Archive for August 26th, 2009

EmpireOnce upon a time, a century or so ago, there was actually a shortage of information.  In small towns, people would even interrogate strangers passing through just to find out what was going on in the world.  Those days are long gone and today we have the reverse problem.  There is too much information.

Which brings up Mr. Bogdan Bucurescu, managing director of Harley-Davidson Bucharest, who put out a press release announcing the dealer sold sixteen (16) motorcycles year to date!  Is this what it’s come too?  Motorcycle sales so pitiful that you need to tell the world you’ve garnered a 20% market segment share in a market which dropped 75% — and then explain it as a good result!  Talk about spin.  In 2008, Automotive Trading Services (ATS), the importer of H-D and Buell motorcycles announced that Romania sold 80 motorcycles.  Clearly sales are off this year and using a press release to show “upside” is nothing but a distraction from the bigger picture.

This trend reminds me of a parallel in the music industry where we’ve got aging superstars, overcharging to fewer and fewer people.  And at the other end of the spectrum we’ve got the Top Forty wonders, making ever more boring records for a shrinking market.  At the current Bucharest dealer sales pace will it be long before we read a press release stating 100% market segment share from ZERO sales?   There must be some new type of business model in Romania which enables a dealer to make money with NO sales?!

Back to sixteen… Huh?  A city with 1.9 million people!  Doesn’t that seem low?  Just four months ago the sales manager, Marcel Chiva made projections of selling one motorcycle a week with plans to remain in the top 3 motorcycle manufactures in the above 650cc segment.

With little effort it’s easy to learn that Romania, a communist country until 1989, has the 7th largest population (with 21.5 million people) among the European Union (EU) member states.  Its capital and largest city is Bucharest, the 6th largest city in the EU.  Bucharest is also the center of the Romanian economy, accounting for around 14% of the country’s GDP and about one-quarter of its industrial production. Almost one third of national taxes is paid by Bucharest’s citizens and companies.  Add this to the fact that Romania has a large, upper-middle-income economy, the 15th largest in Europe based on purchasing power parity and the center of Romanian media (read advertising), since it is the headquarters of all the national television networks as well as national newspapers and radio stations… it seems the country’s economic growth is out of sync with motorcycle consumption and no matter how many times I punch in the data on my trusty Tandy desk calculator, it just doesn’t add up.

Despite my bit of Romania/Bucharest boosterism, H-D’s use of fringe markets to project trivial news is a distraction and contributes to information overload.  And yes I’m guilty of finding unusual angles on stories that everyone else is missing.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

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Nike Clothing Exit -- Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

Nike Exit -- Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi

According to miss-placed sources the Nike endorsement scouts have frantically been working to strike deals with high profile Scottish “residents” for a new line of casual wear.

The new ad campaign titled “Compassionate Wear: For Those Making A Fast Exit” pitches a 30-second TV commercial that depicts an ailing individual who is released from a “solitary village” in tourism clothing; (white) running shellsuit, prominent black-on-white “Swoosh” baseball cap, and walking trainers.  This new “Compassionate Wear” campaign was first rolled out last week with celeb Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi,  the terrorist who killed 270 (most who were Americans) in the 1988 Pan Am flight over Lockerbie Scotland and was recently returned to a hero’s welcome in Libya after only serving 8 years of a life sentence.  His compassionate release by Mr. MacAskill was due to “so-called” final stages of prostate cancer and having less than 3 months to live.

According to my Nike sources who never attended the unveiling, the new “Compassionate Wear” clothing line needed to send a powerful association message of being “FAST” even as relaxed tourism casual wear.  Ideas by Nike marketing were bullets, airplanes, camera flashes, really fast dogs, and other athletes who walked counterclockwise to turn back time.  In fact, the marketing rep reportedly said the words “fast” and “really fast” more than 72 times per minute.  They also described the use of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle in some of the upcoming commercials to leave burn-out tire marks on the road with tiny flames coming out of them. Fire equals fast…  Other concepts bantered around was something about an exploding stopwatch which was clearly ill-conceived as they were caught off guard by the obvious bomber correlation.

Boycott Motorcycle Scotland

Boycott Motorcycle Scotland

All humor aside — although completely implausible and actually quite offensive, I’m sure Nike wasn’t satisfied with a direct link to the Scottish judicial system and the Lockerbie bomber.  What?  The same company that aggressively fights any sweat shop image worry about poisoned relations due to the Lockerbie bombers high profile release in their logo?   Right!  Would love to have read that letter from Mr. Phil Knight.

The release was wholly wrong and my suggestion is to boycott Scotland.  Tourism and whisky are two of the major economic ties to Scotland.  Each year more than 340,000 Americans visit Scotland – one out of every five – and in aggregate spend more than $425M per year.  Don’t motorcycle Scotland, read Robert Burns poetry, download music or golf the pristine courses.  And don’t purchase their whiskey.  There is a group called “Boycott Scotland” or you can email Mr. MacAskill HERE to directly voice your concerns/outrage.

I don’t know if the absence of Americans on their golf courses will have any impact on the economy, but making noise which reflects the public sentiment has shown in a number of instances to make a difference.

Photo courtesy of Danny Lawson, AFP/Getty.  Full Disclosure: I’m Irish, have no sources at Nike and Pendleton Whiskey is my new friend.

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