Get on your Bike
I didn’t expect a cycle ride into work, through the centre of Hyde Park, to show me what it takes to revolutionise a category with an innovation.
After having recently bought a new (and relatively stylish) hybrid bike, I felt like I could sit proudly amongst other cyclist commuters, mixing it with the best of them. This was certainly the case as a Brompton foldable bike pulled up next to me at the park entrance. It seemed upright, with small wheels. Quirky and hard work to cycle.
However, any pre-conceptions of having the smoother and speedier cycle were soon put to right as the lights turned green. Here was a bike that was unnervingly (and frustratingly) efficient. Extra pedal pushing wasn’t going to achieve any advantage.
A little disgruntled, by digging a little deeper, I found that the Brompton are moving from strength to strength. They have increased turnover from £2million 11 years ago to £21million last year. Demand is outstripping supply. They are now exporting globally to 44 countries and there is a black market for the bikes in China.
So what has been the key to their success?
It is not to do with any strategic campaigns. Brompton do not advertise. “Our idea of marketing is to produce a great product and look after the customer,” says Mr Butler-Adams, their Managing Director. “Do this and they become evangelical about you.” It isn’t either about predatory pricing, being comparatively expensive to many commuter bikes, at an average £900 retail price.
Instead, they have dedicated their energies on building the perfect product. Brompton were not the first foldable bike, but none of its predecessors were able to answer the commuter need of being simple and practical. Their folding mechanism remains unique and unchallenged. Lightweight, compact and elegant, here is a foldable bike that rides well, and can fit onto trains and busses without unravelling and without getting grease on fellow passengers. Dare I say it; their design is also iconic and has an established cult-coolness about it, winning awards for their efforts (http://www.independent.co.uk/property/house-and-home/brompton-bike-creator-wins-uks-longestrunning-design-award-1804152.html).
Here is a great example of a company recognising an unsatisfactorily solved consumer problem and then coming up with a new and effective solution. They have created a ‘transformational’ breakthrough within an existing category. I may need to look into an upgrade…