Brands Go Bike Crazy In NYC
June 23, 2009
Marketers and PR-folk take note, free bike rides just might be the
next “pop-up shop” for their universal ability to lure in the general
public and it appears retailers are catching on. Topshop and Whole
Foods recently gave their customers more reason to turn to the
alternative mode of transportation, with two bike-centric store events
held in NYC.
Over the weekend, Anglophiles everywhere took notice when Topshop rolled out their new bicycle club
concept, parking a small fleet of blue beach cruisers (decked out with
baskets and cupcake stickers) outside their flagship store and making
them available for free daily rental to the public. In exchange for
leaving a credit card and signing a liability waiver, would-be cyclists
were granted access to a curated experience that included a bike,
customized helmet, U-lock and map of Topshop-endorsed destinations
throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.
Another instance of the NYC’s branded bike frenzy was a recent
promotion executed by Whole Foods. The healthy-living corporation
temporarily offered free pedicab rides
around the city. The drivers would take customers anywhere within a ten
block radius of the store, making it that much easier to justify
purchasing that extra bag of groceries.
And while these recent campaigns have met with success, we need only
look to past attempts at co-opting two-wheel culture, such as DKNY’s orange bike debacle from
last year’s fashion week, to note the difference between thoughtful
events and PR stunts. Simply picking a trend and forcing it into a
brand framework in the hopes that authenticity will shine through
rarely works. Instead, focus on adding value to the consumer experience
in ways that reinforce pre-existing values and at the end of the day,
perhaps your audience will circle on back.
Rounding Up the Orange Bicycles
By Jennifer 8. Lee
The police hauling off bicycles that they said were illegally chained to city property. (Photo: Rollingrck@flickr.com)
Over the last week or so, dozens of brightly orange bicycles have
mysteriously appeared, chained to poles and trees, around the city,
perplexing some New Yorkers.
Were they a fluorescent variation of the white ghost bike memorials for fallen cyclists?
Had Christo and Jean-Claude shifted their focus from Central Park “gates” to the streets of New York?
Were Critical Mass activists protesting against the police?
Was that why the police got busy removing the bikes? No, the Police
Department said. The orange bikes were removed because — like some ghost bikes
— they were inoperable or chained to sign posts, trees or other city
property. (Of course, if this city had more bicycle racks…)
Those who looked closely at the orange bikes found a DKNY logo on the frames, which raised some skepticism that this was nothing more than a commercial marketing stunt during Fashion Week.
But DKNY argues that it was trying to promote bicycling, not its fashion. In response to an inquiry from City Room, the company issued an explanation:
DKNY is working with the mayor’s office to raise awareness of cycling
as a healthy and environmentally sound means of transportation around
NYC. During Fashion Week (which runs the first week of February), DKNY
has placed dozens of bright orange bicycles around the city to get
people thinking and talking about bicycles as a healthy and fashionable
way to get around the city. DKNY’s marketing team developed the orange
bicycle campaign to support the mayor’s office ongoing efforts, in a
way that would draw attention to this important initiative.
The fashion company added that it had also pledged money to the Department of Transportation to help with bicycling promotion.
Could the mayor’s office really have sanctioned illegally chaining
bikes around the city? City Room inquired at the mayor’s office, which
bumped us to Department of Transportation
officials, who explained that (as far as they were aware) the bike
promotion efforts with DKNY involved bike route maps, not actual bikes.
Or more formally, “We did not have an agreement with DKNY regarding the placement of bicycles,” the agency said in a statement.
The orange bikes had never come up in their discussions.
Legal or illegal, City Room was still trying to decide whether to be
offended by the orange bikes as a publicity stunt, in light of the white ghost bikes, but was dissuaded by Carl Larson, an active member of the ghost bike community in Portland, Ore.
As Mr. Larson explained in a lengthy e-mail message:
As far as I’m concerned, it’s less productive to consider DKNY’s orange
bikes an insensitive, greenwashing, publicity stunt than to look at
them positively. DKNY is riding New York’s new bike wave while
contributing to it by putting brightly colored ones on the street,
proudly linking their name to them and, at the end of the day,
providing every scrapper, freakbike builder, and petty thief with some
great materials. If New York’s bike gangs like Black Label and CHUNK666
are worth their salt, I fully expect to see some bright orange parts on
their next creations.
In its statement, DKNY added contritely, “We are very sorry if our well-intentioned ‘Explore Your City
‘ program offended anyone.”