America may not be old when compared to the rest of the world, but our traditions are deep and strong. Some are relatively new, while others have been around for decades or centuries. Some can be fun and repetitive like marking growth on a door frame while others are beliefs or traditions handed down from mother to daughter, father to son. One of those generational traditions has been around for years and resonates with families across the country from all different aspects of life; a love of motorcycles. And when it comes to marketing and motorcycles, few do it better than the Harley Davidson Lifestyle.
In 1903 William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson sold the very first Harley-Davidson® (H-D) motorcycle ever available for the public. Since those early days, the company has been a pioneer in sales and design of motorcycles, not to mention its unique approach to marketing that has resulted in numerous record growth years.
The now famous and easily identifiable “Bar & Shield” logo still in use today (with some slight modifications and alterations) was designed in 1910 and trademarked a year later. It is one of the most iconic and widely recognized logos in use today and is incorporated into nearly all merchandise they produce.
When looking at the marketing strategies of H-D and how it has been successful throughout the decades with the wide variety of customers, the first sentence of their mission statement says it all: “We fulfill dreams through the experience of motorcycling”.
Creating a Lifestyle
The company's marketing strategy over the years is simple but has been very successful. The company only spends 15 percent of its marketing budget on traditional media and tends to focus on creating events where people can experience the company and know what it truly means to be a part of the H-D lifestyle. This strategy has led to unique marketing results, like having the name in the title of a feature movie and the recent event in Rome where the Pope blessed thousands of Harley riders and their bikes.
Harley Davidson® long ago realized that customers looking to buy motorcycles require a very different approach than people shopping for other vehicles. The CMO for the company, Mark-Hans Richer summed it up nicely in a recent interview with AdAge: “Harley is not automotive. It might have an engine, it might have wheels, and it might run on roads, but that’s where the similarities stop.” They understand that most of their customers aren’t looking for something simply to get from point A to point B; they want an experience, often one they can share with others.
That’s where the family tradition comes in. Many times fathers pass down their love of riding to their sons, and often to mothers and daughters. Kids grow up riding on the back of their parent’s bikes and it becomes a part of their heritage. While the average Harley might be too much for a first time rider, it is not unusual for parents to start their kids off on dirt bikes. Young riders can learn how bikes work and, with companies like MotoSport to help, repair and maintenance can be easy and affordable in the early years of riding.
While the introduction of digital technology and the popularity of social media will most likely force a change to some of their strategies, Harley Davidson® will continue to keep its focus on the tradition and experience of riding for years to come.