Brompton Bicycles produces one product, a folding bicycle, but customisation of everything - from handlebar shape to frame colour – means there are 17 million possible combinations it can build. That's quite an achievement. But mass customisation has come at a price - for both consumers, as a bike typically costs around £1,000, and for the brand itself, as marketing had for many years taken a back seat to engineering.
In one sense there hadn't actually been any real requirement for marketing, Harry Mann, Head of Customer Experience, told the Festival of Marketing (London, October 2017). There was global demand - 80% of its bikes are exported to 48 countries - and a waiting list for the product that is hand-made in London.
But that lack of marketing meant brand management and image was effectively surrendered to distributors, which is why, for example, the Brompton came to be seen in Japan as a product for middle-aged men with expensive tastes who only ride at the weekend and never in the rain.