Brompton Bicycle has been producing innovative folding bicycles since 1987, when inventor Andrew Ritchie opened a facility in a railway arch in West London. Now the biggest bicycle manufacturer in the UK, the company is on track to design and build 35,000 Bromptons this year, of which 70% will be exported into 38 markets.
Brompton prides itself on providing a bespoke service to customers, with each bike made to order. “The core of each bike is the same, based around the folding mainframe,” explains Emerson Roberts, Sales and Marketing Director. “But it could be said that we produce 440 million models, as everything from the handlebars to the colour to the gears can be altered to suit.
“We make a premium, functional product, and this has stood us well throughout the economic downturn – also, bicycling is apparently the ‘new golf’!”
Being UK, and particularly London, based, is a crucial part of the Brompton brand, Roberts continues: “In the beginning, we were quite diffident, presenting the fact we took care in what we did, but not necessarily mentioning that we’re British. However, we’ve been building on the impact this aspect has on customers in different territories.
“In Japan, for instance, where we have enjoyed exponential growth, we are very much marketed as a British product – conveying tradition and old fashioned style, but presented in a charming, up-to-date way.
“In the UK and the US, it’s much more about a lifestyle focus and how the bikes perform. Germany has been fascinating for us, as we’ve taken what started as a very conservative market, and turned it around so young people are now coming into dealerships and asking for Bromptons by name. In our German marketing, we use famous London landmarks and subtitle the Brompton Bicycle name with the phrase ‘the original London folding bike’.”
However, as with its bicycles, Brompton does not approach its marketing as a one-size-fits-all exercise. In Latin America, for instance, being British is mentioned, but more subtly and, in the Netherlands, it is not focused on at all, as UK manufacturing is seen to have more negative connotations. “You have to handle it with great care,” adds Roberts. “It’s very easy for marketers to just wrap their brand in a flag, but this is not always the best approach.”
Brompton is currently considering opening a plant in the US, because it is felt that US consumers will appreciate a product made in their own country more. “The same goes for the UK,” states Roberts. “UK consumers like the idea of something domestically made, and of supporting the local economy.
“What being UK-based means to us as a company is very much linked to our people – they are what truly differentiates us from our competitors. We have access to technical expertise and know-how that we could not get anywhere else in the world, it simply could not be replicated.”
To find out more visit: www.brompton.co.uk
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