Monday, October 25, 2010

Being useful

Precocious bike brand Rapha have this last weekend launched their new iPhone app.

For us it serves as a pretty handy marker as to where brands might be headed.

It doesn't tell you where to buy their expensive bike attire, or show you styles and prices. Perhaps it already assumes you own a piece or two, or have at least heard the talk.

It simply allows you to organise groups of people who like riding to and from the same places at the same time as you do. Which if you are a rider (Campbell isn't but Chris is) is incredibly useful.

From the Rapha site:

We all know the problem. Organising a ride with friends. Or maybe not friends, more likely adversarial training partners, or perhaps someone you have never ridden with before. Arranging meeting for a ride can be a thankless task spread over a multitude of devices and communication methods.

And then, further to this complication of arrangement is the uncertainty involved in the act of meeting. An unforeseen puncture, a headwind from hell, getting lost, another unforeseen puncture (after two they become foreseen) – the epic could begin before the planned epic (or perhaps just a light training spin) has even begun.

It strikes right in the heart of a human being that likes nothing more than getting up in the dark at 5am to ride in the rain with a bunch of people he or she never sees at any other time of his life.

It appeals to the human quarter that he or she believes sets them apart from everyone else. And could anything be more useful than that?

Able and Baker's travel budget didn't extend to sending delegates to last weekend's Caxtons. But we're reliably informed that keynote speaker, R/GA's Nick Law spoke on this very subject.

"If advertising tries to compete on storytelling, you're up against (Pay-TV channel) HBO and Hollywood," he said.

"We think the new formula is innovation plus demonstration. When you create a social (application) you're designing a system of engagement. It's less about telling stories.

"In the systematic space, make it useful, for God's sake," he said.

R/GA has proved this point with their much lauded Nike Plus campaign. Rapha have managed to get to the heart of their people with this app.

But perhaps what's most striking about the Rapha app, and what's most counter-intuitive for marketers, is that you don't have to be a customer to use it.

It's free. No cash, no credit card, no proof of purchase required.

It recognises that while you may not yet be a customer today, if we spend a little time together, you just might be tomorrow.

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