Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Old style marketing in modern times

Bridgestone poster of 189... Eh, 1993!

The recent discussions here made me think of the bicycle brand Bridgestone who had an interesting design in both their bikes and catalogs in the early 1990's. To quote their marketing director Grant Petersen:

"I always liked working on our catalogs. From the '80s to '91, Bridgestone had decent catalogs. I thought they were great, but one day a friend sent me a copy of an Eagle Bicycle catalog from 1890, with a note saying "Now this is a catalog!" He was right, and I was ashamed, envious, and challenged."

Their 1992 and 1993 catalogs, which I still have, were standing out with their interesting, informative and at times almost philosophical articles with great illustrations. The competition were more focused on glossy catalogs with color photos of their bikes, often with sponsored athletes, with a small square with specifications in the bottom corner of each page.

"Some people said our ads had too much information, not enough excitement. I sort of liked writing ads, but it was always a struggle because I have a problem with advertising. So much of it barges into your head and makes you feel inferior for not owning something. But we had to advertise, so we tried to do it as respectfully as possible. I decided if I couldn't recite an ad to a friend without embarrassment, then I wouldn't use it on strangers."

So did I buy a Bridgestone mountain bike? I was intrigued but got a Marin instead and modified it with thumbshifters. It was just better value for the money. Have I kept the Marin '93 catalog? Nope.

(Listening to while posting: Anders Johansson - Boxcar to Novosibirsk)


LS said...

I love this catalog! Informative, stylish, and clean lines. How the bike is not drawn from the side but at an angle, and the text block is triangular shaped - it just looks better.

O.K. said...

The whole bike division of Bridgestone was influenced by Grant Petersens "retro-grouch" attitude. The bike division went belly-up in 1994, I think. Was it because beautiful, informative and honest advertising doesn't work? Or was the niche for that kind of bikes too small? Grant Petersen claims it was the exchange rate between the dollar and the yen causing Bridgestone bicycles' demise.

LS said...

Interesting interview with Petersen

Here is a quote:
" If something's new and it's good, then that's fine, but just because something's newer doesn't make it any better. In the case of some bicycle things, designs really aren't getting any better, which is something that really angers people. They say "how can you say that designs aren't getting any better?" But you just have to look at things from different perspectives. Something that requires such a specific working environment, that won't work with another manufacturer's derailleur, that will only work with a certain shifter, is that progress or not? Maybe it is for some people, but it's not progress for everyone. There were a lot of bike parts that you could get in 1986 that would just blow away anything available right now from certain perspectives. "

O.K. said...

"If it is new, I'm game!"

PP said...

Some composer said this (I think) about hearing a new piece by another composer:
"There was some that was new and some that was good" But that what is new was not good, and that what was good was not new"