Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Branding - why Rapha stands out in the crowd

In 1937 Dale Carnegie wrote a book called how to win friends and influence people. Not very humane and empathic for a title, is it? This is considered one of the first self-help books ever made, more importantly, it is considered a bible for communicators and marketing advisors still today.

Some brands are more catchy than others, as normal you might add. Why is it that some brands "get to us" more than others? We somehow identify with certain brands more than others. Who's choosing who?  No matter the answer, does it really matter? If cyclists are vain and by definition concerned by what they look like, it does matter.

My story

Three years ago I was on a plane reading an in-flight magazine. There was this small picture and a mere four lines about two friends who had started a cycling brand called Rapha, they specialised in quality clothing for the rider who wants the little extra. I took a note of that brand and decided to investigate further. And before you ask, no I don't own any stocks in the company, and I have never received anything I haven't paid full price for. What I enjoyed the most on their website was the stories. The stories about the nature of cycling, why the company was founded and those "epic" pictures taken by Ben Ingham that illustrated rides adding depth to the stories. And of course I like to think of myself as a guy who believes quality does matter. Basically I think the brand touched my feelings when it comes to cycling. The same feeling I got when I read the words of Phil Deeker's for the very first time (described in my very first blog post). This is what I relate to when it comes to cycling, and because of that I should be a part of it. On the other hand it could might as well been what I wanted to be a part of. To Simon Mottram, it probably doesn't matter as much but I like to think of myself to be as conscious as possible when I make my decisions.

What a brand Rapha has become. They are actually the best company I've known when it comes to branding, at least in the cycling industry. Today when globalisation is only a mouse-click away, branding is virtually impossible if you don't possess and/or deliver the life, goods or style you're claiming to have.

To me Rapha adds a further dimension celebrating the suffering in cycling. Like the ride celebrating the 100 years since the Tourmalet was first climbed in the Tour. Also the soon finished Rapha festive 500km which is set to enhance winter fitness during the food fiesta Christmas has become adds to the position Rapha's gained in the market. Very clever.

Not to mention the news concerning ASO and Rapha recently, where Rapha will be strategic marketing and product partner to ASO. This is of course a result to what Rapha has accomplished so far both product-wise but also their ability to share powerful stories cyclists can relate to. in today's world of information overload, only the ones with the strongest stories within their niche will survive.


I have some of their kit, and I'm very satisfied. I don't know if my bib or jersey are much more stylish than others, but I'm very comfortable with the quality of the products I have. I have tested some brands and I have to say that the quality Rapha gives is very good. If doing a blind test, would I know I'm wearing Rapha or Assos? Probably not. Maybe that proves I'm just a product of marketing managers and not that conscious I'd like to be.

To me simplicity and quality rules, but when the products are this pricey as they are, I might check elsewhere next time. But I know I'll get back to Rapha, if not to shop, but to get into their world by reading stories and look at the pictures.

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