Tuesday 2¢: Does marketing ruin everything?

Again I am inspired by a lunch, but I’ll be honest this Tuesday 2 cents is a bit unresolved, are marketing and commercialism ruining everything, or giving us all a taste of the good stuff?


This week I am again inspired by lunch, this time with a big digital marketing chief of an international agency. He’s a motorcycle nut, and we had lunch at a Motorcycle club café in a now hipster trendy part of London (Shoreditch), complete with motorcycle parking, beautiful custom motorbikes for sale (no, not the bling kind of custom, the café racer kind, including the “Triumph Hoxton”), a shop selling all the stuff a trendy motorcyclist could ever need and a barbers shop.

Of course, the walls are bare brick, signs are painted on corrugated iron, the menus are on brown card, the leather chesterfield sofas (you know the studied leather kind) have a patina that is just right side of worn, the general retro iconography is on point. The food was far removed from a greasy café, I had rather nice baked eggs and chorizo. Some of the clientele were bikers for sure, but not, you know that kind. A clean distillation of the café racer culture.  

But, maybe too clean? We are surrounded by this, an industrial feel done so very neatly, God knows it’s like every agency in London. Anyway – this isn’t a restaurant review, this is a marketing rant and I have to say, I loved the place, like a little hipster café racer Disney world. Possibly not what they were going for, but like I thought it was wonderful.

Chatting to my bike mad marketing chum, this wasn’t something he was entirely comfortable with. While he knows the owner and knows it’s a genuine spot, it hints at the trend of the commercialization of the motorbike and café racer thing.

I’m not a motorcyclist, but I do know that the thing about café racers, is that this is about people in sheds making their bikes their own and individuality.

What do marketers and product people do when we see individuality? We homogenize it and sell it to other people that also want to be individual, but don’t want to put in the work. Of course, the big motorbike makers have latched onto this trend.

In researching this piece, I just found that in the UK you can buy a Chinese mass-produced café racer style bike. Individuality sold by the thousand for a few thousand pounds. A culture co-opted not just by the big motorbike manufactures, but by those that copy them.

It is sad when the unique thing we hold dear becomes commercial, it’s a like a deserted beach, finding it makes you feel special, but of course as soon as you do and tell a friend, you have started a domino effect that means that this beach will never be the same again.

Other people, commercialism and marketing will ruin it.

OR

Who has the right to these experiences? Why shouldn’t someone with only a little bit of money or mechanical skills not get a taste of the café racer thrill? Just because you like this beach deserted, why shouldn’t other people enjoy it?

True, the people that experience the commercialized Disney version are not getting the full experience, a café racer without an oil leak and the grazed knuckles, the beach that is no longer deserted, but to get there is not the 4-hour hike of discovery, they’ve put the road in.  But, it’s a taste of the real thing.

I’m a Chelsea FC fan, by birth, today Chelsea is defined by a successful team bankrolled by a wealthy Russian and I can go to cities anywhere and see kids wearing Chelsea shirts, that support Chelsea because of their success, not because of where they were born. This is their experience, not the pain of a rainy afternoon, in an open terrace watching us being beaten 5-2 by Wimbledon in 1989. In our less successful years, being a Chelsea fan was a little more of an exclusive club.

I used to go to the Goodwood Festival of Speed 20 years ago, it was a big event, but today it’s huge, I love that it’s huge as I met the fella who hosts it on his lawn on a flight once (Lord March), but it’s not for me anymore.  

Ok, I confess, better bloggers would have figured out their point of view before now and B2C marketing is not really my specialism. I had huge empathy for my chum, as his individuality as a motorbike nut (his words) was being eroded by commercialism and I thought I’d be ranting about marketing ruining everything.

But..

Doesn’t this just make my chum a tastemaker? The folks that did it first, that attracted the attention of commercialism, marketing and ultimately a Chinese motorcycle manufacturer.

I just read a piece that talked about Goldie Chan, considered somewhat of an influencer on LinkedIn. How did she achieve this? By doing video on LinkedIn, when everyone else was doing video on Youtube. Of course, now marketing has learned this, LinkedIn will be ruined with video.

Maybe marketing ruining everything is the cross the genuine individuals we all want to be like have to bear.

Or.. …what do you think?