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Archive for November, 2009

The business of blogs is big business.

Then there are moments which reaffirm that blogs are not about selling, but for CONNECTING.  It’s about putting it all out there unfiltered, getting into disagreements, not afraid to look like a tool.  It’s the honesty that grabs you.

Kurt Sutter is about dishing up honesty and plays the new media game where the rules are being made up as we go.   People follow him because he is so provocative, so interesting that they want to tune in.  You may know him as the writer/producer of the FX television series called Sons of Anarchy.  He is an Academy Award-winning writer, actor and is well known for his work on The Shield.

He recently did an interview HERE about blogging and provided some insight on the TV show.  He also provides a shout-out about this blog as one of his favorite motorcycle blogs.  Huh?  Sure, I’ve posted on the series, but I’ve certainly not been slobbering all over myself about the show.  In fact, I’ve been somewhat critical due to a number of episodes that I feel go beyond developing characters (Gemma’s rape; Tig bites the nose off a guys face) for the purpose of “goosing up” ratings with violence.   So where does that leave us?  Did Mr. Sutter “work” me?  I’ve been worked before.  I recognize it when I see it.  I’m not sure this time as Kurt is not some backwoods uneducated nit-wit who is clueless about the new media business.

Blind Faith once sang, it’s time to come down off your throne.  Mr. Sutter does that and for a split-second I felt like the blog mattered.  That’s the power of blogs.  You are momentarily CONNECTED.

Sutter is on Facebook, Twitter and blogs at sutterink.

Photo courtesy of FX and SOA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers

The York Daily Record reported that union workers at the Harley-Davidson Springettsbury Township operations got their first look at a proposed contract that if approved will stop the motor company from relocating the York Vehicle Operations to an alternative site in Kentucky.

You can read the detailed contract highlights HERE.  Briefly, it’s a 58 page document that covers the next 7 years.  H-D will commit to investing up to $90 million to restructure the operations and stop efforts to relocate to Kentucky.  For those workers who lose their job as part of the restructuring there are a number of alternatives from lump-sum payout to volunteering for the reduction and receiving benefits if they lose their job.  Workers received copies of the contract today at the Toyota Arena where members met. They will vote to ratify or turn down the deal on December 2nd.  The company has until December 12th to approve.

Reading the “tea leaves,” I anticipate the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (District 98) will ratify the new contract.  Do they have any other choice?  The company has worked all angles during this down economy to their advantage and will obtain significant concessions from the workers who need a job.

UPDATE: December 3, 2009 — H-D announced the union ratified the 7 year labor agreement.

Photo courtesy of IAMAW

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Ludacris

When you dine with the devil, bring a long spoon.” — Machiavelli

Having a ‘thug’ like Ludacris anywhere near your marketing campaign may not be a good thing.  Yet, Harley-Davidson has decided having a pitchman who glamorizes a life of guns, violence, drugs and is disrespectful of women is EXACTLY what’s needed to turn around motorcycle sales.

The “hoes in different area codes” rapper has released many songs that convey and represent his morals.  Even President Obama said he wouldn’t let his daughters listen to his rap, but did admit Ludacris was a ‘great businessman’.  Political pandering is not my point here.

Recently H-D collaborated with RIDES Magazine to create custom bikes for recording artists Ludacris and Shawnna.  This promotion was in part to gear up for the release of their album “Battle of the Sexes”, where the artists worked with RIDES and “New York Nick” Genender, shop owner of NYC Choppers, to create bikes that reflect their individual personalities.  There is a behind-the-scenes video of the build HERE and more videos/photos can be viewed at RIDES.  In addition, they’re giving away a motorcycle to one lucky winner: a customized 2010 Harley-Davidson Road Glide Custom, created in part with suggestions by RIDES readers. Learn more about the bike or enter for a chance to win HERE.

Is this a shrewd advertising move to use a pitchman who’s going to draw attention to a community that H-D wants to sell motorcycles to or is this a mistake to promote and associate the H-D trademarks with a person that espouses violence, degrading sex and substance abuse?

Does anyone remember how fast Pepsi pulled the ‘musician’ from its soft-drink advertisements in 2002?

Photo courtesy of H-D and RIDE.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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As Thanksgiving approaches and families prepare to gather around the table to share turkey and stuffing, the Northwest Harley blog editorial team (me), decided it was time to look back at the announcements and decisions from the motor company that made news this past year for all of the wrong reasons.

This is my list of the top H-D turkeys over the last 18 months – clearly the ideas and business strategies didn’t live up to expectations or were so poorly executed that they flopped with the consumers. Between the economy, the shutdown of Buell, cuts in production, the credit crunch, a transition to a new non-motorcycle-riding CEO, management departures, adding a new CFO and Mango’s for distribution rights in India, to an abrupt about-face on MV Augusta… it’s been an ugly, yet busy year-and-a-half!  Here is a recap with a couple winning moments highlighted (Bold):

  • Harley-Davidson to cut jobs, ship fewer motorcycles (April 17, 2008)
  • Harley getting burned by loan crash (May 2, 2008)
  • Harley-Davidson to buy Italian motorcycle maker (July 11, 2008)
  • With acetylene, Harley-Davidson opens museum (July 14, 2008)
  • Harley-Davidson profits down 23 percent (July 17, 2008)
  • Harley-Davidson officially kick starts celebration (August 28, 2008)
  • Harley-Davidson profit down 37 percent (October 16, 2008)
  • Harley CEO Ziemer to retire in 2009 (December 15, 2008)
  • Harley-Davidson to cut 1,100 jobs, most in Milwaukee area (January 23, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson sets $600M debt sale to fund finance arm (February 3, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson sales down 13 percent in 2009 (March 5, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson names Johnson Controls’ Wandell as next CEO (April 6, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson reports sales, profit declines (April 16, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson completes funding plans (May 1, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson’s CFO resigns (May 4, 2009)
  • Buell plans to consolidate operations in East Troy (May 12, 2009)
  • Buell scraps East Troy consolidation plan (May 19, 2009)
  • Pennsylvania may offer aid to keep Harley in York (May 22, 2009)
  • Harley-Davidson to cut 1,000 more jobs; 480 in Milwaukee area (July 16, 2009)
  • Harley scouting four sites for new factory (August 19, 2009)
  • Buell to temporarily shut down East Troy plant (September 8, 2009)
  • Harley names Olin permanent CFO (September 18)
  • Harley-Davidson to end Buell line, cut 180 jobs (October 15, 2009)
  • In general it was a tough year for the motorcycle industry. H-D has made some pretty large missteps. They ranged from products that simply did not take off, to entire business plans that went awry. Clearly, some of the turkeys are bigger than others. In the face of this adversity, H-D management decided the future of the company is based in large part on cost takeouts.  I think the company should shift away from that thinking or  obtaining large union concessions and to focus on innovation and growth initiatives.  Mr. Wandell has to know the Strategic Inflection Point is real and that you cannot save your way out of a recession.  Growth based on innovation, new products and the emotional connection with customers will help turnaround the company.

    I know it’s never nice to point out the faults and failures of others, but I’m hopeful by bringing a spotlight on these H-D management will learn from the struggles. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it does include some of what I believe are the bigger flops.  As always, I welcome your comments.

    Photo courtesy of Exploratorium

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    The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (BRMC for short) is an American alternative rock band from San Francisco.  They formed in 1998 and took the name from Marlon Brando’s motorcycle gang in the 1953 film, The Wild One.  In the film the gang was referred to Black Rebels MC.

    But, I smell a legal battle because Marlon Brando’s estate signed off on a new project with Triumph Motorcycles to debut Brando-related apparel at the company’s dealerships. As you may recall Brando played a tough biker gang leader Johnny Strabler and rode a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T.  The Triumph Legends Line will offer replica leather jackets inspired by the movie.  The replica includes key features of Brando’s original jacket right down to the embroidered ‘Johnny‘ name tag and the BRMC (Black Rebel Motorcycle Club) distressed print on the back of the jacket. They are also developing Brando print men’s and ladies’ T-shirts.

    All of this will likely add to the “what-to-wear” debate and whether you’ll get beat down for imitating or wearing so-called “colors” of a motorcycle club (i.e. SOA: Son’s of Anarchy or BRMC).  Maybe you’re indifferent.   If so you wreak more Brando than you think.  He was famous in the movie for being outright contemptuous for contemporary middle-class society.  Asked what he was rebelling against and his response was “What have you got?”

    Photo courtesy of Triumph

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    South_Park

    South Park Episode 12 - Harley Hatin'

    Life imitates art or is it the other way round?  It turns out the “inconsiderate douche bag’s on Harley’s” are creating noise as they ride up and down the street wrecking everyone’s quite time on South Park.

    It’s a protest movement in Season 13, episode 1312, where Cartman calls out a pack of bikers whose loud Harleys prove most irritating for the height challenged, truth-blurting, foul-mouthed characters. As the motorcycle noise escalates, the so-called “kids” take the matter into their own hands with graffiti and lobbying to have the dictionary definition of the term “f*g” changed to “annoying, inconsiderate Harley riders.”

    There’s been plenty of Harley hatin’ on this blog comments section about raucous exhausts and loud bikes.  And regardless of your stance on the noise debate as to whether or not loud pipes do anything for safety, you’ll likely find humor (or irritation) in this episode that’s become rather controversial.  So much controversy in fact, that the New York Times has reported a gay advocacy group is protesting the episode.

    Watch the 22-minute show here.  The show adds a new dimension to the anti H-D stance and I’m sure someone in the motor company is reevaluating advertisement placements.

    UPDATE: 12.18.09 — Viacom has pulled down the YouTube versions of the episode under copyright issues and now the South Park site states “Due to pre-existing contractual obligations, we cannot stream this episode until 12.05.09”… It’s all about $$.  If you can’t wait then do a Google search as there are versions of it out on the internet.

    Photo courtesy of Comedy Central/South Park.

    All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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    BD_CalOrganizing your schedule shouldn’t be a burden.

    I use a number of calendars both paper and electronic as I suspect many of you do the same.  Personally I think paper is easier, always available and generally more portable.  I was looking around for a new calendar and ran across the 2010 Big Dog Biker Calendar.  Should be no problem keeping track of important dates as the calendar has oversized date boxes providing plenty of room to write in important events as well as 12 months of inspiring images. However, don’t be fooled because most of these ladies aren’t the ‘gas chick’ on the back seat type… they ride motorcycles for personal enjoyment.  Go figure!

    That’s what impressed me about this calendar.  I must be getting old(er) as many of the models are “real” women! Mature women who ride their own bike.  There is real beauty in maturity versus the plastified bimbo’s with platform shoes that are too fake, too overdone.  To each his own… I suppose.  I’ve made every effort to avoid sleazy and keep it classy.  It’s a challenge, but someone’s got to do it.

    Photo courtesy of Big Dog Biker.

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