Brompton Bicycle on why brands must forge closer ties with manufacturing

The cycling brand believes marketers should be as close to their product as possible but admits it is has 40 years worth of customer data to catch up on.

If you’re a Londoner then you’ve probably already seen a commuter fold up a Brompton bike and carry it onto the tube. 

In fact, there are now 80,000 Brompton fold-up bicycles in London, with the British cycling brand also growing its presence in Asian markets such as Japan and China. Having moved its head offices back to the UK capital in 2015, Brompton now has its sights set on producing 100,000 new bikes a year by the end of 2020.

Speaking to Marketing Week at the Festival of Marketing last week, Brompton’s head of customer experience Harry Mann admitted the brand’s lack of a B2C proposition could appear outdated given these ambitious expansion targets. However, first and foremost, he said Brompton plans to differentiate in a market that “fails to place enough onus on offering quality products”.

He explained: “We’re still a B2B organisation and rely on partners to sell our bikes, so that’s 40 years worth of customer data we need to catch up on. Therefore, we’re investing a lot in digital. But if we were suddenly to open shops or an ecommerce site it could create even bigger problems.

“I’m sure there’s venture capitalist firms out there that could inject tonnes of cash into Brompton. But scaling up too quickly would create holes in expectations that we couldn’t deliver on. There’s no point offering a digital or B2C experience unless it can match up to the quality of our products.” 

We’re still a B2B organisation and rely on partners to sell our bikes, so that’s 40 years worth of customer data we need to catch up on.

Harry Mann, Brompton Bicycle

Brompton’s head office is above its primary production factory, something Mann says is important. “Every marketer should be as close to their product as possible. We have real proximity there and because I can see the craft that goes into making the bikes, it means I won’t risk doing anything with the brand that doesn’t match up to the same kind of quality. It keeps me grounded.”

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Striving for perfection

Despite achieving popularity in cities such as London, underlying profits at Brompton fell 40% to £1.3m last year. This was largely due to it investing in a long-term project to build electric-powered bikes in collaboration with Formula 1 team Williams. “Around the time of the electric bike launches, I expect we’ll start to do more above-the-line and think more about an ecommerce offer,” Mann added.

The brand recently made the headlines for being forced to recall 144,000 bikes made between April 2014 and May 2017 over concerns about faulty axles. But despite a fall in profits and a mass product recall, Mann is confident in the future.

He concluded: “The voluntary recall was daunting but we did it because although the products met a safety standard, it didn’t meet the highest safety standards. It showed we were willing to do a recall purely based on a product being fine and not being perfect – that’s a strong indication of our quality around customer experience and I believe consumers realise that.

“The reality is urbanisation is a trend that is still gathering pace and people in inner cities continue to want to travel in an eco-friendly way that suits our brand perfectly. I want there to be 80,000 Bromptons in every major city, not just London.”

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