"What do bicycles, fashion, photography and the Internet have in common?" asks WWD.
To that, I would reply, "Me!"
For one week starting tomorrow, New Yorkers can borrow one of 30 Topshop bicycles (for free) and cruise around the city to prescribed destinations. There will even be a bike valet outside the store to take care of customers' own bikes as they shop.Topshop has been building up to this event for a couple of weeks, event featuring a style section on their website for "how to cycle in style."
Everyone who borrows a bike will receive a fashion map which will take them round a choice of three separate routes via Topshop's favorite New York haunts. The route will include snacks at Tea & Sympathy, a visit to DIY- clothing emporium Home Ec from the owners of boutique clothing shop 'Flirt', and a trip to Pixie Market to browse the up-and-coming designer offerings. According to the press release, the map will also include a few hidden gems.
Now, lending out bicycles for a sort of indie fashion city-tour is a cool idea, but here's what turns the PR event into a lasting marketing scheme: the shoppers and cyclists will be shooting pictures of each other, or will have their pics taken by a nightlife photographer (Nicky Digital) in the store. The goal is to have everyone create their own content to be posted on social networking sites Chictopia.com (an online community for fashion peeps), Flickr, and Topshop's Facebook page. They'll be encouraged to do this through an online competition, the winners of which will receive a bike of their own.
Followers of Topshop’s Twitter feed will get clues to a scavenger hunt inside the store, where hidden tickets will admit finders to a screening of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Blow-Up” on June 26 at The Yard in Brooklyn, an outdoor party space that is also on the Topshop map.
This is also a pretty good way to encourage the building of a community around the brand, first by introducing people through a fun social activity, then by recording their interactions and activities and creating continuity of the new community online through content and tagging... and really solidifying the experience with a follow-up event!
While the green movement is certainly at play somewhere in the growth of bike popularity, I think another implied message here has something to do with the Sartorialist craze. Scott Schuman resides in New York, and is a big fan of shooting chick-on-a-bike shots, which his followers go wild for. Of course, most of the shots are somewhere between fashion-forward and downright classy, and this is a good way for the Topshop brand to say, "Here you go ladies... go out and find the Sartorialist."
It also serves to introduce the Topshop brand to New York (as if that were necessary) by featuring brand "complimentors" on the fashion map. By featuring cute little indie boutiques, cafes, and young designers, Topshop is implying that this is a community to which they belong. Whether we could actually consider the multi-national Topshop chain to be a part of this community in reality is debatable at best, but their core customers certainly affiliate with it.