Love what you do, do what you love

Recently I had the pleasure of listening to Simon Mottram, founder of the cycling brand Rapha, at the first of this year’s D&AD president’s lectures

It was a pleasure, not just because Rapha is a combination of two of my favorite topics; cycling and branding, but also because it was great to hear from someone that truly loves what they do and does what they love – whilst succeeding to such a high professional standard.

During the talk Simon made a lot of interesting points, and here are a few of the ones that really resonated with me:


Branding still works

It’s not just about delivering utility wrapped up the in latest fresh colours, with amazing photography and great type layouts. It should always be about conveying the value of your proposition and your essence. When you can get everything pinning back to this, then it helps engagement to be consistent and ultimately, real.


Differentiation is everything

A brand should make you take sides. Love it or hate it. If people are indifferent about your brand they won’t care what you do. You’ve got to be different; standing for something and have confidence in your beliefs. Be one of the crazy ones on the outside who believes you can actually change the world!


Deep customer insight

Know who your customers are, what matters to them and why. This way, you’ll know what will resonate and what won’t. Your engagements will then be about sharing moments of truth that add value to customers, rather than pumping out noise to be heard (or ignored).


Direct connections

These are places where you can help you to create an authentic experience. Rapha have ‘Clubhouses’ rather than shops. They deliberately wanted to create a place where cyclist wanted to hangout when not riding, that provided a ‘light-touch’ experience with their products. People are there because they want to be; it’s a place that builds a community.


A global niche

Don’t worry too much about converting people in your locale, but instead find those people who already like what you do thanks to the Internet. Rapha have been international from day one, with their second ever sale being in New York (via their website). When it comes to engagement in specific places, ambassadors can be good way to gain audience insights. They can be a bridge to your customers, leading them to you, rather than being a space for a jarring product placement.


Have the confidence to innovate

First rule of marketing is to be first! Be the first to do something new in your sector before your competitors do.

Get in there and do it, it’s not enough to just have an idea, or worse copy the latest new trend that you think everyone wants to be a part of. You have to step out and break ground and in doing so, lead the customer to a product / solution that they really want.

One of the ways Rapha challenged the norm was their early collaborative project with clothing designer, Sir Paul Smith. Who has since gone on to work on projects with Manchester United, Anglepoise and Landrover (to name a few), but Rapha was his first creative partnership.


I went to the talk thinking that Rapha was just a company that made good looking cycling apparel and had a couple of nice coffee shops, but after listening to Simon I now realise they are so much more. It might be that with me he was preaching to the converted, but they’re definitely an innovative brand to watch.

This was highlighted by one of Simon’s closing statements; they don’t see their competition as other cycling clothing brands but as anyone that wants to take your leisure time and, ultimately, money. You should be spending both on cycling and Rapha. If more people do this that is how they’ll achieve their mission; to make cycling the most loved sport in the world.

So, who fancies going for a ride?


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