Brompton’s sales and marketing director Emerson Roberts speaks to BikeBiz:
How does it feel to be a BikeBiz Award winner?
Great. People often assume we’re a larger company than we actually are, just because our profile is pretty high; in fact, we aren’t too big to get excited over winning an award like this! It’s also very gratifying to have our brand recognised by industry peers – it confirms that we’re punching well above our weight.
The brand appears to be a strong as ever, why do you think that is?
Our brand is based four-square on the quality of the product; everything starts and ends with the design, the engineering and the manufacturing processes, and the main reason our brand continues to grow is that we haven’t moved away from that over the last twenty-plus years. People find that reassuring and feel great affection for an unpretentious brand that basically does what it says on the tin.
How important is the fact that Brompton is British-made to the brand?
When I started at Brompton, our marketing was geared solely to getting the product accepted for what it was, never where it came from. Our national identity has been introduced into our marketing over the last five years (along with the hand-built nature of our bikes) because I think it is crucial in explaining both the quality and the character of the product; it tells people upfront why our bikes are different, and how.
Brompton seems to have taken up residence in the national press? Is that fair to say?
We do get a lot of coverage, the latest being the Guardian bike podcast; finding myself on the BBC Ten O’Clock News a few months ago, holding forth on GDP growth, was also interesting! But it’s been like that for a long time, even if we now feature more often and more on TV; we benefit from making ourselves available to all journalists, from having a lot of Brompton users in the creative industries, and from our proximity to the main British press organisations.
How is business? Is growth in the pipeline for Brompton?
We have had another excellent year of growth, though one or two markets have had a tougher time. These softer markets have been more than balanced out by record years in important markets like Spain, France, the UK, Japan and Korea. Importantly, we have managed to ramp up production to the extent that we can finally meet demand, which is giving our dealers and distributors confidence to invest in marketing and growing their sales base, and giving us the confidence to approach new markets that have shown interest in our bikes.
It’s been another busy year for Brompton, including winning two Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, and Andrew Ritchie was made an MBE. What’s the plan for next year? More award winning? A knighthood for Andrew?
I imagine the Queen’s Awards and Andrew’s well-deserved MBE helped us to clinch the Brand of the Year award in October; I would be the last to know if there were any more honours coming our way (the BikeBiz Award was a shock!) and our main job is to just keep focusing on what we do, and trying to improve it constantly.
Brompton seems to have inspired a serious fanbase. Why is there that following?
When any product over-delivers against expectations, that builds a great affection among consumers and I think that is at the heart of the loyalty and passion that Brompton owners have for our bikes.
We don’t over-promise, so when people who bought their Bromptons as a mere commuting necessity discover that they ride well over long distances, all of a sudden they find all sorts of reasons for using them at every opportunity, taking them away at weekends and on holidays, doing long rides in the country and all those short urban journeys which used to be a hassle but suddenly become fun and exciting.
How many territories does the brand sell into now? Have you got any target areas where you’re looking to grow your presence?
All told, we sell into over 35 overseas markets and we are now in a position to add some more countries into the mix.
I don’t want to give details away but, seeing as we have been selling into Australia, the USA and Japan for many years, it’s pretty clear that we will consider any country where demand and an engaged distributor make for an attractive market, regardless of the location or culture.