When does a lack of advertising benefit a company more than lavish advertising and marketing schemes? In Amsterdam people ride bikes. It is practically a requirement. You ride a bike, ring your bell when tourists jump in the bike lane in front of you, and lock up your bike on the sidewalk wherever you go. With this demand and avid community enthusiasm for cycling, it would only make sense for tourists to want in on the action. Recently, companies have begun sprouting up who rent bikes to tourists. From bright red “RENT-A-BIKES” to lime green “LET BIKES,” each company has a color, a bunch of bikes, and a marketing scheme, one that cries out: “You need this bike, regardless of the fact you will look like an obnoxious tourist. Please rent it and show everyone else out there how stupid you look riding around on our hulking, red bicycles.”
People have a desire to blend. We like to fit in. We like being invisible. In Amsterdam, I stumbled across a small company that rents bicycles to tourists. There is a catch, however. This company aims to disguise you. By using old, rugged, hand-me-down bikes and opting out of a company name, color, and catch phrase, this company gives you what you really want in Amsterdam, which is the ability to blend in and, for at the very least one whole day, be a local. An intriguing paradox presents itself for companies that earn their money off their lack of advertising and marketing ploys. The less they advertise, the more easily they are able to provide the unparallelled service of discreetly renting out locally used bikes. However, it is difficult for the company to communicate their idea to the public without somehow compromising the entire foundation on which the local bike rental shop stands: to remain hidden. An interesting conflict.
Certainly there are ways by which the company can communicate with the public their idea that recycled bikes can provide useful, discreet transportation. Isn't that is why copywriters exist? Advertising isn't supposed to sell a product. It is supposed to tell the story of a product. Once that story is told, people can make up their minds as to whether they trust it. In the end, the best story may be one that isn't told at all. The “tourist-disguising” bike rental company seems to have taken this route.