KHS Bicycles; potential untapped?
KHS Bicycles has always been a brand that has appealed to me personally. They have always produced a bike that is reasonably well spec'ed and priced. I've always had a soft spot for brands that provide value-based performance. The bikes, in my opinion, have not always been all that "pretty", but who cares what they look like when the parts mix is great and the price is one of the better prices on the market? For the rider/ racer on a budget, the bikes are a great deal. Plus, they have always done a pretty good job of supporting grassroots sponsorships- another topic near and dear to me.
My only real gripe with KHS has been with the magazine ads they have run, especially the past year or so. Unfortunately, I do not have an example to post with this, so you'll have to just work with me for a minute on this. The ads have taken the "low brow" approach of using scantily clad women in provocative poses/ situations to sell the bikes. For example, there is one ad that has a rider on a bike, stopped on the side of the road talking to two women in a convertible. The two women are sitting on the back of the car, fleshy chests in the sun, and the guy's bike is barely visible at all. Now, I am not a prude by any stretch of the imagination, nor am I opposed to seeing attractive women in advertising- far from it. However, the cycling industry is in need of breaking out of the "boy's club" mold. More and more women are coming into the sport and the industry, so the old way of appealing to an all male audience is just out of place now.
I spoke to one retailer who said, "the girls in revealing clothing work in Lowrider magazine. I'd even say they work well selling mountain/freeride bikes and other more man-centric products. But it doesn't work so well for road bikes, and obviously also means they're ignoring how many new bikes are bought by women.." He also said, "I totally agree, that if KHS could cultivate a better image, the sales would increase, because there's nothing wrong with the product." I very much agree with that assessment.
The company has good products that they could better exploit to sell bikes. Though, as they are competitors of mine, maybe I should be applauding them for what they have been doing so that they don't do even better.
All of this falls into the themes I have been discussing here and elsewhere in public and private conversations for years now. If the cycling industry really wants to expand and grow, in this very competitive market, then it needs to begin to think differently. Many more women are coming into the sport and industry now and even the ones who aren't have influence over many buying decisions. Alienating this segment of the buying population doesn't make good business sense. Plus, in the case of KHS, upgrading and updating their image would allow them better growth and increase the perceived credibility of the bikes.
Maybe you think I'm totally off the mark here. If so, let us know.
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser
Posted by Tim Jackson at 9:16 AM