Bicycle unbranded

So this sharp blogger named Dave Wilkie, who has self-branded as Jetpacks, has always hated those plastic license-plate frames dealers stick on the back of cars cheesily advertising their dealership, so yanks them off, and suddenly realized his beloved bicycle was also covered with logos. Trek. Bontrager. Shimano. Even emblems for the local bike dealer. So he painted over them all.

The resulting image creates a surreal branding negative space. Our reaction, upon seeing the stripped bike photo, was it looked like an unbike. Is it worth anything? Hard to judge. If you’re not into cycling components, brand logos help you ascertain whether there is expense here or not. Now we’re befuddled. Maybe it’s just a bike — a form of transport from A to B?

Fire and fertility

Which brings up the value of brands anyway. We’ve written before brands are a helpful mental shortcut in a world filled with too much information; illusory, perhaps, but also a quick scoring mechanism to tell you whether a thing has value. Branding focuses communication and can sway minds. Consider the “estate tax” vs. the “death tax” — same deal, but when conservatives began calling the former the latter, public opinion tipped away from such an evil thing. Liberals call conservatives they don’t like “tea baggers.” Conservatives call liberals they don’t like members of the “democrat party.” Names and icons have power, because our cave ancestors had to make quick decisions to survive, and rather than logically weigh the merits of every choice, they learned to follow brand images. Red = fire = danger = today’s stop signs. Green = fertility = happiness = today’s go signs. Brands are everywhere.

Jetpacks, we admire your cleanliness, but man, your bike is confusing.

One thought on “Bicycle unbranded

  1. Hi Ben – First thing I thought of while reading this was people trying to pay Naomi Klein so they could license “No Logo”…

    Semiotics plays a HUGE part in how we read marketing efforts – sort of like a book. Did an interesting project before I went on maternity leave about the semiotic cues we pick up from packaging and their link to the taste of the product. It is amazing how you can change a colour, a font or a sound and brand meaning alters…

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