#322 Something funny about Bart & Betty

A new marketing campaign from Ducati is definitely trending in the wrong direction.

For this issue we spent some time with the lightweight Scrambler Sixty2 by Ducati, which we collected from our friends Mike Backen and Alex Bolz who own the excellent multi-line dealer Savage Cycles in Victoria, BC.
In the story ‘Option Sixty2’ (beginning on page 52) I address the Sixty2’s many fine and desirable qualities, but also touch on the pricetag, which is set at a level that’s just really difficult to wrap your head around. I suspect the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is something of a tussle for Ducati dealers to contend with too, perhaps even handcuffing them to some degree. This is a bike that should be a bestseller because of its versatility and splendid features but I suspect price will put the chill into many potential deals.
Ah, but then there’s the value-added feature of its Ducati badging, you say.
True, but in keeping with the 21st century’s global industrial model, the Scramblers are assembled in Thailand not Italy and, in fact, Ducati would rather we all refer to them as a sub-brand—Scramblers as opposed to Ducatis, per se. Yamaha has tried to do the same thing with its line of cruisers, preferring them to stand alone as Star Motorcycles instead of Yamaha V-Stars.
It’s a fatuous marketing exercise in which Ducati’s campaign positions the Scrambler family as a natural extension of “youth street culture” and an obvious adjunct to all those graffiti-splattered skate parks where tattooed and pierced teens and 20-somethings bide their time before making a full and inevitable migration to the motorcycle community, or so the story goes. Personally, I wouldn’t even bet house money on that happening with any regularity but you can’t blame Ducati for trying to connect with the ever-elusive “new-gen rider.”
But I wonder if Ducati realizes that the promo material for the Sixty2 verges on the ludicrous. The company’s press literature contains (and I’m not making this up) a colour comic strip that tells the “Adventures of Bart and Betty” who meet at the local skatepark where Bart is a hero on the half-pipe and Betty is a newbie on a BMX. They hit it off immediately and then ride into the sunset on Bart’s Sixty2. It seems that Bart and Betty will be a public communication device of sorts for future developments in the Scrambler world.
Where it gets loopy is that Bart is a primate of some sort, though I don’t understand why he needs to be, while Betty is a beautiful sexy blonde human. The purpose of the interspecies relationship escapes me but the script of the story is blatantly patronizing and, worse yet, completely tone-deaf to what youth actually sound like—as though it were written by someone in his 50s doing his best to emulate the voice of a generation about which he understands little or nothing.
I can’t decide whether the Bart & Betty story is unconsciously condescending or deliberately cringe-worthy to create a sense of irony about the brand. It’s certainly ham-fisted and if I were in the intended target audience, insulted is probably exactly how I’d feel. The Scrambler Sixty2 is perfectly capable of standing on its own merits without the pandering sub-text.