worrisome trend, as slowly Harley-Davidson has fallen farther and farther down the Interbrand 100 rankings.
BMW Motorrad crushed it last year by posting its best sales year ever, and finishing in sales 6.4% over 2010. With the United States being one of BMW’s largest motorcycle markets, it comes as no surprise then that the German brand posted strong sales here in the US. Up 7.4% over last year, BMW Motorrad USA continues to weather the rough economy for the Bavarians, which is perhaps unsurprising considering how zie Germans have faired the past few years.
What is surprising though is which model topped BMW’s sales sheets, and in case you are blind and didn’t see this story’s headline, it was not the venerable GS. Taking the superbike fight straight to the Japan’s backyard, the BMW S1000RR again dominated sport bike sales again in 2011, and was BMW’s top-selling model across its whole motorcycle line-up (I’d love to see the profits per model on this though). Proof that when German engineering is coupled with Japanese pricing a consumer hit is born, the S1000RR should continue to be a potent bike in 2012, as BMW Motorrad has given the liter bike a mild update for its third year of production.
Because motorcycles can move from lane to lane with ease, and even vary their position in a single lane with regularity, motorcyclists are sadly hard to spot when automobile drivers are accustomed only to looking out for larger slow-to-move cars that take up an entire lane’s width. Yes, as motorcyclists we impose a special duty on automobile drivers, a duty which more often than not gets pushed back onto us. This then requires motorcyclists to ride defensively. It requires us to assume a cage doesn’t see us, and is gong to move into our lane.
Calling it the “natural conclusion” of their partnership, Yamaha’s MotoGP team and Malaysian oil giant Petronas have split ways after three years of racing sponsorship. Concluding a deal that is reportedly worth $8 million a year to the factory MotoGP team, Yamaha’s loss of Petronas will surely be felt in the team’s pocketbook, assuming of course that the Japanese manufacturer cannot replace the company with another on its sponsor roster.
After losing title sponsor Fiat for the 2011 season (due almost entirely to Yamaha’s inability to retain Valentino Rossi), Petronas and Yamaha Motor Kenkana Indonesia (Yamaha’s Indonesian arm) were left as the team’s main backers and official sponsors. Now with the loss of Petronas, many of the names on the side of the Yamaha YZR-M1 are those belonging to the tuning fork brand, leaving the financial burden for Yamaha’s MotoGP racing effort to come squarely out of one Yamaha coffer or another.
Surely to be taken as a sign of the decreased value of racing in MotoGP to race sponsors, this news has to be especially troubling for Yamaha, as it continues to lose its biggest sponsorship accounts, one after another. While it would appear that the Japanese manufacturer will have to foot another $8 million a year out its internal budget, the only silver lining to the situation could be the hope that the loss of Petronas is making way for a more lucrative sponsor. We wouldn’t hold our breath on that one though.
Talking to a colleague the other day, we came to a frank discussion about how the European motorcycle brands weathered the recession better when compared to their Japanese counterparts. While there are many factors at play in this statement, there is at least a component of truth to the idea that strong brand integration helped spur the Europeans into setting record months, quarters, and years during a global economic downturn, while companies like Honda, Kawasaki, Suzuki, and Yamaha saw their businesses virtually collapse.
It is not that the Japanese manufacturers don’t have strong brands, it is just that their brands stand for something fundamentally different from those being forged by the Europeans. While companies like Ducati, KTM, and Triumph are building entire communities and lifestyles around their motorcycles (hat tip to Harley-Davidson for showing them how), the Japanese continue to hang their hats on the attributes of their products. Well-engineered, bulletproof, and relatively cheap, Japanese motorcycles tick all the right boxes when one is objectively measuring a motorcycle, but they are sufficiently lacking when it comes to creating lasting ties to their owners.
Loyal readers to Asphalt & Rubber should know by now that on semi-regular basis I like to lambast motorcycle companies, both individually and as a whole, for they’re dismal understanding of what often gets referred to as “new media” (the fact that such a title is applied to a medium that has been in commercial form for over two decades should shed some insight on the situation I’m dealing with here). Now often this tradition of mine revolves around pointing out some of the gems of imagination that emanate from our industry, which in turn leads to me saying things that result in A&R being uninvited to future events held by the company in question. C’est la vie.
Of course if you are not part of the solution, then you are part of the problem. So in the interest of trying to make the world a better place, I’ll offer these three videos by KTM as examples to the companies that have received my ire, and suggest that if you need some inspiration on how put together a rich and compelling video media campaign for a motorcycle you’ve recently launched, then compare and contrast the following with your own work-product in order to highlight your deficiencies.
Lastly, a couple points to ponder. If motorcycles are an aspirational purchase, then put some aspiration into your message. If motorcycles are an expression of individuality, then make sure your bike’s identity shines through. If motorcycles are supposed to be a form of recreation, then better damn well be grinning ear-to-ear after you are done. Videos after the jump.
If you ever wanted proof that alleged “spy photos” of motorcycles were complete bullshit, then we submit to you this latest news about BMW’s use of QR codes on camouflaged test mules. Embracing the process of teasing prototype as the marketing exercise that it is, BWM Motorrad has begun tagging its test bikes with large QR codes the passersby can capture, and thus find out more information about the under-wraps model they just witnessed.
In giving up the whole spy photo farce, BMW gains perhaps a little bit of credibility in the process (not really), but more importantly the German company has found a way to heist some free advertising out of unsuspecting motorcycle publications. After all, any publication running a photo of a bike with a QR code on it is also therefore also running an interactive ad that enables readers to go to an OEM-managed website. Clever.
UPDATE: Ducati North America sent me a note explaining that these ads were not a part of corporate-initiated ad campaign. Their best guess is that they are spec-creative, or something done by the company’s Ecuadorian distributor.
Talking in generalities, Ducati is one of the better companies in the motorcycle industry when it comes to handling its market communications, and in an industry that’s generally abysmal at making creative advertisements, you can make of that praise as you will. Of course every now and then Bologna produces a dud campaign, and well…through each others’ failures, we can hopefully make progress. It’s not that the concept being used here is a bad one, it’s just not readily apparent (it’s also averaging below a 2.5/10 rating on Ads of the World right now).
Trying to make a statement about how owning a Ducati motorcycle is as fantastic of an accomplishment as becoming invisible, turning into other objects, walking through walls, and levitating, we’re not sure that the comparison, though clever, is readily apparent when these photos stand on their own on a page. Better pitched in the idea room than executed on the paper, after the third advertisement or so it finally hits you (the walking through walls one was the “ahh-ha!” moment for us). But as for a clearly communicated message, there is a bit left wanting here from Ducati and its ad agency, The Grey Group…that and the teapot thing is just damn silly. More examples after the jump.
For being a motorcycle mega-brand in his own right, Valentino Rossi has been slow to adapt to this crazy new thing called the internet. A series of tubes, the internet has been a remarkable breakthrough on a variety of levels, changing the paradigm of how we eat, sleep, and waste our lunch breaks at work. Helping teenage girls gossip about their latest crushes, aiding in the massive distribution of pornography to middle-aged men who hide in their basements from their wives and children, and allowing no-talent journalistic hacks to masquerade around as proper motorcycle journalists, there is literally no telling how the internet will change our lives next, and what industries it will turn on their head.
Well get ready for another shockwave ladies and gentlemen, as the G.O.A.T. himself, Valentino Rossi, has hopped on this interweb bandwagon with full 0 & 1 force, first by finally creating his own official website, and now by signing up for a thing called Twitter. Tweeting, twatting, twittering so far in only Italian, Rossi was one of the last hold-outs of MotoGP riders to embrace the micro-blogging service (Randy de Puniet just got on Twitter this week too we might add. Thanks Lauren). Rossi’s move is sure to create a stir with the VR46 crowd, as his legion of fans can now take time out from their busy days of lathering neon yellow paint all of their bodies, and hang onto every one of Rossi’s 140 character messages.
So far, Rossi has tweeted about go-karting, his injured finger, and traveling to Melbourne. We wait with bated breath to see what photo the nine-time World Champion first tweets from his account. Bellissima.
I’m not even entirely sure where to start with this one. I know we’ve lambasted some ads from the motorcycle industry for being poorly executed, preaching the wrong message, or simply teetering on on the realm of Oedipus Rex, but this ad spot from Nissan takes the cake as the worst advertisement ever to involve a motorcycle. I’m honestly at a loss for words, so I’ll just say that I’ve always thought that the Nissan Juke was the ugly still-born bastard love child between a platypus and a tarnished sack of candied apples (I hear it’s nicer from the inside, where you can’t see how awkward of an automobile it is). I’d rather drive a Pontiac Aztec.