A tweet that stood out for me yesterday on my (too infrequent) trawl of the microblogging site, was one that criticised the defacing of Barclays branded ’Boris Bikes’, but at the same time celebrated the creativity of the vandals because of their efforts to ape the look of the genuine Barclays brand (I’ve included a picture below and apologise in advance for those that may be offended by the language). For me this highlighted nicely the potential pitfalls of overtly branding in an urban environment and of supporting a good cause that aims to ‘belong’ to the community.
Defacing public property is unfortunately not a new thing and also very costly to society, but it is something that when done with the right degree of wit, style or even artistic merit, can engender appreciation among those that witness it, as the tweet that started this post suggests. This is in part I suspect because the community feels the need to indoctrinate any new public schemes and literally mark them in a way that assimilates them with the community.
In some ways I feel Barclays overt branding has to some extent encouraged those would be vandals out there, probably in no small part because of the general antipathy that many people in the UK feel towards banks as a result of the risky behaviours that required government bailouts and the significant difference between average pay and the bonus payments enjoyed by bankers in the Capital. I can’t help but feel that more subtle branding might have been more palatable.
It was a bold move by Barclays to support a public scheme such as this. It is a scheme that I wholeheartedly support as a keen cyclist and a person who believes in publicly/privately funded schemes that encourage more healthy lifestyles. I do hope that episodes like this do not put Barclays or other potential sponsors of public schemes off.
I have yet to see any response from Barclays or Transport for London (TFL) to this vandalism, but hopefully the offending lettering will just be quietly removed. On the very same day that I saw the tweet I also happened across an article in the Evening Standard in which Barclays and TFL were supporting London Fashion Week with limited edition designer bikes, which I think is a great way to support tourism and the community of London in a fun and quirky way. Here’s hoping this is just the start of a more civilised assimilation of the Barclays Boris Bike.