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A bike company has finally made an ad that competes with the auto industry


Love the symbolism of leaving the car in the driveway.(Screengrab from Stromer)

The star of the ad leaves his car in the driveway.
(Screengrab from Stromer)

Biking in America suffers from a major image problem. Bike riders are rarely seen as cool, conquering heros in movies or advertisements the way auto users are. While we do our activism and political lobbying here and there, it has very limited impact when our entire culture is consumed by media that makes automobiles look like sexy, must-have products.

Many car commercials are fake, mean-spirited, and promote dangerous driving; but with billions of dollars to spend, the auto industry knows how to win the hearts and minds of Americans. The bike industry? Not so much. More often than not bike advertisements focus too much on racing or too much on the corny stuff bike advocates love but that non-believers (an important marketing target) can’t relate to or simply don’t care about. Granted, the marketing budget of the entire bike industry is probably equal to what Ford spends on office coffee for a week. But still.

Then I saw a new ad for Stromer bikes over the weekend….

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What really caught my eye was how the Stromer marketing folks blatantly copied one of the most persuasive car commercials running today: the Matthew McConaughey/Lincoln MKC spots (directed by non other than Portland resident Gus Van Sant). Notice how the music, the look, the feel, even several scenes of the Stromer ad above mimic the Lincoln ad below. Notice the droning piano, the handsome, confident, and wealthy star getting ready for work, the reach for the key (that he passes over for his phone), and so on…

Stromer is doing exactly what Lincoln (and other carmakers) are doing: Selling the bike — not as a health and fitness tool or a way to “be green” — but as a device that makes you look cool and just so happens to get you from A-to-B in luxurious style. And by device, I mean an electronic gadget like a smartphone. In the face of an age where people are more and more consumed by their devices, the auto industry has smartly begun to position cars as high-tech nodes with all the bells, whistles, and comforts of an iPhone. And now Stromer is doing the same in this ad for their premium ST2 model.

It should be noted that Stromer is an e-bike company. This ad makes me wonder how the high-tech aspect of e-bikes is a major marketing asset that will make them more influential with mainstream (non-bike believing) audiences.

And did you notice how, in another jab to automakers, Stromer’s tagline is “The Swiss driving experience.” That echoes BMW’s “The ultimate driving experience.” Not only that, but by using the verb “driving” instead of “riding” Stromer is challenging people’s perception of cycling in a fundamental way. It reminded me of the legendary Miller beer ad by Errol Morris (that I also called the “best commercial ever made” when it debuted in 2007).

It’s not perfect, but this Stromer commercial could be a game-changer. If only they had a few million dollars to plaster it all over the airwaves during prime-time sporting events.

— Jonathan Maus, (503) 706-8804 – jonathan@bikeportland.org

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