No, I don’t have a man crush on Mark-Hans Richer the Harley-Davidson CMO. But, we do have some things in common and that is we’re both motorcycle enthusiasts of double-digit years, and proud owners of H-D motorcycles.
Mark-Hans Richer is the “Billy Mays” of pitch men for H-D products, brand and lifestyle. He pontificates about the rebellious nature. He’s on the advertising speech circuit. He is an opportunist. He defends H-D founding fathers and their ideals. He mixes up speeches with dramatic entrances. He quotes the younger generation and the thanklessness of posterity. He laments about young-rebels-with-tats ethos. He slams “American Idol” and aligns product placements with fictional motorcycle gangs (“Sons of Anarchy”) through the use of attitude-enhanced advertisements, social media efforts, and lifestyle programs around counterculture happenings.
To say Richer is a marketer would be like describing Bill O’Reilly as just another news anchor.
Richer is a blow-hard motorcycle zealot to the core evangelizing and marketing a company strategy. He would make Peter Drucker, the management guru of the 20th century PROUD. It was Mr. Drucker who stated, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation.”
So, what’s behind the man sticking it to the man, the chief marketer or H-D rock star? Mr. Richer joined H-D in July 2007 as the Sr. VP and Global Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) with primary responsibility for overseeing all global marketing activities including promotions and advertising, motorcycle product planning, the H-D Museum, and the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.).
Prior to joining H-D, Richer held marketing and advertising positions at General Motors’ defunct Pontiac brand. In November 2006 he was inducted into the American Advertising Federation’s Hall of Achievement for his career of high-impact, non-traditional marketing approaches. These include two Cannes Gold Lion-awarded marketing programs while at Pontiac, and prior successes helping lead advertising and promotions at GMC and Chevy Trucks. Richer also has previously won three Effies, the PMA Super Reggie, Promo Magazines’ interactive promotion of the year and a Kelly Award for best national print.
Harley-Davidson is lucky to have hired this motorcycle in every garage evangelist! Richer has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show (remember the Pontiac Give Away?), The Apprentice III and V, The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch and CNBC. He has been on the cover of Promo magazine and Advertising Age’s Point. He and his team’s accomplishments have been covered by Advertising Age, Ad Week, Brandweek, Media Post, The Wall Street Journal, USA TODAY, NPR Radio, The New York Times, Chief Marketer Magazine, Business 2.0 and Fast Company among many others.
Have I blogged about H-D marketing tactics? Yes. Have I’ve been critical of some H-D marketing? Yes. But, how do you fault a guy whose job it is to find new ways to “stick it to the man” so to speak?! In the Greek to New Jersey dictionary that translates to – ti na kanoume – whaddya gonna do?
Seeing this as a small hurdle, I decided to take a different angle and set out on a behind-the-scenes, unauthorized “tell-all” blog – everything Richer – and the icon behind the worldwide marketing empire at Harley-Davidson. I did my best “Nixon Deep Throat” impersonation and was hopeful to uncovered it all…sham marriages, secret informants, shirtless outtakes in Cosmo, fear of flying, a celebrity-Melisa-Miller-addiction dysfunction, or personal hygiene habits that would make Michael Jackson blush, but I didn’t. There is nothing worthy of TMZ. Nadda. Mark-Hans Richer is either squeegee clean boring or has a brilliant publicist who ran interference — always putting a good spin on whatever embarrassing predicament their boss found himself — like that time as the marketing head of Pontiac he jumped up on a conference room table in a Digitas meeting to shred a few tunes on Guitar Hero.
It turns out that Richer is the marketing real deal. It reminds me of that saying “A marketer without the press is like a pencil without a sharpener: pointless”! All he wants to do is sell Harley-Davidson, the brand, the motorcycles, the lifestyle and talk about the achievement of double-digit sales to young adults. Look for a Richer “Fan Club” page coming to a Facebook near you…
Photo courtesy of H-D, WARC and SlyFox.com.