Content | June 18, 2015
How the Mountain Bike Industry does Content Marketing
Content marketing is constantly evolving and changing in order to match the demands of the customers. This is great news for me – both as a copywriter and a consumer!
One industry that’s exceeding expectations in terms of content marketing is mountain biking. Surprising, as this is an industry that is relatively young and yet its content marketing is arguably up there with the biggest industries out there.
To show exactly what I mean, let’s delve into the content marketing of the big three manufacturers in the UK:
Importance of Good Websites
There’s no point being brilliant at outreach and delivering exceptional content if your house is a mess. So how do their websites stack up? Let’s take a look.
Easily the best website out of the three – large, engaging images immediately attract the audience, while the simple navigation bar leaves you in no doubt as to what you’re going to click through to. Importantly, their slider is varied giving you everything from the technology behind their manufacturing process to road bikes, mountain bikes and showcasing their awards.
Trek seems to understand that an image says 1,000 words and so the written content is barely there, while the images are simply outstanding.
(They also use a responsive website, which is pretty pukka and something you really do need in this day and age.)
Not a good start for Giant – especially if you’re a mountain biker. The slider is full of road bikes, as is 99% of the home page. The design itself is rather stock and the pictures are very generic and boring. In terms of using content to engage people, their website is operating far below par.
It doesn’t get much better across the category pages, but from a positive angle they do have social media buttons and easy navigation. Theoretically this should keep their bounce rate low while encouraging their customers to engage with them on social media.
Specialized has got a very similar layout to Trek, with big images, a descriptive banner and an easy to access menu. Again, they combine road bikes and mountain bikes in order to please all their audience and use excellent photos in place of wording to describe what you’ll click through to. They lose out a little bit by not having a responsive sight, but it works well and the aesthetics are good on a desktop.
Do You Even Blog, Bro?
Apparently the days of calling blogs ‘blogs’ are over. None of the big three have a ‘blog’ anywhere on their websites, there is however a ‘Latest News’ section for Specialized, ‘News & Reviews’ on Giant and ‘Stories’ for Trek.
I feel like I should point out that I’m not affiliated with Trek in anyway, but they’re design and content is brilliant for their Stories section – no wonder they’ve featured it so prominently. Click through to an article and you get a header image and gallery as well as text that’s been written with their audience in mind.
Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t perfect – they could make use of better galleries, optimising the text for SEO and introducing share buttons – but it is engaging and it does make you want to read more.
Hitting on the right topics is essential with a blog and Trek covers almost anything a cyclist would be interested in, including:
- Third part reviews
- Stories following professional riders
- Videos featuring awesome riding
- Training tips
- Introducing new products
That’s a lot of ground to cover, but they do it pretty well. Unfortunately though, this content isn’t produced on the regular basis that we would recommend to our clients and there’s no archive available so once it’s off the main page it’s gone!
Again, Giant really lets itself down here with their latest post taking up the main space with three titles of recent posts in each category appearing on the right hand side. Click thorough to any article and you’re faced with a block of text and a rather generic image – not ideal.
That said, Giant are the best at producing regular content that covers everything you could possibly want from a bike blog. They go above and beyond by producing content such as:
- Guides to components
- Check lists
- Event updates
- Riding techniques
- ‘How to’ guides
- Company news
- Professional rider updates
- Product news
- Third party reviews
Basically, if it’s Giant related you’ll find it somewhere in their blog.
Specialized have a bit of a generic looking set up for their blog, which is good and bad. On the plus side you can easily scan through their articles for something that interests you, but the images and intro text could do with being bigger – and clickable!
Once through to a post though everything changes; Specialized use large, attractive images and videos spectacularly. They aren’t the easiest to share due to lack of social buttons, but they are things that you would definitely want your friends to read – you know, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Specialized haven’t been doing regular posts for very long, but they seem to be onto a winner by using it as a platform to host their ‘Destination Trail’ videos. They do also include posts on riding areas, tournaments and fitness, but these are few and far between – as I said though, they’ve only been regularly posting for a few months now so I imagine this will soon change in line with their other content marketing.
Dominating Social Media
This is the real game changer. Social media is more important now than ever before, Google is starting to use it as a measuring tool (whether they want to admit it or not) and the majority of these brands’ customers will be found.
Facebook is a prime source for these companies and they all seem to push out content that’s relevant, interesting and engaging – despite being international they all also make the effort to engage on an individual level with people asking questions over social media.
Unique videos, pictures and links are evident all over the place here and you can tell that a lot of hard work has gone into creating these for the sole purpose of reaching customers. Check out this video post from Specialized for example:
They know their target audience, they’ve done their research to figure out what works and they’ve put together a video that showcases their product without appearing like a sales pitch. Does it work? Well two days after posting they’ve amassed nearly 50k views, 2k likes and over 650 shares… I’d say so.
Video isn’t the only content marketing that seems to work here either, as Trek show brilliantly with their #Bearwitness campaign that uses the hashtag to release sneak peeks of their latest products – posts made up mainly of photos that don’t quite show you everything you want to see.
It’s not just Facebook where these brands are excelling either, they all have active international Twitter accounts with regional and national branch accounts for engaging with their fans. Interestingly, however, Giant does not have a verified account, where both Trek and Specialized do – although not affecting their content marketing, it is a key trust factor that’s missing.
One thing that needs to be mentioned is just how much time these companies put into their social media accounts. For the large part if you message them they will reply – normally within a few hours. But here’s where they really differ: Trek and Specialized engage, Giant produce.
What do I mean by that? Well look at this:
A great conversation starter, right? Not a bad way to drum up some engagement and increase your company’s reputation within your target market. But Giant do not reply to any of the 20 odd responses they got – they lazily favourited each Tweet.
If you’re thinking “this is social media marketing not content marketing” then stop it right now! They are one and the same; without content, social media would simply not work – everything from the ‘big’ media posts you put out to the replies should be thought through and made the most of. By putting out a question and then not engaging with the replies, Giant are missing out on a lot of potential to increase brand awareness.
Engaging is different and it’s something that Specialized and Trek seem to aim for with every tweet and reply. They think about their responses, talk to their followers, ask questions and then follow up with replies to their answers. In short, they act human and that’s what content marketing is all about!
See what I mean? They didn’t just lazily click the favourite button, they took the time to put together a genuine reply – sparking up an actual conversation that undoubtedly left their followers happy in their choice of bike manufacturer.
Videos are the New Words
Yes, I could have put video under social media but I haven’t.
This isn’t because I’m waffling on and on, it’s because video is an absolutely, mind-bogglingly large area that the mountain bike industry are absolutely dominating.
OK, mountain biking is a topic that does particularly lend itself to video but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to follow their lead.
I mean, just look at Trek’s video to announce their new bike. Seriously, watch it!
If you’re into mountain biking then chances are you really, really, really want to ride this bike after that video. But look at the video itself – there’s nothing flashy about it (except the bikes). Good camera work, awesome trails and stunning scenery. The product really does sell itself, there’s no hard sales pitch at the end just a bloody good video that makes you want to buy the product.
That’s the key. Good content makes YOU want to do things. They aren’t trying to force anything on you, they aren’t delivering hard sales – it shows you the product, how brilliant it is and leaves you to do the rest.
Before you think this is a one off, it isn’t. Here’s an example from Specialized:
This is from a series of videos where they go all over the world in order to find the best trails. There are no selling points, in fact, the focus is hardly on the bike at all. Instead they are using this platform to tell a story and pique their audience’s attention. And it works!
So, What Can We Learn?
Well, first of all, nobody wants to be sold to. Studies have shown that people ignore internet adverts (they literally develop a blind spot), you’ll pay more for TV that lets you pause and fast-forward through the ads and when was the last time you read an advert in a magazine?
If you want to stand out and be noticed by the masses then you need to sort out your content marketing strategy – and it NEEDS to be good! You need to replace your traditional adverts with content that subtly pitches your products to your audience in a way that makes them want it.
This may be hard to do, especially if you don’t sell the most exciting products or services – but that’s where you need to get creative. Think outside the box! Look at what your target audience enjoy and create content based around that, looking to engage and create conversation and not simply put things out to sell your product.
Content marketing is all about being creative and being human. You want to show people that, yes, you’re a business but you’re not just any old business – you are you. OK, that’s a cliché but it sums up exactly what you need to do and that’s using a variety of content across as many platforms as possible to highlight what makes you special – or Specialized, if you will.