Archive for October, 2008

I’m not a brand expert, but brand promise (“This brand is all about….”) seems to be the corporate mantra and all companies are looking at how to best bond with customers and retain their loyalty.  I don’t like to admit that I’m a fan-boy for certain brands.  I’ve come to realize that there are probably three or so that I really am devoted too. A few of them are:

Harley-Davidson:  They work to deliver on a fantasy of complete freedom on the road and a comradeship of a kindred spirit for the avid motorcyclist…  If you want to experience the psychology of hard-core devotion and feel the sense of anxiety that comes from not being part of the inner circle — wear your Polo Shirt, Tommy Bahama shorts and flip-flaps to the next biker event.  Point is that each touch point in the Harley brand mates with consumers and is really organized to uniquely deliver on this promise.  The Harley brand ‘essence’ has largely remained unchanged for decades.  Sure they have refreshed and added different ad campaigns, but the hallmark of the company quickly describes the brand.  Free spirited and rebellious associations while nurturing relationships to maintain a loyal motorcycle community.  Harley has the looming issue of reaching younger consumers entrenched in the internet age where the word “classic” and “tradition” have less marketing leverage.  But, we do need to give them credit for trying through the roll-out of blogs, MySpace and Facebook social networks as well as explains why they’ve tried video games.

Starbucks: This devotion is one that really grips me.  I’ve failed to shake the coffee habit.  “Bucks” is not about providing me a great cup of coffee!   They do, but it’s more about providing me a great coffee “experience” and rewarding everyday moments.  They are about lifting up my spirits one cup of coffee at a time and, looking back over my cash outlay this past month…they are doing a mighty fine job of lifting spirits!!  Similar to the Harley brand, Starbucks portrays a lifestyle image.  Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to leave the corporate 10 hour day mad-dash to become a Barista?!   From napkins to paper cups, in-store posters, t-shirt designs to in-store architecture…the “Bucks” Creative Group tells a story to feed my habit all the while they put skim on a macchiato.

Born Shoes : I don’t buy a lot of shoes (or clothes for that matter; I’m kind of a charity case), but these shoes fit what my friends call my “techno-sporty” fashion sense. I was shooting for a cross between the Marlboro Man and REI fitness so, I’ve got some work to do in this department!  I’ve been buying Born shoes for a couple years, and they have consistently been my “everyday” shoes. Do the math: that means each pair is lasting a couple years. That’s a deal.

I’d like to be absence brand loyalty. I think everyone around has similar problems.  Find someone who reacts with the “I don’t have any brand loyalty!” and I’ll bet within five minutes’ of conversation, you’ll expose:

  1. Google (yeah, it’s a brand)
  2. Black Butte Porter 
  3. Tillamook Cheese

So, what are your brand loyalties?

Photos courtesy of respective web sites.

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I’m not talking about MC ‘cuts’, but the motorcycle publishing business.  On newspapers, the news has gone from bad to worse. It looks like 2008 will be the worst on record with a double-digit drop in advertising revenue and heightens the survival debate of papers. Then add magazines to the list of things us consumers are passing up due to rising costs. Based on the Audit Bureau of Circulation (ABC) sales of U.S. magazines have dipped 6.3 percent.

Readership declines have waterfall to the once vibrant Biker publishing business and subscribers are disappearing.  Motorcycle sales are down so, it’s no surprise that motorcycle magazine sales are down too. Of the Harley rags, the only one that seems to be holding up is American Iron – down 5.9% in sales. Others seem to be getting smoked. Hot Bike down 13.9% EasyRiders down 18.2% and V-Twin down 24.9%!

Even the blogosphere, once an oasis of folksy self-expression and clever thought, has been flooded by a tsunami of SPAM and affiliate bilge which is “gumming up the system” and we’re seeing people shut down sites.  Troll sites doing wholesale content rip off via RSS feeds without attribution and underground ad marketing campaigns are beginning to drown out many of the authentic voices of amateur wordsmiths.

Some examples are, Biker Alley an 8-year-old bi-monthly magazine suddenly stop publishing and Rain Nietzhold (publisher) issues a statement in a letter to her subscribers…HERE.  Then there is France-based Mike Werner of Motorbike.org who informed his readers that a writing contract was suspended with an English language motorcycle magazine (economic downturn is to blame) and he is hawking his skills as a freelance writer/photographer for magazines, blogs or research organizations… HERE.  I received a notice that Motorcycle Blogger International, initially set up to be a motorcycle industry blog award program has now decided to pull the plug.  In the commercial publishing arena Joe Teresi announced that John Lagana would succeed him as Publisher and CEO of Paisano Publications, LLC. Joe is retiring from the day to day business to pursue more leisurely interests.  Must be nice!  Paisano is the publisher of Easyriders, V-Twin, Biker, In The Wind, Tattoo, Tattoo Flash, Tattoo Savage, RebelRodz and Amusin’ Kruisin’ magazines and industry newspaper V-Twin News.  There is a lot of thrash in the publishing industry and some debate about how “massaging” subscription numbers has set up a correction (downward) or consolidation.

The primary long-term threat to magazines is the Internet siphoning away ad revenue, a trend that has been under way for awhile, but has picked up speed. Advertisers have more choices online than in print so only a fraction of the advertising that goes digital ever makes into print.  For those publishers who augmented their print business with online elements seem to draw thousands of new readers.  One of the business models that is complimentary and in my viewpoint on a positive track is – the Official Blog of IronWorks magazine.

While no one magazine or blog will cover all aspects of motorcycling, I do like the complimentary blog/print publishing model.  It provides the ability of  insider breaking news and a certain freshness that has been lacking in traditional print magazine.

Full disclosure – I don’t ghost write or work for IronWorks or Paisano Publications.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.

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It’s that time of year.  Halloween, not home foreclosures.   But one could debate that this year’s home default rate is scarier than last when this comic first released.

It’s only a few days away and preparations have resulted in spider webs and jack-o-lanterns everywhere.  I’ve never been one of those people who need a dose of “pants-crapping terror” which seems to always occupy the movie theaters and TV shows this time of year.  I do enjoy giving out “treats” and seeing neighbor kids in the ‘hood’.  Kids bring a certain “life” to any neighborhood.  Besides it’s a nice break from the stock market swooning, home sales slumping and political talking heads bloviating future fears.  Even hundreds of flesh-eating zombies howling and lurching through the cul-de-sac is an improvement over talking heads!

The word ‘Halloween’ originates from ‘All Hallows Eve’. This night is November 1, and called “All Hollows Day” (or “All Saints Day”). It stems from the Catholic religion and was a celebration of saints. The American version of Halloween has its origin in the ancient (pre-Christian) Druid fire festival called “Samhain”, celebrated by the Celts in Scotland, Wales and Ireland. In Scotland, the celebration was known as Hallowe’en. This Celtic celebration was thought to be an end to summer and that the “veil between the worlds” was at its thinnest, and the dead could communicate with the living.  The “trick-or-treat” custom comes from America in the 1930s. The custom was intended to control and displace disruptive pranks. Good children were encouraged to go door to door and receive treats from homes and shop owners, thereby keeping troublemakers away.

Since spooktacular is a Friday this year its important to rember how its a particularly deadly night due to drunk drivers.  The Oregon DMV site states that in 2006, 44% of all highway fatalities across the nation involved a driver or motorcycle rider with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher.

Be safe out there…

Haunted Houses photo courtesy of Rocky Mountain News and the talented Ed Stein.

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Do you have a friend whose motorcycle is, well ummm…not so easy on the eyes…?  Afraid to tell them in person, then you may want to forward this post?

Harley-Davidson just launched yet another demand creation marketing campaign disguised as a contest.  The prize could be a new Harley motorcycle – the one you customize online. Your job should you take this mission is go online, enter the “Build It and Win It Sweepstakes” and then design the motorcycle of your choice for a chance to win that motorcycle. The sweepstakes uses The Customizer, an interactive web tool which through the magic of the internet attaches to Harley-Davidson.com.  It allows contestants to build a virtual dream bike based on 2009 Harley-Davidson models and then select from 100’s of custom options, including custom paint, Screamin’ Eagle performance components to decorative collections.  All the while you can add and remove them on your virtual motorcycle.  

Fortunately (for Harley) as you create the bike and add each new component it appears in a running “tab” window and you can see exactly what the finished custom motorcycle will look like along with retail pricing. And oh yeah, you can check on availability and run your payment calculator while you’re at it.  Save that dream bike in your personal profile or “Garage,” along with a convenient, printable list of each component with its part number.  I would anticipate receiving email once the sweepstakes are over to remind you that someone else won and now is the time to buy that custom motorcycle from a dealer near you.

The sweepstakes closes, Nov. 6 at 5 p.m. ET when a Motor Company representative will randomly select one virtual custom bike that has been entered into a personal profile Garage. The person who created the profile will be awarded the 2009 Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was created on-line, complete with all the accessories you attached. The winner will be notified via email.

I quickly customized a “bobber” Sporty…heck, I don’t want to break Harley’s checkbook when I win!

Screen photos courtesy of HD web site.

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Münch Mammut 1200 TTS

Münch Mammut 1200 TTS

The results are in for the MidAmerica Vintage Motorcycle auction.  Thirty-six bikes sold for a total of $188,680.  The event took place October 11th in St. Paul, Minnesota. The auction high water mark was set by a Münch Mammut 1200 TTS, which sold at $57,240.  Most of the other bikes sold in well under $5K each. View the complete results here (.pdf) courtesy of SCM.

The Münch Mammut (translated from German), at the time the largest and fastest motorcycle in the world was designed by Friedel Münch of Münch Motorrad, its standard engine was a “massive” NSU automobile 1200 cc, 4-cyl. It offered three engine options, including a supercharged version. The company also offered a varied combination of seats and tanks. It was best known for its comfort and speed. The original company declared bankruptcy in 1971, then again in 1973. Friedl sold the rights to his company, but struggled on with production for several more years.  He attempted a comeback with the Mammut 2000, a DOHC, 1998cc, fuel-injected inline-four, with Cosworth cylinder heads and Schwitzer turbocharger which pushed 260 bhp and had a limited top speed of 159 mph – and sold for more than $80,000.

With banks failing and stock values deteriorating quicker than a rusty Vespa these collectibles are a safe bet in these troubled times…

Photo courtesy of web site.

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Imagine for a moment you’re on a motorcycle trip during a beautiful August week through the Wallowa Valley.  It’s a broad corridor of grass, framed by big mountains and dotted with various ranches.  As the road climbs into the Wallowa Mountains you pass old growth forest and clear-running rivers then finally arrive at Hells Canyon.  You return home after the weeklong trip to find in your mail box a number of police photo tickets.  Huh?  At first you think it’s a joke, but then realize that Elgin, OR on Hwy 82 was the start of your Hells Canyon tour and you vaguely remember a police department, city hall and movie theater all being housed in a 1912 brick opera building.  You review the photos/information:

  1. Ticket #1: While entering Elgin rolling over a tread measuring system it was determined your motorcycle tires had insufficient tread depth.  $160 fine.
  2. Ticket #2: You stopped for lunch, utilizing the street side parking.  The automated parking meter photographed your 10min overstay.  $45 fine.
  3. Ticket #3: After lunch you make a note of the rough engine idle at this altitude.  The automated tailpipe emissions systems profiled the excessive CO2 via air sniffing microphones.  $210 fine.
  4. Ticket #4: As you departed town you may have rolled on the throttle and the automated noise camera recorded a 10 second video clip from a set of microphones and determined you offended the town’s tranquility level.  $377 fine.

You laugh and think that this level of government intrusion intervention is not possible?  Well think again.  It’s not if it will happen, but when.  For example in Germany, ProContour’s tread analysis system is being deployed and the European Union regulations authorize fines up to $160 if insufficient tread depth.  In Australia, Acoustic Research Labs have deployed the NGARA real time sound acquisition systems and excessive noise tickets are being mailed as you read this!  How long until an aggressive city government decides to roll-out these new revenue generating systems in a city near you?

Is this the price of technological progress or the ultimate “Nanny State?” Throw in a little city government enthusiasm to profit from the increased monitoring and….?  While we’re at it could we get a “bling” camera…I don’t know about you, but I get distracted when the sun catches all those spinner-wheels wrong.  It blinds me as I’m driving.

Maybe it’s time that I park my excessive carbon emitting loud tailpipes and balding tires at home and just invest in hearing impaired products?

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The Ducati Superbikes immediately strike you with a no-nonsense attitude.  Performance is first and foremost in every detail.

I’ve made a few motorcycle trips with the “Ducati Boyz” in past years.  It was like the classic children’s book of the Tortoise and the Hare. The “Duc’s” would zoom by us cruisers, but our persistence and patience would win out on long trips as we’d soon meet up with the fast paced Superbikes taking a break to unfold their bodies from the racing frame…often with a lot less speeding tickets!

Recently Ducati Motor Holding shareholders approved a plan to merge with majority owner Performance Motorcycle.  In what I find somewhat ironic is that one of the three new main shareholders of Ducati is the Hospitals of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP).  It’s a pension plan for Ontario’s healthcare community where half of the trustees are appointed by the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA). 

Maybe we’ll see a new motorcycle bundling program.  A Ducati Monster 1100s with healthcare insurance…?

Photo courtesy of Ducati web site.

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Oregon Medal of Honor Memorial

Oregon Medal of Honor Memorial

Many motorcycling events raise money for charity and support great causes.  

Although not a fund raiser (like many OVMA events), yesterday’s “Free The Colors” ride supported a most worthy and noble cause. In my view the ride felt more about what a riding experience can do for the motorcyclist soul….the experience being one thing, but the rewards are quite another.

Looking out over the large number (80+) of riders winding through the fall foilage of Oregon’s backroads — the wind and sun on our back was inspiring.   The weather being perfect for late October helped pull the ride together.   I made new friends, shared stories and swapped ideas — it was all part of the experience.  When your style meshes and you make connections with Veteran’s it’s easy to see what’s meant by the feeling of comradarie and the community of motorcycle riders.

A few shout outs.  To the NW Vets who showed up to wish the OVMA a good ride showed a lot of class.  Thanks in general to the OVMA and specifically to the West Valley Chapter for all the hard work and safe ride.  A big shout out to the High Desert Eagles chapter who I believe traveled the farthest distance to make the run.  Many thanks to my blog posse for supporting the event and everyone who made us non-members feel most welcome.  

I’m reminded of a quote:

“In prosperity our friends know us; in adversity we know our friends.” John Churton Collins

It was truly my pleasure to help support OVMA, the Veterans and their families.  Be safe and ride free.

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I caught a quick blurb of Dennis Miller (comedian) the other night about a petition to establish a National Remembrance Flag.  This was my first introduction to the concept and decided to check it out.

The origin of this idea and petition is based on George Anthony Lutz II  (Tony) who was killed on patrol inside Fallujah, Iraq. His family and friends endured the loss and after their grief had transitioned to acceptance the family like so many other families wanted to know two things: their sacrifice was not in vain and the nation would never forget.  This has led to a quest to promote a universally recognized symbol that acknowledges the American servicemen and servicewomen who never made it home — Remembrance.

In the nation’s history there has never been an officially recognized symbol that reminds us daily of the sacrifices made by members of our military and the lives lost in service to our country.  They have proposed a Honor and Remember Flag as a national emblem for that purpose.

It seems like a good cause in support of our Vets and I wanted to pass it along.  If you’re interested in supporting the initiative the site has a lot of information about the petition.

Flag photo courtesy of web site.

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I dreamt about blog comments last night.  Indeed I need a good night’s sleep.  The bad dream went something like this…

Fulfilling Dreams:  Mac, you are an amateur, arrogant, vindictive little brat who has irreparably damaged the Harley-Davidson brand and soiled the reputation of motorcycle journalism as a whole. Not only are you as inarticulate as a child raised by wolves, but you know virtually nothing about the biker industry that you attempt to cover–a few weeks back, while you were sleeping off yet another of your many benders, your helper monkey ghost-wrote the blog in your place, and several readers remarked that it was the most coherent and insightful posts of the Northwest Harley Blog in months. It’s a shame your helper monkey didn’t return to write more columns.  Signed: Jim Ziemer (H-D CEO)

Whew, glad it was a dream.  Yep, I’m an amateur blogger.  Amateur being defined as ZERO income generated from the site. Zero revenue is by design.  This blog is a hobby centered around motorcycle passions and a dislike of advertisements.  I truly despise sites that have rolling ads prior to content, or flashy-blinky-things detracting me or a link feast of ads.   In my mind having a focus on generating revenue changes behavior.  Aspirations of a “dollar-per-word” gig…would drive a vicious cycle of attracting eye-balls and the lure of becoming “rich-n-famous”.  Sure there comes a time when the enticement of publishing AdSense links or using a lot of affiliate programs makes a person stop and take pause…one Mississippi, two Mississippi…then you realize it’s less about Google pennies and more about blog visibility. 

Speaking of visibility, web syndication is basically a form of print syndication or duplicating website material and making it available to multiple other sites. Blog syndication is the use of your blog’s RSS feed to deliver your blog’s content to other blogs, feed readers and aggregators.  There are many “no-goodnics” or hackers with questionable aggregation sites that have created syndication services explicitly to drive AdSense revenue.  However there are only a few reputable sites who service the mainstream media.  BlogBurst is one of those companies who give publishers access to the best of the blogosphere.

Recently the Northwest Harley blog received approval for syndication which means that content will be place on top-tier online media destinations like Reuters, USA Today, Gannett, McGraw-Hill and Fox News.  In fact, here is a post that received broader distribution on the Reuters site.  The original post is HERE.

Who knows, but maybe this will even change Mr. Ziemer’s viewpoint …in my dreams?

Screen scrap courtesy of Reuters.

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