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« Art, and the Artist’s Ego | Main | The good, the bad and the clueless »


Marketing is always a tough nut for the artist. All he wants to do is create, but then there comes a point where he must market what he creates in order to survive and continue creating.

It is tough when you have a product that you know is superior, but lose sales because some large corporation has more marketing clout.

This happened many times with me in the 1980s when customers would be on the brink of buying one of my bikes, then at the last moment opt for a Japanese Nishiki, on Centurion. Both good bicycles of that era, but could never compare to a hand built frame made by an individual craftsman.

The only reason they did this was marketing. These large manufacturers could place full page color ads in Bicycling Magazine. But at $10,000 a pop for a such an ad there was no way I could compete.

I had to rely on bicycle dealers to sell to a small group of hard core cyclists who could appreciate the difference between a limited production hand built frame, and a factory mass produced item.

Today the Internet levels the playing field somewhat but only slightly. It still takes time and effort for an individual to build a following with social media, websites, etc. Does the individual artist have the time or inclination to do that?

I also feel it is a big mistake to be too pushy. I don’t know about you, but it turns me off when the only message people have is buy, buy, buy, whatever it is that I’m selling. I am a strong believer that it is better to give than receive, and if a person keeps writing stuff that people want to read, his needs will always be met. Of course marketing professionals will cringe at this.

I remember back in the 1980s having a conversation with neighboring business owner about the way all our manufacturing jobs were starting to go overseas. He stated, “We will eventually become a nation of people selling insurance to each other.”

I remember his prophesy because it is fast becoming true, we are becoming a nation of marketers. Look at the ads on TV, Big Pharma and Insurance Companies. The only hope insurance companies have of getting new customers, is to steal them from another company. The cost of all this advertising is eventually passed on to the consumer.

With no one is creating or manufacturing anything. (At least not here.) We have an awful lot of people at this moment selling ideas on how we should all market ourselves. We have all manner of consultants, life coaches, and investment coaches. It is like a homeless man on the street begging for change, and being told, “Give me ten dollars and I’ll show you how to monetize your homelessness.”

The old cliché of “The rat race,” is never as true as it is now in these tough economic times, as people scramble over each other to get ahead. A certain amount of marketing is necessary to sell a product, but it saddens me to see worthless brands and ideas that serve no other purpose but to take people’s money. Don’t push your fellow man down to get ahead, help him over the obstacle first, and he in turn will help you over.


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Reader Comments (7)

One way to avoid the marketing plethora that we, as a nation, are suffering from is to turn off the T.V. The beauty of reading an old fashion newspapers is that you have to LOOK at an advertisement, otherwise your eyes just skip over them.

The internet is amazing but sites such as Facebook is becoming overwhelmed with advertising which, I believe, will eventually destroy it.

Purchasing something based on quality and ignoring monster ads is a habit that comes with age. My three bicycles are hand built in the United States and it's something I'm very proud of. Two are steel, one is bamboo, and they'll never be as lightweight as a carbon uber bike but they work perfectly and they fit me to a "T"

Age can be a blessing . . . sometimes.

April 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

I see what you are talking about daily, since I work for a primary manufacturer here in the US. But with hard work we manage to find people more concerned with value than cost. We will never grow to a huge company, but we employ over 800 all in the US and we turn a profit for our private owners. And that is the key, the same family has owned and operated the company for 90 years. Their focus on the long term has kept us in the game.
And we are actually making stainless bicycle tubing here in the US.

April 24, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterEdStainless

You almost prove a point I made a while ago here British Bike manufacturers don't seem to want to SELL.

April 25, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJackart

Manufacturing jobs have started to come back to the US, the UK and other nations that once used to dominate the world of manufacturing. The reason they are coming back is that it is becoming less economically viable to manufacture in the Far East stemming from the rapidly rising cost of the labour force and the high cost of shipping from these shores. It may take a good few years yet for the results to be seen 'on the ground' but there is evidence that it has started and the shift back will continue to grow apace.

April 26, 2014 | Unregistered Commenter@weybridgegibbo

What happened Dave? It sounds like others are creating the world you live in. Yes it's shit out there, but it always has been. Why are you, and of course we, living some life that another has set out for us? We aren't stuck in a place that "they" want us to be in. Humans have always adapted; by learning, from others and ourselves. Otherwise we will always be another's pawn. Or pack fodder in cyclist's jargon.
And if one doesn't understand without an explanation one will not with one.


April 29, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I think there is now a huge market for hand-crafted bikes. The trick is to market it as a "premier" bike. Whether that be in fit, strength, or artistic beauty.

Most of the other brands fight over price, spec and strength. I'd say stick with making a beautiful bike and let the others go scrabble in the mud.

But it's not easy. Only now is Salsa Cycles beginning to grab notable market share. And I think Surly may have lost the ground the gained. ...And Those are "big" companies.

May 4, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDave

"My" New York City bike is a Centurion. I have a friend I stay with when I'm in NYC once or twice a year. She lives in the East Village and whenever I was there I would notice a well-worn Centurion leaned against the wall behind the dining room table. I always assumed she rode it but it came up in conversation one visit that it hadn't been used in years - she had to move it from the storage area when some work was being done and never bothered to put it back. So.... I refurbished it over the next few visits and have been riding it ever since (including down Lexington Ave. at midnight in July this year :-)

I don't think Centurions were ever sold on the east coast. She brought the bike with her from LA when she moved in the 1980s. It was a replacement for another bike she had stolen at college (rode 12 miles each way - in America!). Fortunately she's very tall, so the bike fits me quite well. She now refers to it as "Steve's bike" - she rides a CitiBike (the NYC rental bikes) so we can go for rides together when I am there. NYC has made great strides in bicycling infrastructure these last few years. London could learn a lot.

I will venture that bicycle business is like the beer business. 80% of the market is owned by a few huge conglomerates that spend more on marketing than the product. But that leaves 20% of the market for many thousands of small-business brewers to serve a local market with a hand-crafted product with unique qualities unavailable from the big boys. It took a while before they realised they could compete, but they have not only survived but are prospering.

September 15, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP
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