By now, most of you have probably already seen the 2007 line of bikes from Bianchi (if not, check out this CyclingNews article). If you regularly check the BRAIN website, you probably noticed that Bianchi was in the news several times last week for other reasons as well. So what is going on at Bianchi, big changes? I have been extremely busy the last couple of weeks, so I am a little late to post about this news. Still, that won’t stop me from weighing in late on the subject with a few opinions.
First, I’ll say right off the bat that I think the new road bikes look great. In particular, I really like the transition between the top tube and the head tube on the 928 C SL. This frame is manufactured using carbon nanotechnology, like BMC’s frames. It may have been engineered based on wind tunnel data in Milan, but it was also apparently designed with an emphasis on aesthetics. Decked out with 10 speed Record, the bike will retail for around 9,000 Euros. Not cheap, but this is Bianchi’s flagship model. I am glad to see Bianchi focus on the high end. The company’s heritage is racing and I think that should shape the core products that they make.
While reading the CyclingNews article, this quote from Davide Brambilla, the managing director of Bianchi International, caught my attention:
“We probably made some mistakes [in the past], understanding the customer needs and the way the customers feel about the bikes. That is why we decided to provide a clear picture of the segmentation, with specific uses depending on the bike.”
Right on Mr. Brambilla. I think that is smart business decision, but not everyone seems to agree. On the mountainbike forums, I have seen a few comments lately that are critical of Bianchi’s current management team. The comments came in the wake of the departure of Sky Yaeger, a prominently known Bianchi USA VP and product manager (for the record, I know nothing about her departure and I won’t speculate about a possible relationship to the changes in Milan as was indicated in the forum posts). Ms. Yaeger is responsible for many nice bikes that Bianchi has developed and I hope that she will continue to work in the bicycle industry. I like the B.O.S.S., the B.A.S.S., and more recently the value priced and “100 percent chick designed” San Jose. In the past few years, bikes like those have been the first ones that come to my mind when someone mentions the Bianchi brand. Nothing against those bikes or the talented lady who designed them, but I don’t think that those are exactly the right products to personify the Bianchi brand in the minds of consumers. I mean, Fausto wouldn’t ride a Big Orange Singlespeed if he were alive today, would he? Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that Bianchi should stop making bikes that are not race oriented. The Milano, for example, is a nice commuter bike and I am looking forward to seeing the clothing and accessory products that Bianchi will soon introduce to compliment bikes of that type. Still, I think that clearly categorizing the different bikes will eliminate brand confusion and will ultimately reinforce Bianchi’s image as a top tier bicycle brand. In marketing, as in life, you can’t always please everybody. Nevertheless, I think that if you are responsible for an established brand like Bianchi that it is important to cater to your most passionate core customers first. Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can’t reach out to completely new customers at the same time. With this restructured core product lineup and the new Milano “cycling lifestyle” line, I think that is exactly what Bianchi is doing.
Photo from CyclingNews