This image was taken during the 2016 British Enduro Series at Ae Forest. The chap in yellow with the Remap top on is Jake Gilfillan, a rider for Chemical Bikes Enduro Race team. He finished first in this race, to the left of him is world champion rider Jerome Clementz and to the left of him world champion rider Tracy Moseley. This was our first year in competition with the new bike.
Starting Chemical was a dream come true, I love riding my mountain bikes and the brands inside the industry intrigued me. Taking on the challenge of creating my own bike brand was huge. I knew that in order to make it work and take the company in the right direction, I had to follow my proven process for branding and design. Clearly, there is a huge amount of work involved in Chemical outside of the design side of things but for this case study I’m just going to focus on the process of design and how I managed to win ‘Sexiest Bike Of The Year’ 2016 – awarded by Dirt Magazine.
As a brand, I knew it had to have a global appeal. I decided to break down my target audience and focus on what would motivate these people to turn their backs on brands they had admired for years. I also wanted to make sure that I wasn’t just ‘joining in’ by whacking a brand on the side of a frame. It needed to bring something new to the scene from both a brand and design point of view but also from a performance and manufacturing angle.
I wanted to sell bikes that I would love to ride and would excite me every day. I needed to create something that gave me infinite energy to get through the tough road ahead. And I did.
Unlike most bike brands we decided to sell the bikes ‘direct to consumer’. This means the website was of upmost importance, it was created with three main goals: demonstrate the quality of the brand, showcase the product and sell bikes. The first version of the website was built on the shopify platform. The current website is built on WordPress, a strategic switch based on the amount of development time needed to build the custom bike builder. WordPress is a highly adaptable platform and there are many skilled developers all over the world with years of experience. Shopify developers were few and far between, the choice, in the end, came down to India or America and both had downsides. More on this another day…
In order to create a uniform experience across all devices, we had to tweak the website for all the major responsive platforms. Mobile in particular needed to be a key focus as most of Chemical’s advertising and the community was on social media. The vast majority or traffic coming from social media is on a handheld device with mobile taking the number one spot, then laptop, desktop in third and tablet in last place. But, although most users visit Chemical on their mobile for the first time, 80% of people who purchase or configure a bike are on desktop or laptop. Users feel more comfortable seeing the full version of the website when making big orders.
Part of Chemicals marketing strategy was to aim high, get noticed, be authentic and transparent about the brand. In early 2016 we managed to team up with Remap clothing, a Jersey-based clothing company with a focus on the bike industry. The race team consisted of three riders who competed in the British Enduro Series, the Enduro World Series, the Jersey Enduro Race, Farmer Johns Downhill and many more races through 2016. This gave Chemical something to talk about and share, the bikes were the real deal, they were out there being raced, but more importantly doing well and winning. In the first year we managed to silence the haters, gain a following, create a brand that is a recognised name in the industry and have a strong platform to expand the range of bikes and products we sell.
We use video here to help tell a story, set the tone of the brand and add value to the products we are selling. Your brand will be ten times more memorable if someone watches a video about your product or services, it also gives you the opportunity to add another dimension to your social campaign. Your products or services will come to life and no longer live in a static world of images and text.
Having a strategic and planned social media campaign is key when driving traffic to your website. Having social ‘ammo’ as I like to call it is an ongoing challenge so we regularly plan photoshoots and videos with this in mind – it can be simple at times but one rule that we never break is quality. As a premium brand, you are judged on every touch point – this isn’t a personal account and if you want to add value to your product, you have to put a high price on quality imagery.
Looking back on how we ended up on this list is down to our mission of ‘not joining in’. I analysed the industry and bike designs only to find a huge void of personality and style. Most bike companies are still adding go faster stripes, a trend that left the car industry in the 80’s. I wanted to bring something new to the scene and this is something that Chemical build on and get better at year on year. We want Chemical to be known for making the most desirable bikes in the world. That is the goal.
The image above is Jake Gilfillan on his final run at the British Enduro Series. He suffered a high speed crash at EWS and missed a race at the British Enduro Series. There was no doubt he was the fastest man on the trails but missing a race reduced his points and in the end he finished second. It was an amazing year for all the people involved, I loved watching the guys ride our bikes as a team and ride almost every race to the podium.
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