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The average car has the manufacturer's logo on the front and back. Usually that's the extent of the branding. It is discreet and under-stated. Sometimes with the higher-end luxury cars you don't even get the model name and engine size given on the boot. A 'less is more' approach seems to work for cars.

Now take a look at a race or rally car. You get stickers everywhere to let you know who supplied the tyres, brakes, headlights, oil, petrol and other parts, e.g. what the hi-fi would be if they had one. Invariably these are sponsors logos, paid to be on the car. Sometimes boy-racer wannabees have similar sticker collections on their cars but they are rare exceptions, most cars keep the branding simple.

The same goes for the interiors, the parts do not have huge supplier names plastered all over them. There are occasional exceptions, 'GTI' models with 'Recaro' seats, forty-year old Porsche cars with 'VDO' dials and that is about the extent of it.

Now take a look at your average bicycle. Why is it a rash of tacky logos? Why does every component with the exception of a few generic parts on low-end bikes have to be disfigured by the make with model? This is particularly tedious with the big brands that get their own parts made for them. Why cannot Trek just have their logo on the frame and keep it clean? Why do they have to litter the entire 'finishing kit' with 'Bontrager' logos? It is not as if the average Trek buyer really needs to be reassured that they have 'Bontrager' stickered handlebars every time they look down to change gear. The after market for 'Bontrager' handlebars isn't exactly huge either.

So why is it that bikes have to be covered with childish logos everywhere?

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I am not sure if this is true but I would guess that part of it is that bike parts do not tend to be that distinctive w/o the logos. With a few exceptions, handlebars look like handlebars. This isn't true for most cars. I can ID the make and model of most common cars w/o looking at the logos. I think it is the same reason that the cars that do have more logos tend to be the "special editions" that wouldn't be distinctive w/o the logos. –  KennyPeanuts Aug 12 '11 at 14:18
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This seems more like a rant than a question, and as such to be avoided. What real world problem needs solving here. Close it please. –  zenbike Aug 13 '11 at 6:18
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@ʍǝɥʇɐɯ it seems "this question will likely solicit opinion, debate, arguments, polling, or extended discussion". Is there a specific problem you're trying to solve that you can spell out better for us? –  freiheit Aug 13 '11 at 7:01
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@zenbike: you have the necessary rep to vote to close a question. –  freiheit Aug 13 '11 at 7:04
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@ʍǝɥʇɐɯ: But there's no solution to any actual problem here, just a general history lesson and complaint. –  freiheit Aug 13 '11 at 20:34
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closed as not constructive by freiheit Aug 13 '11 at 20:49

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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Up until the mid-to-late-eighties bicycles were not heavily branded. Frames bore the manufacturer's badge on the front, had the manufacturer's name on the frame and had the model name on the frame. Components did bear their manufacturer's respective names, however, these were just stamped on. You could read them if you wanted to. In rare exceptions these secondary brandings were anodized on.

Then a company called Shimano came along with the innovations that were to define the mountain bike in a groupset - indexed gears, cantilever brakes and so on. None of these parts were branded as before, with a simple stamp into the alloy/steel. Alloy parts had big anodized logos, plastic covered gear levers had stickers on them carrying the Shimano name.

The success of the 'Deore XT' groupset led to the introduction lower down in the market of Shimano's 'Exage' groupset. This had even more plastic parts and lots of 'Shimano Exage' branding.

Shimano brought in practices that today are deemed to be 'anti-competetive'. They made bike manufacturers wanting to use their superior indexed gears also use whole Shimano groupsets. They were not able to mix and match components until SRAM came along with their 'GripShift' rival to index gears. SRAM took Shimano to court and thereafter got a foot hold in the market.

Until the SRAM challenge, almost every bike at a given price point had identical components from Shimano. High end bikes had 'Deore XT', lesser models had various 'Exage' parts. Due to how good indexed gears were from Shimano the competition practically did not exist. The Yen was low at the time and European brands could not compete on price, even if they could make a half-decent set of indexed gears.

With every bike being practically identical mechanically, how was a bike manufacturer to command a premium for their products? One way was to go for a better finishing kit (seat, handlebars, grips etc.) Brands such as 'Syncros' came along to offer better handlebars and they adopted the big sticker branding pioneered by Shimano rather than go for the subtle stamp of yesteryear.

Thereafter the die was cast. Even though today bikes don't have to be identikit Shimano, they have the rash of stickers pioneered way back in the days of the mountain bike boom years.

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I agree. Once upon a time, the bike was made pretty much in it's entirety by the manufacturer. Not so now. In most cases, lower-end bikes are entirely built "to spec" by outside manufacturers who simply put together stock components on a frame that's made to the retailer's requirements. So, a recognizable Derailleur is a selling point. Look how many retailers will put an "upgraded" rear DR on an otherwise pedestrian bike... Catches the buyer's eye. –  M. Werner Aug 13 '11 at 15:55
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