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Bologna is readying to debut the Ducati Scrambler ahead of the INTERMOT show, in case you missed the bevy of “spy” photos, the World Ducati Week unveil to attendees, the dedicated Tumblr website, the Instagram account, and the claymation animated video series…

A more modern riff on the Ducati models of the 1960’s, the 2015 Ducati Scrambler will unveil to the public in a couple weeks’ time, and the model is another motorcycle from Ducati that speaks to outside the core Ducatisti demographic. But, is the new Ducati Scrambler a bridge too far for the Italian brand?

I have talked before about Ducati’s process of brand extension as it related to the launch of the Ducati Diavel, as the iconic Italian brand moved past being a “sport bike brand” and into a robust full-feature motorcycle marque.

Since that writing, we have seen the breakdown of the Italian dream team that was Valentino Rossi and Ducati Corse in MotoGP, the floundering of Ducati’s World Superbike efforts with the Ducati 1199 Panigale superbike, a stagnation of the company’s yearly growth in terms of motorcycle sales volume, and the abandonment of Ducati’s iconic air-cooled motors (the Scrambler will likely be the last Desmo Due from Bologna).

Where Ducati Motor Holding crescendoed under the leadership of Gabriele del Torchio, growing constantly in unit sales, pushing into new market segments with ease, and debuting compelling new motorcycles year-after-year, this next stanza written by Claudio Domenicali has been more of a coda to Ducati’s symphony of progress.

Today I began working on a series of trade show preview articles, which will outline the forthcoming models at this autumn’s key motorcycle industry trade shows: INTERMOT, AIMExpo, EICMA, and Tokyo Motor Show. When I came to what Ducati would be debuting, it struck me that the company’s expected offerings felt unusually light.

Ducati has operated with the loose plan to debut a brand new model every year, with several model updates also debuting to keep the model lineup fresh. For the 2015 model year, we of course have the Ducati Scrambler as a new model, with updates perhaps coming for the Panigale as well.

A quick look at the rest of the lineup, and you would be hard pressed to find a machine that hasn’t been updated or introduced in the past few years, the notable exception being the Ducati Streetfighter 848, which is expected to disappear in the 2015 model year.

It is perhaps unsurprising then that we have much ado about the Ducati Scrambler, as Ducati’s full marketing intensity, and arguably its sales figures for the next year, are dependent on this machine. Pricing of course will be key, as Ducati’s aim is to have the Scrambler takeover where the Monster 696 left-off: as Ducati’s budget-minded model.

The bigger issue though might be the marketing around the Scrambler, which seems to focus around this idealized remembrance of the 1960’s. Decisively hipster in its communication, it is interesting to see Ducati reach out to a sub-culture that has cherry-picked into its ethos the most iconic elements of the past few generations, adding relatively few of their own along the way.

As we have seen with the iconography, and indeed with the claymation series, Ducati is trying to build both a bridge back towards an awkward time when the company made small-displacement scramble-style motorcycles, as well as a bridge to the future, where a courtship directed towards the Honda CB-obsessed motorcycle demographic resides.

The bridge backwards is of course about authenticity and acceptance, a message that the Ducati Scrambler is already part of the Italian company’s history, and thus automatically authentic to the brand. However, I challenge one to ask the next Ducati owner you see outside a Starbucks whether or not they identify themselves with PBR-drinking contingency.

Both demographics are idealistic, image-conscious, and massively militant about a life aesthetic, which makes them seemingly compatible at a high-level, but where the devil lies in the details, you couldn’t find more polar-opposite groups of two-wheeled enthusiasts, who approach their common passion from very different avenues.

Ducati as a company needs to bring in fresh blood to the brand, as does the industry as a whole, that much is understood. The problem however with a brand like Ducati’s is brand dilution through brand extension. Ducati has succeeded in its past brand extensions, with bikes like the Diavel and Multistrada, because they were the Italian company’s interpretations of existing marketing segments.

The Ducati Diavel is a performance cruiser, with actual performance. The Ducati Multistrada 1200 is an adventure-touring bike, with a superbike’s heart. It is not difficult for a hardcore Ducatisti find common ground with the bikes. Both machines might be a far cry from what loyal Ducatisti have in their garage, but the experience once on-board is very much the same.

That understanding seems to be lost however on the Ducati Scrambler, which is just that…a scrambler with the name “Ducati” stamped on its fuel tank. In a bid to bring in more riders to the Ducati family, my worry is that Ducati is inviting strangers to the dinner table.

Despite all the media leaks, social media sites, and buzz generation schemes that Ducati has put in place regarding the Scrambler, a clear anchor to the rest of the Ducati lineup has not been forged.

You can forgive that by saying that Ducati is in search of riders outside its current sphere of influence, but without that anchor, the brand is sure to drift farther down the river from its base, becoming more watered down with each passing moment.

At best, events like World Ducati Week will become a clashing of two divergent demographics, and at worst, it will mean the exodus of Bologna’s bedrock customers, many of whom have already taken to forums, Facebook, and Twitter with frustration over the Scrambler’s marketing language.

It will of course be interesting to see who actually buys a Ducati Scrambler once the bike is released. Will it be the internet savvy slim-jean wearing crowd that Ducati is showcasing on camping trips with its new Scrambler model? Or will the model be bought by a demographic that is more inline with Ducati’s Italian racing heritage.

The proof will be in the sales numbers of course, but we’ll get our first indications in a couple weeks’ time in Germany.

Photo: Instagram

  • Grant Crandall

    Ducati
    If the scrambler was a single and a 350, you couldn’t make enough.
    The personalization of that bike would be endless.
    Even I would consider a euro cycle.

  • Andrey

    The SportClassic range, albeit low budget with all that entailed, had a very enthusiastic following that could have been built upon with a revamp and “up spec” of the model range. Take a look at the cult following on the Ducati.ms forum for proof. What did Ducati do? They canned the bikes!

    Ducati opened the door and set the standard for StreetFighters with the 1098 and 848 SF’s. Owners love them but what did they do? They canned one model and are drawing the curtain on the other, all while their competitors expand the market segment!

    Ducati is by definition, a niche brand just as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and others are.

    In marketing speak, it’s better to own a niche than try to own all niches.

    There seems to be an interesting set of parallels here: Every time a Phoenix rises from the ashes, it brings with it the ghost of marketing blunders from the same era! Recall Ducati’s downright stupid marketing decisions of the 60’s and 70’s.

    Many will argue that economics and profitability are driving decisions like those made for the the SportClassic and StreetFighter models but I would say this; get the bean counters out of the marketing department and let the engineers and enthusiasts build bikes that will dominate a niche. The markets’ response will be to buy the product. Then it’s the bean counters job to keep tabs on profitability. However, current (greedy) business philosophy dictates the approach we have now. These issues drive the concern expressed by many about “dilution of the brand”

    Another observation is: Why introduce another bike to fill an even smaller segment than the SportClassic and StreetFighter models if expansion of the model range, increased market share and sales, and increased profitability are the ultimate goals? If they couldn’t do it with these bikes, whybdonthey think the Scrambler will succeed?

    As an aside, I was very concerned with the introduction of the Diavel, but as Jensen said, once you experience one, you quickly realize it is a Ducati!

    I am not sure they really have a clear vision of their path forward.

  • Andrey

    Jensen
    Where is that edit function man?

  • A great piece Jensen, and interesting thoughts.

    I think it is a good move for Ducati though — like the V7 range was a good move for Moto Guzzi. Ducati does indeed have a Scrambler in its past, so it is reinventing its heritage. Mandello Del Lario did the same, and the V7 has become its most successful bike for many years.

    Much as I admire the current Ducati range, it does not contain a bike that I would spend my own cash on. They are all either too fast, too exotic, too tall or too ‘modern’.

    The Scrambler, however, is a concept I can get right behind. If it’s fun, light, easy to ride and good looking, I’d be prepared to spend my own money on it.

  • Andrey

    Chris
    Don’t get your hopes up, NZ prices are ridiculous for any bike.
    You’ll be able to build two customs that would do your website proud, for the price of a scrambled egg!

  • Nick

    “I challenge one to ask the next Ducati owner you see outside a Starbucks whether or not they identify themselves with PBR-drinking contingency.” Yes, I do. But you won’t find my Ducati parked outside a Starbucks. I only patronize independent, third wave coffee shops (apparently along with my other hipster, PBR swigging, bearded brethren). I think this article is total crap and takes an extremely pretentious view on who rides or should ride a Ducati.

    Are you afraid to have people like me as your fellow Ducatista? Because it’s already too late! I don’t need a Scrambler to make Ducati into something I enjoy and relate to. I can do it right now quite well on a Monster, Hyper, Sport Classic or any of their bikes. Ducati has always attracted a wide range of riders, many of whom enjoy the bikes for their unique personality, charisma and soul. We are more true to the spirit of Ducati than the countless consumers buying the brand every day as a status symbol (I know, I work at a dealership).

    The Scrambler marketing campaign is fun. Have you been riding so long that you forgot this aspect of motorcycling? It has given me many laughs as I followed the idealistic and ridiculous imagery. They have a bold and unabashed vision which shaped the dynamic of this new model, but in the end the Scrambler will be a motorcycle. It will have the classic air-cooled L twin that has defined Ducati for generations. And motorcyclists will ride it. On it they will define their own path and adventures, whether or not that includes a stop at the bar for a PBR or for an exquisite glass of wine or cocktail. Many of us enjoy both, so to hell with your stereotypes!

  • Chris, I suspect your thoughts are more relevant than mine. You represent the buyer Ducati is after, where as I represent the buyer they already have. My main worry, is how many of me Ducati is willing to trade for how many of you…

  • paulus

    If there is a lack of new models, it is result of lack of action years ago. The development cycle is a few years.
    Just at the time that the previous owners and executives were trying to maximize the profitability of the company. Ka-ching, thank you… parachute out.

    The remaining team has to recover from the void.
    The company is under new ownership… but still needs to retain Ducati’s soul.

    I have great faith Mr Dominicalli’s vision for Ducati. He is an engineer, raised in Ducati, he bleeds Ducati.
    If anybody is going to ensure that the brand stays loyal to its roots… it is the current CEO.

  • BBQdog

    Still waiting for a nice nimble Ducati SuperMono
    http://www.ducatiusa.com/history/90s/supermono/index.do

  • L2C

    I challenge one to ask the next Ducati owner you see outside a Starbucks whether or not they identify themselves with PBR-drinking contingency.

    LOL! What hardcore Ducatisti have to do is buy up most of the Scramblers, and make them theirs, to ward of the hippies, er, hipsters. (Some funny sh-t, you guys certainly treat them as if they’re hippies!) Doing so would help to stave off any dilution of the brand, because the problem begins when the core customers refuse to follow the brand in new directions.

    Somebody is going to buy those Scramblers, and so it should be the core customers who get there first. They certainly have the money, connections, and can spare the expense. That way “fresh blood” will be drawn to the entry-level Ducatis as a way to work/earn their way up to the more exclusive machines and associated benefits the brand has to offer. If Ducati’s core group of supporters don’t abandon the brand, it won’t be the end of an era.

    Variety is the spice of life, as they say. So forget about the ads, what’s not to like about the Scrambler? Have a sense of humor and support the brand you’re most passionate about by keeping it real for real.

  • Jensen,

    I’d hope buyers like me are not at the expense of buyers like you. Just like Land Rover needs the Defender to validate its off-road credentials for Discovery and Range Rover purchasers, I reckon Ducati needs the sportbikes to cement its performance reputation.

    And I’d be happy to hop off a Scrambler and chat with a passing Panigale rider over organic Fair Trade espresso in Portlandia any day!

    PS: Have you ever considered Disqus for your commenting system? Heartily recommended, and even riders who dress up like Power Rangers find it easy to use.

  • smiler

    Thus far all Ducati’s product extensions have worked.
    They can no longer make the air cooled motor so it is not because they do not want to but because of emmissions.

    What strikes me as odd about the Scrambler is the length of the teaser campaign. It has been inordinately long and as such risks disappointment. It is as if the Marketing Dept have nothing else to work on currently and so have put they entire effort all year into the Scrambler.

    I like the idea of bringing out a model they used to make again, so in that regard it is not a model extension or break into a new market. There are still some people who remember the old ones. Fortunately it is also not a cynical name highjack like Brough and Ariel are.
    If it looks like a reworled 696, which it is then I think that will be a problem. Interesting to see how factory custom options there will be and its reception to the custom builders and “bit” suppliers will likely be important.

  • RD350

    Selling nostalgia for an obscure, not particularly good looking, 1960s Ducati Scrambler (450RT?) may be a tall order for Ducati, don’t you think? I hope it’s gotten better looking with age. That said, I personally love retro style scramblers and retros in general. I hope Ducati does well with this as I really want to see more of this type of bike.
    For me to be interested though, this bike would have to capably absorb urban potholes and rough backroad frost heaves. I hope Ducati offers an S version with better suspension and brakes as I doubt the “entry level” bits will get me where I want to be. It has to perform or I am not really interested, no matter how cool it looks.

  • Richard Gozinya

    Ducati also used to make scooters, can we expect a new Ducati scooter at some point, where they will claim that it’s part of their heritage? Heritage, legacy, all that stuff isn’t just stuff a company used to make, it’s the stuff that helped shape and define that company. In Ducati’s case, they didn’t really capture hearts and minds until they started making L-twin powered bikes, something that was not used in their scrambler.

  • Hey, I have a Superbike and I’ll drink the PBR’s when available.

    If the price is right on these bikes, they’ll sell a shit ton of them.

  • Walter

    “However, I challenge one to ask the next Ducati owner you see outside a Starbucks whether or not they identify themselves with PBR-drinking contingency.”

    You have the question backwards– ask a PBR drinker if they identify with a “statement” product; so they can answer the “what do you ride?” question correctly.

    And who really cares anyway? Anyone who feels Ducati is selling out by doing this probably already left when the Diavel was announced.

    Ducati is on the success curve where they need to expand their market to remain successful. I suspect that everyone who wanted a SportClassic or Streetfighter bought one, and after that sales were not good enough to continue. So time to to something new. The can’t help but have noticed how well H-D and Triumph (maybe MG as well, though perhaps not the same volume) seem to be doing with their marketing to that demographic and feel they can capture enough share for a while.

  • vanduc996

    Most of the so called hipsters that ride in my town (Vancouver) are on old motorcycles of some for or another, mainly ratbike cafes and choppers. A brand new bike ridden by a “hipster”? There may be one or two examples but I haven’t seen them. My sense is that a brand new Ducati Scrambler would be way to shiny and Euro shi shi for our local hipsters to be even casually aware of, let alone actually own and ride.
    IMO, if the Ducati Scrambler is going to be successful it’s going to be purchased by everyday moto enthusiasts, from all walks of life, they will be mainly beginners and and those that want stylish, fun, urban transport. And that seems to be the fastest growing motorcycle segment right now here in Vancouver, the casual urban motorcyclist. Hopefully the Scambler will be priced low enough for that market to be interested.

  • Norm Fraijo

    I see an aftermarket possibility in header tape, Firestone tires and an accessory ironing board seat. Maybe some precut black Xs for the headlight…

  • DogDBountyHunter

    I’m sorry but I have to say this even though it’s going to make people mad.

    A fairly large percentage of Ducati customers are more focused on style and presige than the other aspects of bike ownership. I know and have known many of them (I was an owner myself too). A lot of these guys want a Ducati just for the name and to look cool. Toss in a bunch of hipster dorks and you have the same thing basically but just a different demographic. Here in Florida for example, we have the Miami douchebags that buy Ducs and ride around the city trying to look cool for the ladies. Same thing in Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, California too. I hate to say it but Ducatisti are just like Porsche dorks. Only a small percentage of them use the product the way it was intended. Most just use the bike or car to look like they are cool and successful. Ducati is smart in the way they market their products because it sells. But you know what? Harley does this too and look how many people fell for it hook, line, and sinker.

  • Austin

    I tend to agree that the people who end up buying this bike will not necessarily be the ones that it’s being marketed to (i.e. “hipsters). I personally am excited about this bike–it’s basically what I want–an affordable, fun, multi-purpose machine that has some real personality and character. That it’s a Ducati, this impresses my wife but I don’t care who’s making it.

  • sideswipe

    “a sub-culture that has cherry-picked into its ethos the most iconic elements of the past few generations, adding relatively few of their own along the way.” That my friend is golden. A stark indictment of the much mocked searchers of authenticity. It is also the source of annoyance to anyone a few years older or just less obsessed with their own bellybutton than that demographic. It’s not “get off my lawn”, it’s “get out of your grandpa’s closet and go forge your own era and identity.”

    Ducati like many other “culture” pimps are just looking at an opportunity. The bloom is off the rose of Ducatisti being those who sacrificed blood, money, and sanity for those ill tempered and hardest of edged road instruments. When you saw a Ducati rider out in the back roads you knew he suffered for his joy. Ducati was iconic but not beyond motorcycle circles until the 916. Then it became an objet d’arte and rightfully so. It finally joined Ferrari as a status symbol of style & performance. Still, underneath the beauty was an uncompromising, punishing torture implement. People still suffered for owning them but it was more often in the pocket book having it looked after than busting knuckles and swearing towards Italy in the garage. The 916 had the distinction of becoming a poser bike in the media and one of the most successful race machines ever. That’s the modern lore and reputation they’ve been trading on ever since. Still, the 916 was too extreme to keep a company solvent let alone growing. For that they traded on the 916 brand equity towards an endless variation of Monsters that hauled the filthy lucre back to Borgo Panigale. They’re not stupid. Since then it’s been a flurry of models to fill every 2 wheeled niche with a DUCATI version. Some more successful than others. Some very inspired but abandoned almost as quickly as they appeared. Dilution is the word though. The 916 was a long time ago. Even their top level performance models are ever so slowly and carefully (remember the 999?) moving away from being modern contortions of the 916 mold. Those models are also moving farther away from the father 916’s race success but that’s another topic. What is preserved? The brand. When the word Ducati is spoken even among dining fashionistas that wouldn’t know what controls are on the right handle bar from the ones on the left a knowing nod can be found. Ducati is a luxury good. Straight up.

  • Paul Cypert

    Goodness the hipster hate is strong with this guy.

    Look at the Honda CB1100…as many older guys into that bike who couldn’t get one when they were kids. Could very well be the same with this bike.

    Hipster is such a lazy buzzword for e-journos this day. Learn a new phrase and…I don’t know, maybe ride the bike before you start bashing it. Ironically that attitude of prejudgement based on looks and marketing is firmly in line with hipster mentality :D

  • Mr Bojangles

    Jensen you are all over in this article. Stating Ducati needs fresh blood, yet essentially passively stating that perhaps Ducati has gone too far and needs more staple models.

    Ducati is what I’d consider the #1 marketing brand in motorcycling. They really push their brand name, and frankly there’s nothing wrong with that. Couple that with introducing an aggresive approach to fresh models and ideas, I’d say Ducati has done a excellent job of progression.

    So whats typically next in a business lifecycle after marketing and fresh ideas? Refinement. Italians are not German engineers. So what does Ducati do? Brings the aid of German engineers in BMW. Even without BMW, Ducati’s reliability has increased massively over the last 10 years.

    So overall think they’re done a bang up job recently against the big companies. The new Eurobikes of KTM/BMW/Triumph are competing directly with Japan’s big 3, so I think Ducati has a nice niche carved out in the market.

    A new Scrambler is a great addition (especially if it’s super light), that is unique to anything on the market except perhaps the Triumph Scrambler.

  • Andrey

    Many dreamers here wishing for something already proven
    History repeats!

  • DarkWingDuc

    “You represent the buyer Ducati is after, where as I represent the buyer they already have. My main worry, is how many of me Ducati is willing to trade for how many of you…”

    I only ride a lowly Monster, but I think I’m more worried about being associated with that type of vapid comment than the “hipster” scene. Does it really matter where these “lifestyle riders” buy their $300 “worn-look” jeans, an overpriced hipster shop or yuppie-city. I can’t see the point of giving up a product you like because the same company sells a product you don’t like. The more riders the merrier I say.

    But then again I’m probably already a burden on those poor Superbike riders that are soiling themselves by having to be distantly associated with a pleb like me.

  • Piglet2010

    Richard Gozinya – If Ducati makes a scooter, I am headed to the (not so) local Ducati dealership to buy one. Unfortunately, only about 10 other people in the US would join me.

    Mr Bojangles – Uh, Ducati is owned by VW, not BMW.

  • Fabio

    Really nice article.
    Respect from Cafe Racer Italia magazine.

  • Milo

    I respect your point of view, but if we stop looking at the motorcycle category and look at the car market, will find some great stories of “remakes”, the first one has to be the Mini, and the Fiat 500. Each brand with a great heritage but after this two modelo have a way to get new Customes and I really bet that if the find each others at a Starbucks, they would’n fight each other or feel betrayed for the brand. I better look them as a brands models, inside a power brands.

  • Is this a viable article…

    ‘The bigger issue though might be the marketing around the Scrambler, which seems to focus around this idealized remembrance of the 1960’s’. Does this really matter…?

    To berate a manufacturer for the introduction of a new model seems incredibly short-sighted, especially in an article written before even riding the machine they are querying.

    It’s articles like these that actually hurt car/motorcycle industries and not help them.

    I do not have a beard. I don’t wear slim jeans. I don’t drink PBR (whatever the hell that is!). I have ridden the demo icon. I have put a deposit on the urban enduro. It’s a fun bike to ride.

    The ‘journo’ who wrote this article is trying to be elitist and that in my mind is worse than marketing a specific product at a demographic. (Should ALL companies stop doing this? Would anything get sold ever again). In fact it’s the sort of arguments a child would use when trying to debate sony/microsoft, commodore/spectrum.

    If it helps a company to survive – why wouldn’t you? Help your industry man! Don’t hurt it.