DKNY Pro Bicycles Campaign Ended Unsuccessfully

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Fin January, the Marketing department over at Donna Karan New York decided to take the streets by two wheels. The New York City Department of Transportation and DKNY partnered in trying to promote biking as alternative mode of transportation.

Spotted in New York were the chained orange bikes with logos on. The locals reaction was, however, surprising. The DKNY bikes were installed on Thursday and by Saturday afternoon they had all been defaced and removed spontaneously. The unseen face of this fashion initiative is that it was, in fact, a copy cat action!

DKNY orange bicycles

Originally started in St Louis, Missouri, in 2003, 30 cities all over the world adopted Ghost Bikes as a reminder action of the tragically killed or injured bicyclist on the street – white painted bikes are chained near the spot where the tragedy took place.

When we make ghost bikes we tap into the hurt of the world. Each person is part of the soul of their city. These stories can make headlines one day and are forgotten the next – we try to make the city remember. We choose to honor that stranger we know could just as easily be our friend, our sister, our own self. That choice makes us whole.

— Ryan, Street Memorial Project volunteer

Ghost Bikes

So, when first reading about the DKNY initiative I was pleased, for even if I’m addicted to my car (because it’s very practical, especially when having to move around with kids), I have a dear project with my family – to take long rides with our bicycles as soon as the kids will grow up enough to have their own bicycle. Taking notice of the people’s reaction to this orange bicycle campaign and reading about how offended they were, I got to the bottom of things. The Ghostbikes action was completely unknown to me until now. So even if I find the DKNY marketing tryout a complete failure, at least I admit it teaches me a lesson – to pay attention.
And not to fashion but to life.

What do you think? Is DKNY Bicycles initiative offending as being a copied after Ghost Bikes awareness campaign? Or it was just an honest marketing action in order to promote healthy transportation?

Update: The New York Times reported in CityRoom Blogs that the Department of Transportation issued a statement saying “We did not have an agreement with DKNY regarding the placement of bicycles.” since they were aware that the DKNY campaign was about bike route maps.

DKNY bikes Roundup

DKNY stated: “We are very sorry if our well-intentioned ‘Explore Your City‘ program offended anyone.”

Anyway, the orange bikes are gone, gone gone! What next?


#1 andrew andrew on 02.06.08 at 8:22 pm

The Worst Marketing Idea Ever.

Trashes the City. (Litter Bugs)
Ages Poorly.
Bad Taste (in Light of the White Ghost Bikes)
Trying Way Too Hard.
Better to Give The Bikes Away to Kids That Need Them.
Just Gross and Poorly Executed.

we could go on…

#2 Seamus on 02.07.08 at 10:55 am

“…honest marketing action…”

Oxymoron if ever I read one

#3 Bradly on 02.07.08 at 2:37 pm

I agree with much of what Andrew said. I think the other aspect of the DKNY project is that a lot of cyclists could care less about a main stream fashion company like DKNY. This whole thing was like a Harvord Student producing a rap video. It just doesn’t fit. I’m sure someone at DKNY thought it was a great idea but they were obviously an outsider to the bike culture.

Andrew was right…They should have repaired the bikes if needed and given them away to children. Or made a donation to an existing bicycle advocacy organization. That could have gotten national attention.

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#6 A V Lowe on 05.20.08 at 2:58 am

In London Bananarent an ‘entrepreneurial’ venture which was shall we say ‘light on its feet’ had bikes chained – without permission to LBK&C bike racks to operate their hire service and eventually got served with an ASBO (Anti-Social Behaviour Order).

The NYC DKNY campaign transferred to London where it is effectively a blatant flouting of laws against fly-posting (claiming a loophole that it is a parked bicycle and not an advert – but a quick witted legal mind would then note that the cycle was both unrideable and illegal as it does not have 2 independent braking systems, and therefore not a bicycle) so Westminster Council could take out an ASBO against DKNY, or perhaps even clas this as fly-posting which could carry a fine for each offence (anyone done a bike count?).

The practice gets parked bikes a bad name and blocks space for bona fide cyclists to park

With no brakes the other risk is that someone might actual;ly try an steal one of the bikes and ride it (in that state) so there is also a corporate liability for anyone injured riding or coming into contact with the bike.

Given the lack of decent cycle parking on-street in London the more astute PR person would have looked at ways to ‘sponsor’ cycle parking which would have given a far better result in public image – they might also have looked at the move by HSBC in France and the Copenhagen City Cycles to support City Shared Bike schemes by ‘branding the fleet – Copenhagen has a tariff of branding blocks of their 2500 bike fleet, which is run as a not-for-profit operation using work skills trainees to maintain the bikes and rebuilding the machines every year (some of the bikes are over 12 years old) so they run a scheme which has 50% more bikes per sq km than Paris, which are used up to 15 times per bike per day (Paris is about 5 times per bike per day). I think the income to support the Copenhagen scheme is around DKr 2m per year if they sell all the space.

Now if DKNY had bothered to ask the cycling community about this….

May all your rides be downhill with a following wind..

A V Lowe and B C Klett

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