Friday Group Ride #458

Friday Group Ride #458

A brand is a funny thing, isn’t it. A name, a feeling, a history (or some sort of story) attached to products of a certain type and a certain quality, sometimes varying wildly over time. We’ve lived with some cycling brands for a very long time, although few of them bear any great resemblance to the pasts that shaped them. I’m thinking of brands like Schwinn, Bianchi, and Raleigh.

There’s a cadre of heritage brands that came after, like Colnago, Pinarello, Campagnolo, etc. Then some middle aged brands, like Cannondale, Trek, Specialized, etc.. And then there’s what I’d call the new establishment, brands like Giro, Chrome, Rapha, and Canyon, established but certainly not yet historic.

To be clear, I picked companies at random, based roughly on age and brand awareness. There are plenty of examples in each category that I left out, and feel free to quibble with my characterizations.

A new brand has all sort of advantages. It’s not carrying any baggage, for one. The brand manager gets a blank slate, creates the thing whole cloth from nothing. Key words are emphasized, a defined look, the ability to attach to a current trend or plug into the zeitgeist of the moment, to reach a staggeringly large audience quickly and directly via social media. The disadvantage, of course, is that there are already of a bunch of brands crowding into whatever space the new brand is trying to occupy, all of them overlapping in a sloppy Venn diagram. Ideas are golden, but execution is what allows a brand to survive.

Over time, brands deteriorate. It is extremely rare for a brand to make all the right choices consistently AND have products that remain highly popular. In those instances, like with Schwinn for example, the brand is so successful over such a long period, that subsequently bad choices, as often transpire after an acquisition or a shift in manufacturing approach, do little to diminish people’s view of the brand. RKP readers know that Schwinn is no longer Schwinn, but the general public still has a positive association.

For the rest of the industry’s brand managers each season is an opportunity to take their company forward or back. That can mean introducing new, hopefully better (or at least not worse) products, or entering new market segments, or simply running a batch of really great ads (see aforementioned description of accessing trends/zeitgeist). Going backwards might mean a drop in quality born of cutting corners, lowering quality, rising prices, or being too closely associated with a trend that is no longer trending.

It’s hard work. And once a brand has been around for a bit, the work gets harder, something like turning a barge, where brand perception shifts only very slowly and is surpassingly difficult to turn around completely should you find you’re going the wrong way.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what brands resonate with you and why? Who is doing a good job? Who are you disappointed in? Do you trend toward older, established names? Or do you constantly seek new things?

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6 comments

  1. Michael

    I am impressed with the new Silca. I am probably not going to buy their pump – I have an old one and the new ones are just too expensive – but their tools are great and innovative. I am impressed by companies like Chris King, Paul, Can Creek, and others that are putting gout really well designed and machined parts with an economic plan that seems to be workable for them. I am also impressed by some of the new helmet companies that are trying to build better helmets even though the standards are not changing, so they have little opportunity to actually demonstrate that their helmets may be better.

    1. Neil M Winkelmann

      I agree. Just had this conversation last week regarding Silca. I think they are doing a great job of re-invigorating the brand. It’s new, but just as good, if not better. Clever engineering, high quality and priced accordingly.

      I don’t get the hate for Rapha. Their gear is great. Expensive, yes, but it ranks as the most enduring I have ever worn. I’ve been buying it for 14 years, and still wear very item I’ve ever purchased. Their promotional photography and videos generally speak exactly why I ride. Exotic places, gorgeous scenery, good friends, great roads, all weathers, and beautiful, epic suffering.

  2. Marc Weiss

    I continue to be enchanted by, and loyal to, Campagnolo. This stems largely from the fact that, when I first got into cycling as a teen, Campy was what you dreamed of having, and was the only real choice if you wanted top-flight components (Dura Ace was still in its infancy.) Fortunately, the equipment remains excellent (if expensive).

  3. Jim Laudolff

    Moots, Pearl Izumi, Chris King, and Shimano.
    Their products might not be perfect, but even on an off day, they are functional and show a level of consideration beyond what most brands achieve.
    And when they are good, they are a delight to behold.

  4. Parker English

    Nothing but mixed reviews from me. Pearl Izumi shorts and jerseys have been unfailingly good. However, the finger seams of both the last two pairs of their very comfortable gloves ripped open after just a few rides. Repairable after five minutes with a needle and thread; but still. REI has a good return/replacement guarantee for an entire year, even for shoes. But the fly for a Half Dome 2 tent lost its waterproofing during two years of totally dry storage; and the guarantee ends after just one year. North Face has a lifetime guarantee for its tents. But one of the segments for a Talus 2 pole recently snapped during morning take-down after just five uses; and the warranty department’s first two replacements were for different tents.

    All that said, am grateful for the gear now available for recreational riders and bikepackers.

  5. Aar

    K-Edge, Enve, DiNotte Rapha, 7 Mesh and Specialized (specifically S-Works) resonate with me. I recently switched from Campy to Shimano and am waffling about it – at least Dura Ace replacement parts are more readily available and cheaper than Chorus.

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