Friday, November 20, 2015

Vintage Royal Enfield ads and artwork sold style

Typical Royal Enfield artwork of 1936.
Advertising and catalog artwork for Royal Enfield motorcycles in the era before and after World War II was surprisingly consistent. If you page through the Vintage Motorcycle Art Archive on Flickr you'll find that Royal Enfield typically used art portraying handsome, well dressed riders enjoying their motorcycles.

Suits and ties (not leathers) for the gentlemen. Dresses for the ladies. The artwork was so standardized that the human and motorcycle models used became almost recognizable from ad to ad.

"Made Like a Gun" (often labelled as a trade mark) was the standard slogan, although this occasionally gave way to "By Miles the Best" and other phrases.

Ad copy, if there was any, would typically praise the benefits of motorcycle ridership (as epitomized by the Royal Enfield).

It's hard to knock this consistent technique when you contrast the apparent floundering about taking place at, for instance, Ariel. This British motorcycle manufacturer had attractive and interesting products on offer, but its advertisements seemed to ignore these.

Ariel used artwork of women to attract notice and these ladies were not always conservatively dressed.

One stunner of an Ariel ad featured a woman in a beret and scarf, but little else — and no motorcycle at all!

She's lovely; what does the motorcycle look like?
Could it be that Ariel considered its actual products best left out of sight?

The most distinctive Ariel design of the period was the Square Four, with four pistons clustered in a single, vertical motor. Regardless of how well it worked in practice, it seemed obvious to some shoppers that an air-cooled motor with no air flow to its center would not last long.

Nevertheless, the Square Four, in various sizes, was produced from 1931 to 1959. If it scared you, well, Ariel had singles and twins for sale as well, and these had good reputations.

One glorious period came during World War II itself, when the civilian market for motorcycles ended completely. The War Department had rated Ariel's products only fair but, with the enormous material losses at Dunkirk, Ariel W/NG 350 single-cylinder motorcycles were ordered by the thousands for the army, air force and navy.

It was during the war that my favorite Ariel advertisement appeared. For once, the ad department was right on the mark. The ad showed glass being removed from an Ariel showroom as a young man prepares to depart (for war?) on his Ariel.

Ariel redeems itself with a courageous ad from 1941.
The copy: "When once more the glass of fashion returns to our windows, the mould of form so long associated with the ARIEL will again take price of place on the roads of a victorious country. In the meantime, we are doing all we can to speed that happy day."

This was in 1941, still a long way away from "that happy day." The steadfast confidence, courage and patriotism conveyed by the ad is unmistakable. If it did not sell motorcycles (all available were going to the military anyway) it must have increased good will.

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