Monday, October 09, 2006

Why are we a bunch of knuckle dragging morons? (UPDATED)

Like that title? I thought it rolled off the tongue pretty well.

So Interbike is over now. It's been a little less than two weeks now since the bell rang on Friday and the show for 2006 was over. I have mixed emotions about the close of the show because I really do enjoy the show and having the rare chance to talk to as many potential customers as possible. The show is a thing of beauty to me, so I look forward to it each year and hate to see it go... even though it nearly kills me each year.

I've talked about this to some extent before and I find myself compelled to ask the question again; why do we, as an industry, rely so much on half-naked women to sell bicycles? Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of women. I like them a lot. I think they are great. I'm as much a "guy" as the next guy, so a really beautiful woman is a great thing (you know what I mean honey). It just makes me wonder, is anybody paying attention to the fact that women make up the fastest growing segment of the market?

I know I'm not alone in this view, but I really feel like it is time that the cyclling industry grows up and gets out of the "boobs sell bikes" mentality. Seriously, haven't we grown up any in the last 10-15 years? We keep talking about trying to attract more women into the sport and the industry itself and yet we continue to use scantilly clad women to sell bikes- or as is more accurate in the relation to Interbike, we use half-nude women to attract guys into our booths in hopes they will either order more product from us or at least remember our products after they leave our booth. Isn't that what great product and/ or a great catalog is supposed to do?

If the cycling industry really wants to grow and be seen in a more professional light, it is time that it starts acting like it. I'm sure I'll catch a bit of flack for this viewpoint, but it honestly embarasses me to see so much cleavage at the show each year. Yeah, yeah, I know... then don't look. And I don't... as much as possible.

Tell me; am I just an idiot thinking like this all alone or has anybody else been wondering when the industry as a whole will finally say "enough is enough"?

Tim Jackson
Chief Kool-Aid Dispenser

UPDATED;
10/11/06- Hey, bike industry... there are some great comments posted here already. I admit that they come from contributors here and a friend, but they are great comments just the same. Great dialog going on- come be a part of it. I know you read the site- folks at Raleigh USA, Pacific Cycle, Specialized, VNU, Kettler International and even somebody from Trek have all been here in the past two days.

I promise nobody here will bite and if they do, their comments will be removed. There is nothing and nobody to fear. Come join the dialog to create a better bicycling industry for all of us.

Posted by Tim Jackson at 10:09 PM

14 Comments

  1. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 1:47 PM  
    Tim - I guess I don't get out of my booth as much as I should because I thought I saw less of the 'chicks' this time around. The Pedro's ladies were nicely dressed (I think) and handing out flowers, which was a nice touch and part of their environmental approach to the show this year. Then there was us...with Bob Roll (not sure there is cleavage involved there!). Really, I have to say that those are my only frames of reference because the only other place I went was your booth! I didn't see any scantily clad women there.

    I notice that the booths around us, too, don't have the 'chicks'. There are a lot of pros around, though. Speedplay always has a bunch and they are very near us. Park Tools - no chicks. No 'chicks' in our neighborhood out there. I like that. Not that there aren't women and intelligent women at that, but I'm assuming you all know what I mean when I say 'chicks'.

    Then there are the pieces of 'eye candy' for the women - Umm...Lion King...and WHY didn't anyone tell me that Thor was there? Seriously.

    I guess we all like a little 'eye candy', no matter what our gender, right? But to be completely blatent about the 'sex sells' is something I can do without.

    I'm rambling and not sure I'm making a point here, but I agree. I think that women, as a buying power, need to be taken more seriously. Many companies are doing just that and, I think, they will profit from it in many ways for years to come.

    Interbike? It's Vegas....and it's a trade show. Chicks abound. Right or wrong.
  2. Anonymous Chris Lesser posted at 10:00 AM  
    My first reaction is to call Tim an old married fart. Tim, you're an old married fart. But if I actually think about it -- hard to do with all those boobs around -- I agree with you. There's a certain skeeviness about hired guns prancing around the bike show.

    And Donna, you had it mostly right when you said "It's Vegas....and it's a trade show. Chicks abound. Right or wrong." Just replace "Chicks" with "strippers" or "professionally good looking women" or something and you've got it nailed.

    In my own unsolicited opinion, I thought there were more genuine bike chicks at the show - that is, good looking girls/women who don't call sin city home and who actually work in the bike biz. It also seemed there was not as much free-flowing beer as in the last two years, a bittersweet change. But what do I know, I was working for the Show Dailies and didn't really get to see the show.

    If Interbike was somewhere else I'm sure the stripper aspect would be less. A good bellwether of the Interbike stripper factor may be the annual Sinclair Imports party. I didn't go this year but did the last two years and they had these outrageous women there with a few K/each of augmentations going around taking pictures with blushing retailers and anyone else they could. (full disclosure, got my picture taken both years... more than once) Anyway I heard the stripper sisters didn't make it to that party this year.

    I didn't go but decided to trade Sinclair's too-loud bad music, long drink lines and all the ambiance of a melting ice sculpture of the Bicycle Retailer and Industry News logo for a seedy bar called the Double Down, where a good chunk of the clientelle had actually gotten there by way of pedalling their bikes. There was a video premiere that I missed but still plenty of bike folk swilling cheap beer. Good times, I'll try to bring a bike next year... what a concept.
  3. Blogger Guitar Ted posted at 4:56 PM  
    Hey Tim! First of all, it was great to finally meet you! I really enjoyed the time spent with you.

    Now, on to the matter at hand. I spent alot of time pounding out the miles on the show floor and I can say that there wasn't as much of the "sleeze" factor as I've seen in pictures of past Interbikes, but it was there. I really find that sort of marketing rather juvenile and base, and yes.....I am married! But hold on a minute here.

    You know, if that sort of marketing didn't bring "results", it would be abandoned. I can say that at one booth, not far from where Tim was parked, the booth in question was heavily trafficked the first day and a half or so. Then, after everyone had "gotten over it" it was primarily a ghost town. However, the result was that alot of "knuckle dragging" cavemen were wagging their tongues about "that booth babe" or another and that's going to get play with certain marketers.

    I myself would rather see the role of women elevated beyond "thing to use" to a person worthy of awe. Cycling personalities that just happen to be females are a good start. Marla Streb, Christina Begy, and the Tough Girls team are great examples.

    I remember a time when I was single and at Interbike back in '96 where I stood in a long line to get an autograph from Gold Medal winner Paola Pezzo who rode for Gary Fisher back then. She was very good looking, and was a very highly respected athlete and I was floored by the amount of respect by the "dudes" that were standing in line. If a company chooses to respect women, it shows and I for one have seen the positive results of such marketing.

    It's just that it's so much easier to appeal to the base nature of humans and go for the crotch level marketing ploys. Finding the athlete that's female that is available to tout your product? A bit harder to procure, perhaps.

    By the way, I must admit that I ducked under the table and took a peek at Paola's legs that day in '96. Fine.....very fine!
  4. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 8:35 PM  
    Thanks to each of you for your comments.

    Donna- I agree that the number of booth babes seemed smaller than some previous years, but the fact they are there is part of what gets me still.

    Lesser- You are a nut! But I agree that there were more "cool bike chicks" there this year.

    Guitar Ted- It was great meeting you too and I really look forward to an even bigger blogger meet-up next year. Those off the cuff conversations are definitely the best.

    Substance-wise, I agree with each of you. I consider each of you friends, so it always great to hear from you... but I was really hoping that some of the other industry readers of this site would comment as well. Who knows if they'll dig into the comments posted here or not, but if they do- PLEASE COMMENT. I know you're reading the site.
  5. Anonymous Phil posted at 11:06 PM  
    Hiya all, one small point.

    Judging by the sheer number of womens specific bikes and products we have at our disposal I think the industry may be over this.

    The growing availability of hardware is testament to this.

    And It appears to be working because already (we're at the beginning of our season here in Oz) the WSD bikes and product are running (cycling) out the door.
  6. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 10:02 AM  
    That's another valid point; we are catering to the WSD market, as an industry, and yet the booth boobs still feature prominently... why?
  7. Blogger Donna Tocci posted at 3:50 PM  
    Chris - completely off topic - don't cha love the Double Down? It's just FUN!

    Phil - completely jealous that you are 'starting' your season.

    This is a great conversation, Tim. Thanks for starting it.
  8. Anonymous michael browne posted at 10:15 AM  
    I'm a long-time reader, first time poster on this blog. So let me first start by saying thanks for offering a format for critique and criticism on the public face of the bicycle industry. While I'm not a marketing guy, I am a magazine person responsible for a publication that I consider to be drastically different than the competition.

    I could talk for hours on sex appeal and sales--hey, it does work--and exploitation of beautiful people (or is it the exploitation of a consumer's desires?), but the point at hand is to discuss the use of scantily clad individuals to sell product at Interbike.

    Tasteless? Perhaps. Do people ask for it? Yes. Does it work? Hey, Marzocchi's been successful with it for about a decade now. I'd like to bring to the table an argument that a certain feminist friend argued the other day:

    "I say keep the models. Keep the lack of clothing. It's time to start fair exploitation of the sexes."

    That is, if women really are the growing market, shouldn't booths offer Chippendales holding the latest carbon part? Perhaps it's simply time for the companies that choose to market bicycles with sexuality to do so in an equal manner... just like the Gucci ads we see with chiseled Adonises and bronzed bare-breasted goddesses.
  9. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 10:22 AM  
    Michael,

    First, thank you for commenting and for continuing to visit. I know the content has been a bit sporadic lately, but hopefully that will be changing soon.

    Ok, secondly, you hit it right on the head for me; equal exploitation or none. If bike companies are going to go after the crotch, go after both crotches. Fair play is what it is all about. BUT... I bet it would never happen because too many guys would complain about seeing too many scantilly clad guys.

    I just think that the approach of using sex to sell cheapens the image of the sport and the industry, keeping us down and viewed as unprofessional.

    Tim
  10. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 11:21 AM  
    Oh yeah, I forgot, if you're the Michael Browne I think you are, then I would agree that you have one of the most unique and fantastic magazines out there. Keep up the great work!
  11. Anonymous Graham posted at 5:47 AM  
    Sex is a part of life. Why should marketing be a place devoid of sexiness? I believe most women have moved beyond the whole exploitation thing. Today's women seem to be empowered by their sexual being as it often helps them to be in a position of control. Women seem to be attracted to images of other women as well. Take a look at the succes of so many women's magazines with scantily clad women right there on the cover.

    Having said all that, I do believe that if a company can only use sex to gain attention or sell it's products then the product is either no good, or they are just being lazy.

    My bottom line...a little sex...done right...to gain attention is ok. If there is nothing behind the image...not ok.
  12. Blogger raleigh reed posted at 3:51 PM  
    Tim - Reed frome Raleigh here, and yes I do check in on your site and find the content and comments interesting enough to return. To the subject at hand, my own very random look around the floor resulted in a similar observation as others have noted - less of the "chicks" than previous years. I believe that if you have not been to trade shows for other industries then your view of our industry is without proper reference - we are better than many and by comparison to EuroBike we are practically saints. All that being said, "sex" does sell - both ways by the way. There are much more important things to worry about from a marketing perspective in our industry - why to we still try to appeal mostly to a very narrow segment of the market - young males who are already committed cyclists - is it financial constraints, lack of imagination? What can we do together to change that? Are we not better to forget and forgive the transgressions of a few and work on bigger issues - that would be real progress nes pa?
  13. Blogger Tim Jackson- Masi Guy posted at 3:59 PM  
    Reed! Dude, I am so GLAD to have you come in and comment. I'm stoked and I thank you very sincerely. Really...

    I have been doing tradeshows for years and agree that we are better than most at not going too overboard with the blatant sexual overtones and objectification of women at the show. Still, I think we are "better than that" and that we can stand to rise above even further. I also agre with your view that we are spending too much time preachnig to the choir and need to do more creative marketing to actually grow the industry. I have a feeling you and I would get along quite well, my friend.

    Thank you also for the kind words about this silly site. I hope you keep coming back and commenting as well. I really did get this started with the altruistic hope of getting folks like you and me talking and working on ideas together. I think that will benefit the entire industry.

    By the way, as a track geek, I really dig that Raleigh has supported track cycling with Team SPIKE. It rocks!
  14. Anonymous bryan posted at 10:59 AM  
    I know mountain biking in particular is a male dominated sport, so I can see that some companies figure they need to bring hot girls into their booth in order to draw people (the guys) over. I even thought to myself as a first time exhibitor and long time attendee - do i need hot girls to stand around my booth so guys will come visit? I could see that year after year there were crowds (of guys) around the girls at many booths and I worried that I would need to do that same thing -especially as an up and coming brand that would like the spotlight.

    I definitely don't mind looking at a beautiful girl - especially when she is wearing next to nothing. In the case of Interbike - its definitely a focus for some guys (and maybe a few girls) and there are some websites with forums dedicated to "Interbike Hotties". I know sex sells. I am a consumer and sexy women tell me very day on TV to buy stuff. So far I have not had quite the same results, maybe I am not applying my Tag body spray correctly. Darn!

    Ok, so some pretty girls draw you over to something of which you end up not being interested in because all you remember is the pretty girls chest. Bum deal for the exhibitor, because you stood in line for 20 minutes to get her to personally autograph a poster, but you barely even looked at the products on display or get any information - like a catalog or even talk to a rep from the company. Also, how can you even track the response to the pretty girls. Can you determine how many orders came in after the show because (just because) you had a pretty girl sign a poster of herself in bed with Ti bottom bracket. (you could probably sell that bottom bracket on ebay now - bonus!).

    What I ultimately decided was that having girls stand around my booth was not for me. I was there to make new friends, say hi to old friends, generate brand awareness and most importantly conduct business with retailers. I figured that retailers would see right through the pretty girl ploy and not buy into that distraction and distractions are not what I wanted. I wanted to have attendees see my brand and like my products not the girl. Personally, I didn't want to promote my brand with an image that was out of the gates already playing the "stripper-hottie-busty-girl" card at our first Interbike show. Also, we have quite the following from girls and I quite like that girls are getting on the bike and hitting the same single track us guys.

    I guess what my 2 cents boils down to is you either have a good product people want or you don't. If you don't then you may consider the smoke and mirrors (boobs and butts) trick in an attempt to reel in customers. If you do have a great product, then like some suspension manufactures out there, you are probably a proven brand that has a mostly male consumer base and most already know your products rock so shelling out some petty cash to have some pretty girls stand around and sign posters is just a little extra topping on that already good ice cream sunday.

    BT

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