KNOCK IT OFF! INSIDER: BRANDOn GLANVILLE
When you were a kid, your parents probably told you that “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.” That’s all well and good when you are in art class or when someone takes inspiration from your personal style etc. It gets a bit trickier in the case of entrepreneurs that have taken an idea, developed that idea into a product and invested in bringing that product to market. Starting any business is challenging. Starting a business in the motorcycle industry has some unique challenges that can amplify the difficulty. The primary challenge is the relatively small size. Unlike the car market where roughly 91% of US households own at least one car, the motorcycle market is closer to 8%. The difference is significant. What does this have to do with anything? Well, a topic that has been getting discussed more and more over this past year is the increase of “knock-off” product hitting the virtual shelves. In some cases, exact copies meant to fool the consumer and in other cases, close facsimiles that are really intended to make consumers feel like they are getting something very similar for a lot less money. In either case, these products are diluting the industry we all participate in as riders, retailers, manufacturers and even a dirtbag media guy like myself. Is this really a problem… isn’t this just capitalism at work? I guess that depends on how you want to look at it. If you ride a motorcycle, there is little chance that you haven’t wanted to or needed to change something on that motorcycle to make it fit you and your needs better. A stock bike is just a starting point for the vast majority of us, and this is where a healthy aftermarket comes into play. When you see that tank bag or seat that looks just like the one from the name brand but it’s 30% less. When you see the $40 lights or $25 foot pegs on eBay that look identical to the name brand versions and you wonder how the name brand guys can sleep at night. When you start thinking they must be made in the same factory and someone is ripping you off. I can tell you, more often than not, that isn’t the case. Becoming a name brand is done by building quality products based on innovative designs. Selling those products allows brands to invest in other products and to pay their staff a fair wage. Copying someone else’s design requires zero investment, will make someone a quick buck, and put a potentially lesser quality part on your bike. It’s a tricky thing and I certainly do not want to tell anyone what to do or what to spend their money on. But I do want to encourage people to think about the purchases they make for their motorcycling passion and how those decisions can affect the businesses that are ultimately making these parts possible. Keeping the motorcycle industry viable so we can all keep riding in the future depends heavily on the decisions we all make as consumers.