BROMPTON’S WAIT SIX WEEKS RIDE TODAY MAGIC TRICK
Brompton Bicycles’ MD Will Butler-Adams likes to project an image as a bumbling along, authentic manufacturing anti-management purist, he’ll turn up at conferences in shorts and will get his hands dirty down at the metal but while the authentic bit is true, the bumbling anti-corporate part is a bit of delicious storytelling. Butler-Adams is a sharp, clever, ICI-trained businessman who understands both his traditional and his potential new customer bases. He has helped formerly sleepy Brompton translate that understanding into one of British manufacturing but also British marketing’s most intriguing successes.
A Brompton looks like the bike your nan used to go down the shops on. At a time when cycling in general is on a dizzying upwards curve, and when road bikes have become things of purest beauty; that Brompton silhouette is at best eccentric. I’ve just had mine delivered and the first reaction among friends was ‘OH MY GOD THIS IS FUNNIER THAN I COULD HAVE EVER DREAMED’. They teased me over the tiny wheels, they teased my choice of ‘granny colours’ and they teased me because it has an integrated pump.
Well sod them, I’m off the Tube now and free as a bird; at least a bird that is really quite frightened of the massive lorries that hurtle down London’s narrow and insanely busy streets. And wow am I not alone; Brompton’s sales have gone from a trundling £2m to almost £25m under Butler-Adams’ stewardship.
‘New’ Brompton gets so many things right; the storytelling, the positioning, capturing the maker zeitgeist, playing to fitness cues, the authentic exploitation of their high-quality manufacturing. One other thing they do superbly is to manipulate friction and reward (see, you KNEW this was coming). You want a Brompton? Well you can have a Brompton off the shelf from a dealer if you want but if you want your Brompton then you’ll have to wait six weeks for it. And if we get a bit busy in the factory then maybe we’ll bung a few weeks extra on there. But if you do want your Brompton then we will help you to specify and build it using one of the best online tools for such things anywhere on the internet. And we’ll give you a simple code at the end of that which you can give to any Brompton dealer to get your perfect machine ordered.
That’s a veritable rollercoaster of friction and reward:
- - Mind-bogglingly expensive (high friction)
- - But we’ll make getting one on the cycle-to-work scheme easy (low friction)
- - Walk in and grab one from stock (very low friction)
- - Order your own bespoke one and wait (very high friction but massive and slightly smug reward)
- - Order it by using the digital Brompton Bike Builder (extremely low friction and satisfyingly significant reward)
Use the low-friction/high-reward bike builder and such is the power of attachment theory that you’ll be mentally riding that digitally alive Brompton from the moment you hit the submit button.
Brompton have cleverly covered their bases here; making sure instant gratification is possible and easy but also building exclusivity and desire through a powerful personalisation option. My earliest retail job was a summer selling esoteric hi-fi; among the products were three record decks: an entry level Dual model, the Rega Planar 3 which was a wonderful mid-market deck and the popular high-end Linn Sondek LP12. If you had the budget you’d probably grab the Linn. If you wanted instant gratification then the Dual was available in depth. But that magic ‘proper hi-fi for fewer pennies’ was the world of the Rega Planar 3. But there was up to a three-month wait for those. That waiting time added to the mythology of the British-made Rega; it was a mysterious beast about which everyone raved but to get hold of required patience.
But when we received customers’ Rega decks, ready for us to set up, the packing tape used to protect it in transit was always rotten, it had clearly been in place for months. Rega were deliberately holding back stock to create a false waiting period. It was a bold strategy but my goodness it worked. The Rega Planar 3 is still a cult piece of hi-fi having achieved huge sales back then.
Cult but popular rather than cult but rare.
That’s what Brompton are achieving too but with one very important caveat; that they also recognise that today some customers’ need-states mean a high-friction waiting time just isn’t acceptable. They instinctively understand friction and reward and are masterfully manipulating both; in today’s customer-led world, that pays dividends.