Thursday, September 15, 2011

The bicycle and the buy cycle

Every once in a while, my favorite subjects manage to come together in exciting ways.  In this case, New York City announced that it had agreed to let Alta Bike Share of Portland, Oregon set up a bike sharing program in the city.  And so, two of my passions: marketing communications and bike riding in the city, have at last met.

The two strands come together because the NYC program, as with the programs in cities such as Boston, London and Paris, will receive support from advertising on the bikes and their rental kiosks.  Marketers in cities where the bike share programs exist have jumped at the opportunity to put their names on them, sometimes in fairly innovative ways.  When I visited London in February, I saw that Barclay’s bank had not only put their name on the bikes and kiosks, but also had managed to have some of the kiosks put in front of their locations.

I’d like to see marketers use the opportunity in a more Translinear fashion, of course.  By that, I mean that marketers shouldn’t just slap their names on the bikes can call it day, but rather that they should find a way to drive (or, given that we’re talking about bicycles, ride) consumers from a sponsorship to something that actually drives a business objective.  I’ve got some suggestions after the jump, and I’d love to hear your ideas as well in the comments below.

  • Use a QR code and mobile site to bring customers to your door.  Any multi-location retailer or restaurant could easily put a QR code (a two-dimensional barcode that smartphones can read) on an ad.  That code could lead to a mobile-enhanced side that shows the nearest location and a suitable message.

    Most obviously, Starbucks could direct the biker to the nearest location with an offer for a hot beverage on a fall morning or a cold beverage on a summer afternoon.  Of course, most New Yorkers need about as much help finding a Starbucks as they do finding a pigeon, but you get the idea.

  • In the New York Times article linked above, Transportation Alternatives member Caroline Sampanaro said the actual bike used in the program is “designed so even the very best bike rider can only go so fast.”  A fitness chain such as Equinox or Crunch might take advantage of that design and post an ad along the lines of “Want to go faster?  Come see us.”  Again, a QR code or even a plain old telephone number would let a consumer find a location and get into a spin class quickly.

    By the way, Ms. Sampanaro, that sounds like a bet to me.  How about you, me and an
    alley cat from the Chrysler Building to the Ferry Terminal on the share bikes?  Loser buys winner’s $100 bike subscription.

  • If I ran one of New York’s 3,782 cupcake bakeries, I’d want to put an ad on the side of a bike telling consumers that the more they ride, the more cupcakes they can eat.  Of course, if you actually showed how far you’d have to ride to burn off that red velvet cupcake, it might hurt business.  However, it would almost certainly draw a complaint from our health-conscious Mayor Mike.  The free publicity would probably be worth it.

A marketer could easily come up with ideas that not only drive awareness or interest, but also actually send customers to their doors.  They’ve already got a way to get there!

Let’s hear your ideas in the comments.

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