A Giant Branded Bike
Taiwan Today is featuring a lengthy article on Taiwan's Giant Manufacturing Co. Ltd., which has positioned itself to become the dominant bicycle brand in East Asia.
The article provides a lengthy history of Giant, from OEM to worldwide brand. The most interesting details come at the latter half of the article, which provides some fantastic mid-management speak that sounds like it comes right out of a cheap MBA program.
My favorite comes from Giant spokesman, Jeffery Shiou:
Despite the management speak, the article provides several points for discussion regarding Giant, branding and positioning itself as a world leader.
So much of sports marketing has to do with selling a fantasy. People care about what the pros are using and hope they too can purchase some magic to become a better cyclist, which beats traditional training any day.
Putting a bike in the pro ranks instantly increases its value. Put one on the podium and the value skyrockets. The rush to carbon fiber bikes is not driven by the pros, but it is driven by the manufacturers who will see increased profit margins with carbon fiber and use the pros to sell bikes. Let's face it... professional racing is about selling products.
Giant's View Of Female Cyclists
I think I have made my view of the Liv/Giant campaign abundantly clear. Something I might like to add is that Giant's marketing strategy seems to be focusing on transforming the image of Giant domestically from the proletarian, affordable bike for the masses, to a prestige nameplate that seeks to convey the messages of status, which, in a society with a strong Confucian cultural influence, locates people on a grade-scale that defines social relationships in terms of superiority and inferiority. I think networks of guanxi clearly demonstrate the social function of status within Taiwanese society and how Taiwanese use prestige symbolism to traverse the cleavage between these relationships.
With Giant defining and articulating "cycling culture", backed by its overwhelming presence and close relations with the central government, Giant may have more influence over how cycling culture develops in Taiwan than any other social force. Giant plays a large role in determining which products will be available to the consumer through its ubiquitous Giant retail stores.
The first sentence above should be taken with a grain of salt. They are a business, and businesses want to make money and sell their product. Giant wants to sell a product... they are out to expand the market and gain market share. In the positive side, a company with a presence like Giant provides the opportunity for other component manufacturers to build partnerships with Giant and build brand awareness.
My final thought on Giant is the fact that Giant, as both a manufacturer and retailer, has the ability to exploit its vast supply networks and political relationships to squeeze out the alternatives. I know several small and dedicated bike shops that are under increasing pressure from the lower price points available from Giant.
These small, independent stores have been the centers of local cycling culture on Taiwan for decades where cyclists could gather and build community. These little shops are poised to suffer from the "Walmartization" of Taiwan's cycling retailers. If Giant does succeed in driving out the local independent retailer, Taiwan's unique cycling culture will suffer an important loss and the choices will be greatly limited.
We need a strong system of locally based independent retailers in our communities and I would encourage everyone to support their local bike shop over the Giant retailer where our money goes back into the community.