Cannondale is a globally recognized bike company with huge distribution and approximately 300 different bike models at any one time.
The company’s designs are sleek, contemporary machines which provide speed and serious durability with intense frames covered in bold color palettes and graphics. The company has very specific messaging and a very specific audience.
This summer I was on conversation with a member of their North American marketing team. I wanted to know what exactly does a globally established bike company do to promote itself in so many different markets? What’s the system?
Generally speaking, the process begins with new product releases, ongoing customer education and some strong industry entertainment (because that last bit is what a loyal Cannondale customer expects).
For example, each time Cannondale launches a new bike, the marketing cycle ‘begins again.’ Cannondale sales reps are sent into the field with new bikes and education for mechanics, distributors (stores) and consumers; media is alerted, influencers might receive an advance private release or test product and other Cannondale specialty teams are dedicated to participating in and hosting consumer events. Previous product campaigns may overlap or merge into the latest one, but a new bike = new promotion cycle. Meanwhile, the digital managers are overseeing traffic and pushing online sales.
The overarching strategies listed below (with the exception of the Party Bus - but even that can be morphed into your own mini-event) are opportunities any small, creative business can easily initiate with that accessible thing we all love - sweat equity.
1) Data analytics and digital marketing
Cannondale wants to track where (geographically) all traffic on their site is coming from and hypothetically promote more at those locations. The buyer’s actions on the Cannondale site can reveal patterns about consumer behavior, like what influences a purchase, how long a visitor is on the site before buying, or which pages are ineffective based on drop-off rates (bounce rate). This info in turn tells Cannondale more about their customer and the customer’s experience (also known as the UX or User Experience), plus inform Cannondale which other sites are driving traffic to the Cannondale site. This corner of the marketing will include PPC ads (Facebook pay per click ads, for example or Google Ad Words) or any other online paid advertising, the results of which can be tracked, profits recorded, and turned into data . Think weekly traffic reports, “content keyword integration” , trends analysis and an internal management database.
2) The bike bus
Cannondale shows up at industry events with demo bikes, tools and gear. They arrive at bike shows to promote new products and teach maintenance at bike shops where they know they’ll find a concentration of their consumers. The company is actively engaging outwardly via their determined distribution channels (the stores that sell the bikes, for example) and the bike company’s loyal consumers in order to create face to face engagement (very powerful for a business to consumer model). With mobile edu, Cannondale controls the dissemination of bike edu for maximum engagement and customer happiness.
3) Giving away merch
They give away a lot of bikes. The director for media communications has a give-away-bikes-budget. This budget is used to get bikes into the hands of media professionals who may test the bikes and then write about it. Hopefully the reviews are positive. Cannondale wouldn’t necessarily have a say over positive or negative feedback but editorial coverage from experts in the field builds a ton of credibility, especially when those experts are trusted by the consumer. The wholesale cost of a bike “gift” may cost less than a two page ad-spread in an industry publication.
4) Influencer RELATIONSHIPS
The Cannondale employees who drive the aforementioned Cannondale buses, are also aware of who’s who within inner-industry circles. Which cyclists have the best connections, the strongest knowledges bases and carry the most trust. Are these people talented athletes, brilliant mechanics, phenomenal sales reps? These people are noted by Cannondale as individuals who can participate in a symbiotic, mutually beneficial relationship. Maybe these friends will be alerted of early releases or new products before the general public and though this wasn’t said, they likely (should) receive a ton of free product like t-shirts, hats, socks, stickers, etc containing the Cannondale logo. Said products are hypothetically worn publically for brand recognition and influencers will (likely) pass along relevant information to their followers and friends.
5) Mobile PR
I mentioned the buses. Those buses carry bikes, tools, new products. Cannondale also has ‘party buses,’ vehicles outfitted to morph into a mobile bar equipped with music and maybe even a dance floor?
6) Hosting and Attending events
The person in charge of this often complex task is a logistics and partnership expert. Leveraging Cannondale’s assets for exposure and inclusion within the important events of industry partners, plus tactfully engaging the company’s target audience to show up and enjoy a Cannondale-event is a responsibility that falls on the person in this role.
7) Content Creation + Media placements
Ads. Commercials. Youtube vidoes, industry magazine ad-inserts. For a big company like Cannondale, multiple team members collaborate on the messaging and content of the video and ads. Then more people are responsible for placing the content into the correct channels (magazines, ad networks, youtube ads) for the right exposure to the right audience. The results of this are hard to calculate (easier now if the ads are online) but this process follows the rule of remaining omnipresent - anywhere your audience can see you, they should see you.
8) Merch (for sale)
Brand identity on the right hats, shirts, shoes, socks, accessories, tools, travel gear, etc is about communication (and style). What will the merch say, how is the brand represented and which items are sold sold/do the best? Like mentioned above, merchandise is about brand recognition and sales revenue. Bikes are Cannondale’s core product but like any company with a central line of revenue, they can generate additional sales by means of branded merchandise while simultaneously placing their brand in the hands of more people.