How not to try to sell cycling clothing to women – and three companies who get it right
So, on Sunday I mentioned the Assos ad that was featured in Fatcyclist’s blog – the one where the woman’s on her knees in spray-on, wet-look trousers and stilettos, and they admit, in the advert, that the jersey has been designed for men to look at rather than for women to cycle in…. and although I promised myself I was leaving the marketing posts to Dan from now on, I wondered if maybe we were being mean about Assos, and decided not to judge them on the strength of one advert alone. Guess what? It actually gets worse!
Firstly, rocking up on their front page and flicking through their slideshow, there’s a weird thing where all the photos of products for men are illustrated with photos of men riding bikes….. and those for women with models standing or kneeling around with porn faces. So far, so bad. But how, I wondered, would they show off the actual clothing? Why, like this!
Yep, we go from “just” pornface, to braless, to topless. At this point I wonder – just who DO they think buys their clothes, who’ll think this is the best way to demonstrate good cycling clothing? Of course, I’ve chosen photos that prove my point, but seriously, they’re all awful, and although they have 5 or 6 pictures of each item, none of them show close-up details of the products, and NONE of them show a woman wearing them for actual cycling. Yeah, the men’s don’t either (although they do elsewhere on the site) but in the guys’ equivalent photos, they’re exactly the same basic pose, straight-on, facing the camera, accessorising with dark glasses and caps, showing what the jersey looks like in a straight-forward fashion.
Sigh. But it’s not always like this. There are all kinds of ways to do it right, and here are three companies who have chosen to take the opposite route…
Vulpine is a small UK-based clothing company, in the first year of operation. Roo Paprika recommended their merino women’s jersey to me for one of my gift ideas for women’s cycling fans and women cyclists posts, and it is a BEAUTIFUL jersey, I have one and I love it. It’s the only item they sell for women at the moment (they ARE only in their first year) but look at how they market it!
Different women, on their bikes, using the features of the jersey. OK, OK, I think it’s a miss that they show the black model with her face cut off – but I’m sure that’s just an accident, and I’m only including that one to say they’re not ALL perfect – it’s a gallery of real women, using the jersey, and making me WANT! it – and unlike the Assos ads, it’s talking to me, as a woman, showing the jersey as the desirable object, rather than showing the model as desirable to men (I guess the idea is that if I wore the Assos jersey, men would fancy me? Dear Assos, that is not what women want when spending a lot of money on sports’ gear! We want products that work, and make our ride easier, and look good for US!)
Edit! I have this jersey and it’s even more beautiful in real life than on the site. It’s the kind of top I’d consider wearing when I wasn’t cycling! Keep an eye on the Vulpine site, because they’re expanding their range in March, with a lot more women’s clothing, and I’m excited to see what they’ll bring us!
Edit again! If you want to buy their things, consider taking their survey on their website, and you’ll get 15% off
And another one! Vulpine have now launched their new women’s range, and it’s GORGEOUS!
Well, OK, that’s just one product, so let’s have a look at Rapha. I’ve talked about Collyn Ahart‘s blogging on marketing to women, and in her slideshow presentation she mentions some work she did for Rapha. I always think I can never afford Rapha gear, so I don’t frequent their site, but I had a look…
They start off well, with a woman riding on their front page, advertising their Women’s 100 rides. On their main shop page, they show the clothes without models at all, just telling us about the products. Awesome! No need for the excuse I’m sure Assos would use for their topless shots, that it shows off the shorts – this does exactly the same thing, but simpler, and with no implications at all. Again, the women’s section has, hallelujah, photos of women using the clothing, and the main photo on each item page is of the product in action:
Real women! Looking like they’re working hard! And the other photos of each item has lots of detail shots, to tell me why these items are perfect for me. I still can’t afford them, but damn, I WANT them!
A third approach I love is that taken by Ana Nichoola. It’s a very different style – more girly, and OMG, I still want the Café dress for riding in – and wow, I LOVE the new peplum jersey, because something that has all the performance of a jersey, and yet hides the bits of me I don’t want to draw attention to? Genius! The primary photos are of the object, then a range of pictures showing off details, and some modelly ones, where when they’re not on bikes, they’re having fun – and especially, thinking of Collyn’s point about how many advertisers seem to be scared of showing groups of women together, having fun with their friends.
(I don’t think the web shop is working on the site at the moment, but there’s a store locator and a list of online stockists to buy the clothing fromt)
That’s three different-sized companies, selling products to me in three different ways – the clothes jump out at me as beautiful and practical, on Vulpine’s site; all about performance, with great designs, on Rapha’s; and on Ana Nichoola, a mix of practical and fun, showing me products I’ve never seen before, but would improve my cycling experience. And I want all of them! But above all, I see companies who are talking to me, showing me that they see who I am as a woman who rides her bike, and value me as a person. Asssos? It’s like they wouldn’t even want my custom, on so many levels – they certainly aren’t thinking of me, let alone targeting me. I have to wonder, what’s the point of bothering to make clothing if you’re not trying to sell it?