Biz Blog Profile Series: Masi Guy Blog, Masi Bicycles

02/21/2006

Biz Blog Profile Series is a behind the scene look at how corporations, non profits, higher education institutions and arts organizations are using blogs to support their marketing goals.

Blending old world tradition with modern technology. Sounds like it could be a tag line for a 2.0 web company. It's not. It is the direction of an Italian company, established shortly after World War I, that was conceived and built on passion, honesty and expert craftsmanship. Tim Jackson, Brand Manager, of Masi Bicycles, had a proud legacy to up hold when he launched the Masi Guy blog as a tactic to revitalize the brand.

Masi_logo_2 Biz Blog Profile: Masi Bicycles

About Masi Bicycles

Masi is a road bike brand with more than 70 years of history and is now owned by Haro Bicycle Corporation. The two companies couldn't be much different; Masi was born in Italy in the world of road cycling. Haro is pure SoCal and was one of the founding companies in freestyle BMX. It is the differences that got me the job as Brand Manager of Masi, since I am a long time (well, lifetime) road cycling enthusiast and competitive racer (I still race). All told there are only about 20 people in the two companies and I am the only Masi employee.

Why Masi Bicycles is Blogging: Masi Guy Blog

I started the blog largely because we were doing no marketing or advertising and had a very, stale, boring website. Since I had no budget to work with, I knew I had to do something different to reach people. I'm a very people person kind of a guy and believed I could use my personality and communication strengths to reach people.

How Blogs Fit Into Masi Bicycles

I launched the blog largely on an impulsive whim. I had been reading about blogs and hearing about blogs on the news but I had never actually read one (how embarrassing!). I read a report that mentioned one of the major publications, maybe Business Week, called blogging one of the top emerging technologies to watch. Way ahead of some incredible industries/technologies like medical research.  [Sidebar: Business Week currently is running 12 blogs.]

That report was the final straw and later that day I went to Google and looked up blog. I got to Blogger and set up the Masi Guy blog and created the first post on March 4th, 2005. Being the shameless, self-promoter that I am, I immediately created a press release and sent it off to our major industry publication, Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRaIN). They ran our release on their website and I was officially a blogger!

About a week after the article in BRaIN ran I told my bosses what I had done. It was very much a project of my own creation and desperation. In the beginning the blog was the only marketing I was doing for the brand. I knew I needed something that would get the name in front of people again and give people a chance to hear what was happening.

Masi is the last name of Faliero Masi. Faliero was an amazing craftsman who was very respected, but was a person with a big personality. I'm no Faliero, but I believed that the brand needed to have a person that people could connect to again. Many successful brands have a personality that people can relate to, whether they like the personality or not.

Now, the blog is a major part of my marketing strategy, even with the fancy new website and advertising efforts. There is a link to the blog from the corporate website and I still intend to use the blog to communicate directly with my readers and customers.

Selling-in To Management

My bosses didn't have a chance to discuss it with me, since I took the option away from them by telling them what I had done after the fact. I can't deny that they still don't fully understand the relevance of the blog, but it is beginning to sink in. BRaIN has written two different articles about my blog and blogging in general. That has been a great source of exposure. Bosses like that kind of thing.

Now and again, I get a little you should blog a little less and (blank) a little more. To avoid conflict about the blog, I do most of my blogging after hours when at home. I get mocked by co-workers quite a bit too, good-natured kidding. Overall, most people see it as a great tool, even if they don't really understand it.

The blog has grown to as many as 400 visitors a day and many of those readers are our retailers. I hear from my bike shops during the big trade show each year who tell me that they leave the shop computer on the blog and let customers read it! [Sidebar: Excellent!] I also get stories of consumers walking into shops and telling retailers about something they read or saw on the blog and it has turned into sales many times.  Obviously, that is a great indicator that the blog is serving the purpose of selling product. I can honestly say that I haven't had one complaint from retailers about the blog and consumers have been eating it up.

Challenges Facing Developing A Blog For A Global Brand

The biggest challenge has been in finding ways to restrain myself from giving too much away. I am such a firm believer in transparency, but sometimes I have to restrain myself from telling people too much. I'm not exactly worried about giving away secrets or anything, but my bosses get a little nervous when I come right out and say this is what we are going to do. I can understand where they are coming from, but I firmly believe that being honest and saying the things I say is part of why the blog has been such a success.

Outside of that, the other challenge has been trying to keep the blog looking good enough to keep the bosses happy and not concerned that the image is too amateurish. Thankfully, I have a good friend in Seattle, Chris Cashbaugh, marketing manager of SOG Knives, who knows how to build sites and he volunteered to update the look of the blog a few months back.

How Masi Bicycles is Promoting The Masi Guy Blog

The promotion of the blog has been all my own doing ... me talking about it all the time! I added the blog address to my email signature and included it on my letterhead. We have the blog address on the corporate website in both the Team News and Contact Us sections. However, most of the hits to the blog come from other sources. Quite a few cycling-related directories have linked to the blog and other bike bloggers have as well. It's been a very word-of-mouth success. It's developed something of a cult following, which I obviously appreciate very much.

Lessons Learned

Don't be scared. Really it is far easier than people think. And, if you think of it, how else are you going to reach so many people for free? I would strongly urge people to allow comments too. The comments are what makes the whole thing interactive. Without the interactive feature, you are just adding a new website and force-feeding a message. People won't keep coming back for long if they can't play an active role in what is happening.

I look at negative comments a bit differently than a lot of folks because I come from a customer service background. My theory is this: you can let a hothead say whatever they like about you and your brand and do nothing about it. That gives a person all the air time. Not good for you. OR...you can engage that person in a dialog. Maybe you won't win the argument, but you will at least be giving your account of the situation for other folks to read and then use their own judgment on what to think...as opposed to just listening to the hothead.

The time issue is pretty relative, but I always point out that the time you spend blogging is a hell of a lot cheaper than paying a marketing/PR firm to communicate for you. My longest ever post took me maybe an hour to write. Plus you can always write them (posts) in pieces as you have the time. There is no rule that states you have to do it all at once.

I have also learned that it is critical to be a part of the blogosphere. Go visit other blogs. Place comments on blogs you feel are important or reach an important audience. I visit other blogs frequently and make friends by commenting and interacting with other bloggers. That has proven to be very successful for me.

Masi's Future Blogging Direction

I am really interested in learning how to podcast. I think that would be a great addition to the blog. Live race reports or interviews from the trade show floor. There is a lot of potential for podcasting and I want to learn how to exploit it.

I also want to learn how more about the whole blogging world and how I can be more active in it. I actually know very little, so I look forward to learning a lot more and gaining more technical savvy.

What I really want to do is get more people in the cycling industry blogging. I think the industry is perfect for blogging: passionate people in the industry reaching out to passionate people who love cycling. It just seems like a perfect fit. That is my biggest goal - get more folks blogging.

Tim Jackson On Blogging

Blogs are just too important to ignore. Either in having one or in reading others. Bloggers are influencing things and failing to pay attention to the dialog and conversation is a huge mistake. With no budget and a simple guerrilla marketing approach, I've been lucky enough to watch sales of my brand go up by double digits this past year. Obviously that isn't solely from the blog, but I keep getting lots of positive validation from retailers and consumers both.

I was recently in Texas to support a large retailer who was having a big sale. I spoke to a whole lot of consumers in two days. Several of those people knew me from the blog. I even had one guy say he came to the sale because he read on my blog that I was coming to town. That's huge to me. I can't see a time when I won't be blogging or dong something similar to it.

I'm traveling to Australia to launch a brand with our distributor. I have been laying little seeds about the trip on my blog and all of a sudden my Australian visitors are cranking up on the blog. I plan to blog while I am there. I have a feeling it will be a great tool to assist in promoting the brand there. Masi_bike_1What's not to love about blogging? 

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Comments

Toby,

I am so sorry it has taken me this long to post a simple thank you. Between preparing for the trip I just returned from, dealing with a dead computer, not having internet during my trip, getting sick and now preparing for another trip... I'm admittedly behind the ball.

Thank you so much for this profile of my humble efforts and theories. You make me sound like I might just be on to something.

I believe so strongly in the power of blogs and blogging. What I am doing is really very easy and I hope that more and more people will learn that. There will be a day soon when blogging will be as commonplace in the marketing world as the consumer poll/ survey and focus groups. (I just hope they'll be received with less groaning...)

Thank you again- I am flattered and honored.

Tim

Posted by: Tim Jackson- Masiguy on Mar 1, 2006 5:57:33 PM

It's nice to see this bicycle industry blog getting more recognition. Tim is always a great read.

Posted by: Donna Tocci on Mar 5, 2006 7:47:27 PM

I'm one of Masi Guy's fans and a blogger as well. Tim has a very good understanding of the blogosphere. He lives everything that he's told you about transparency and participation.

Posted by: Fritz on Mar 8, 2006 3:47:38 PM

As for transparency, two words about Masi: Asian products.

Posted by: mk on Jul 14, 2008 1:09:44 PM

Internet marketing is indeed very different from traditional marketing. In the field of internet marketing the webmaster uses all possible means for promotion just from the comfort of his small office or his bedroom.

Posted by: Make Money on Internet on Oct 23, 2009 2:51:13 AM

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