Shimano Peddles a Soft Sell
Bike enthusiasts, whether city commuters, spandex-bedecked road cyclists, dirt-loving mountain bikers or all others that fall in between, are a supremely cliquish, predictable breed, and are no less so as consumers. Show us anything that resembles a crank or spoke or calls to mind the passion that motivates us to ride, and we salivate and feel a kinshiplike members of an elite club.
So it's no surprise that when I received this 5-1/2" x 7-1/2" four-panel self-mailer with the picture of a man in a business suit and helmet riding a bike into his company parking lot, I was both thrilled and intrigued. Obviously the sender knew me well enough to know I'd be among the thrilled, which made me beam even more. And I was intrigued because I could see from the start that I had a top mailing in my hands, from the use of enticing photography to the motivational copy and pillow-soft sell.
The mailing was sent by Shimano, an international cycling and fishing parts and products provider, to promote Bike to Work Week, an initiative to encourage cycling, sponsored by Shimano, the League of American Bicyclists and various local cycling organizations in 15 participating, cyclist-populated cities (Archive code #910-701149-0505).
Spot-glued together, the interior of the four-color self-mailer opens to reveal a photo on the left panel of a mud-splattered business woman giving a work presentation, surrounded by unfazed onlookers.
The right panel lists in poetic-verse form the various reasons to ride to work, with the word "ride" colored in blue for emphasis:
Ride for the planet. Ride for your city. Ride for you and you alone. Ride to be a hero to kids in passing school buses ...
The back panel shows a list of bike shops in the prospects' area and offers a free coffee tumbler when recipients get a tune-up at one of the shops and test a bike equipped with Shimano's new Nexus components.
According to Dustin Brady of Shimano consumer marketing promotions, the mailing was a combined effort with Rodale, publisher of Bicycling Magazine and organizer of Bike Town USA, an effort similar to Bike to Work Week, where members of a town are selected to receive bicycles and take part in an experiment to show what happens when people incorporate biking into their lives. Shimano used Rodale's database to reach cycling enthusiasts, says Brady, because the individuals on their lists are enthusiasts and influencers who reach out and get their neighbors to ride.
The mailing's purpose, says Brady, was to promote Bike to Work Week and get people to support their local bicycle dealers. Once prospects get into the local shops, the soft sell of encouraging them to become familiar with Shimano's Nexus component line serves more as a long-term investment to build awareness of new products, he adds.
And Brady seems confident that direct mail is the best way to build that awareness. "Last year we did radio spots, weekly ads and direct mail in five markets," says Brady, "and we saw higher return on the direct mail, so we took out our other media buys."