An Open Letter to Campagnolo

By: James Morrison Jul 16

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Dear Campagnolo,

Do you mind if I call you Campy? Everyone else does, so I figured it would be ok. You have to realize that when we say that, it’s not a put-down of any kind. It’s just easier for Americans to say. Some Brits say Campag, which I suspect is said in much the same way – just easier on the tongue. Besides, saying Campagnolo in casual conversation is generally regarded as effete here in the US of A.

I digress. Let me come to the point. I love your stuff, really, I do. I started out riding Shimano for the first few years I was a road rider, mainly because it was what was available and worked well. I liked my time on Shimano, but when I started riding Campy a few years later it was like a religious experience. It totally redefined my expectations of my equipment and my level or riding enjoyment. I started on a Chorus 10 speed group that, over the subsequent few years, I probably rode about 10,000 miles. Since then I’ve invested in a few more 10 speed groups and, more recently, a couple of your 11 speed drivetrains. Again, all great stuff – no regrets.

I just got an email from you with this PDF presentation about your 2011 products and as expected, they look great. It doesn’t look like you’re doing tremendous changes for ’11 but the ones you are doing are really cool. The threaded chainring? Brilliant idea.

And the colored hoods and cable sets… you’re a little late to this party, but we sure are glad you came.

So, here’s the thing, Campy. I feel like our relationship is a bit shallow. I need more from you. You see, a couple years ago SRAM entered my life and everything changed. They used to be the punk kid on the block, making grip shifters and unique if second-rate mountain bike parts. But they grew up, got their act together, improved their products to the point where they’re the new benchmark and they introduced some road gruppos – four awesome road gruppos in as many years to be specific. They’re killing it right now and they totally deserve all their success because their products are really, really good.

But that’s just half the story. You see, Campy, in addition to making some tremendously good products, SRAM, as a company, has a great personality. They’re engaging, involved, enthusiastic, articulate, smart and hungry for the business. They move me. Whereas you, Campy… you are, well, a bit snobby; a tad aloof.

I know if feels like all I’m doing is comparing you to SRAM, but that’s not really the case. SRAM just brings my feelings about you into stark relief. Rather than get jealous, or simply ignore what I’m saying, I think you could use this as a learning experience. It’s clear you’re not totally opposed to change, after all you’re bold enough to do things like 11 speed drivetrains, and embrace fringe technologies like tubeless road, so I know you have the capability to do things differently than you are now.

I think it would be in your best interest to look inward and address the following issues:

1) Get control of your distribution. The fact that your European retailers can sell your products for what in many cases is less than US wholesale prices is absolutely killing your sales in the US. Get control of yourself. I know it’s good for your cash-flow to be selling stuff right out your back door for cheap to those Euro online retailers, but I promise, it’s not benefiting your long-term bottom line and it certainly doesn’t do anything to improve the impression of you product stateside. If retailers can’t make any money selling your goods, then why should they even bother to try?

2) Get involved with domestic racing. I know I keep bringing up SRAM, but I can’t help it… They’re just nailing it and right now they own the amateur racing scene. Why? Because, as I’ve said, they make great products, but more importantly they’re making these products widely available to race teams. They’ve been aggressive about getting as many racers as possible on their good while still helping their retailers maintain a profit margin. They did this so well for the first few years of their road business that now they have an unstoppable momentum – they’re the go-to brand of choice for most regional racers. Don’t dismiss this market – they’re the ones who log the miles, show up to local races and group rides, post pictures of their bikes on blog and online fora. They’re the young riders who will someday stop racing bikes and getting discounted parts and become full fledged, full price consumers. Get them now; plant the seed. Sponsor some regional Pro/AM race teams, support local races, get your logo on some jerseys and most importantly, your parts on some bikes belonging to young, fast people.

3) Do some marketing. You already do this, but it’s a little hurting. Your marketing efforts require more than a little tweaking, especially for the US market. In your attempt to be classy, your advertisements come across as stiff, stuffy and somewhat pointless.

Ditch the retro angle. Maybe it works in Europe but it doesn’t work here. None of your would-be customers cares about the history. They just want cool shit and they want it now. Get gritty and edgy with your ads. Pro Tour stuff is great, but make it real and tangible to your audience. This stuff is just antiseptic dross that neither conveys nor inspires passion. And, for the love of God, make sure you run your copy through someone who’s fluent in both English and Italian…

So, Campy, I hope you’re ok with me saying all this and I hope you realize my criticism comes out of love and concern for your well-being in the long-run. Your product is phenomenal. People love you -they get your logo tattooed on them! I just want our relationship to be built on more than that – I want you to engage me and continually make me want it. And I want you to reach others and make them want it. I’m happy to help you do this, if you’re willing…




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