“I ride a Zero” or “my bike is Zero” always seemed like rather negative byproducts of the Zero Motorcycles’ brand to me. Generally speaking, a company should avoid associating their product as being zero or nothing.
Of course, the name is a cue to Zero Motorcycles emission-free motorcycles, using “Zero” as a call to action for those with a green agenda.
This always bothered me too though, since the market for environmentally conscious motorcyclists is incredibly small (at least when it comes to the ones that vote with their wallets), and the production of electricity in the United States isn’t exactly carbon-neutral, but I digress.
Secretly, I have always hoped that Zero would change its name. It would be a single step in a process that would require many, but it would be the bold first step.
The rules for such a drastic change are pretty hard and fast though – with the biggest caveat being that you don’t change a brand unless it is going to affect your bottom line.
This usually means that a company uses a rebranding to define a crack in time – a point where they either compartmentalize the mistakes of the past into the “old brand” while the “new brand” promises a new hope. You also see new logos when a company pivots in a new direction.
Unfortunately for Zero, neither of these examples seem to be the case, and that’s the rub. For Zero, I think you can make a pretty strong argument that the American electric motorcycle marque has its fair share of radioactivity.
Most of Zero’s baggage comes from its early days though, when the product was dreadful, the management team looked like a game of musical chairs, and the business decisions (especially on how to build a dealer network and support staff) were dodgy at best.
Crappy bikes, upset owners, and dealers with burned bridges… Yes, changing the Zero name could do wonders for the Californian company’s bottom line. So, let’s consider today’s news the Diet Coke version of that strategy, as Zero Motorcycles is sporting a new logo.
For all my written vitriol – as far as I know, I am the only journalist to be removed from Zero’s press list not once, but twice – I think Zero’s team actually did a really good job here.
The new logo is very well executed. It is clean and clever. And if Zero’s management team is going to double-down on the whole “Zero” thing, well…I always say that if you’re going to do something wrong, you might as well do it right.
To that vein, the shape of the logo is of course the numerical zero, with a “slashed-zero” stroke, which has its own lore in typography nerdom (geek out on your own time). From the slash and the shading though, we can see the letter “Z”, which helps trigger the name “Zero” in our head.
Like I said, it is clever and well done.
Will it help Zero’s bottom line, however? That remains to be seen. The company’s bikes have certainly improved greatly over the years, from a technical perspective at least, but they still lack a captivating design.
Bland and basic, it is hard to make Zero’s giant battery bin sexy. Even custom motorcycles that use the platform seem to fall flat.
You know how builders talk about a house having good bones? That’s never something that an automotive designer is going to say about Zero’s current offering, and I think that translate into sales.
Adding to it, a lack of sales and support has hurt the Zero dealer network, and these days it is much easier to find an ex-Zero dealer than a current one.
The big issue for Zero though is the company’s burn rate – the rate that Zero is losing money – which is also the amount of money Zero spends each month to keep the lights on, the mouths fed, and the bikes rolling off the assembly line.
Hemorrhaging money is actually the term I hear from my sources, and that type of expense can only be sustained for so long. But, that’s a story for a different day.
For today, Zero is sporting a new look, a new feel. And, it is a positive change. Now, we wait to see if the change is more than skin deep.
Maybe today marks the day that Zero begins to turn things around. I don’t think that is the case, but I would love to be wrong about this one.
Source: Zero Motorcycles