Brand impact. That’s what H-D desires.
Trust and customer loyalty are the words that matter most in today’s economic market place.
Let’s recap the various statements made by CEO, Keith Wandell on the Harley-Davidson brand. I found it interesting and thought you might too:
October 2009 — “As our announcement regarding Buell and MV Agusta indicates, we are moving with the speed and decisiveness required to bring our business strategy to life,” said Wandell. “The fact is we must focus both our effort and our investment on the Harley-Davidson brand, as we believe this provides an optimal path to sustained, meaningful, long-term growth.”
January 2010 — “Focusing our investment behind the uniquely strong Harley-Davidson brand provides the most attractive path to sustained, long-term growth,” Wandell said. “We also expect to achieve substantial gains in the efficiency of our operations through continuous improvement.”
April 2010 — “Throughout the past 16 months we have taken a number of actions to address the immediate challenges and establish a bold, clear direction that will maximize our opportunities going forward,” said Wandell. “We have come a long way in a short amount of time, and I could not feel better about the progress we have made and where we are headed.”
July 2010 — “Despite the decline in second-quarter retail motorcycle sales, we believe interest in the Harley-Davidson brand remains strong among riders of all generations. In fact, Harley-Davidson is the U.S. market share leader of on-road motorcycles among young adults. We will continue to focus our resources on expanding the global reach of the brand and developing new products that will reach even more riders going forward,” Wandell said. “I would like to thank our employees for their continued hard work and support of our strategy.”
How’s all that brand focus working out Mr. Wandell? Check it out. According to Interbrands 11th annual ranking of the “Best Global Brands,” Harley-Davidson (#98) saw a decline of 24% in brand value!! For the first time ever, it nearly fell OFF the top 100 list of global brands.
Quick to provide an “interpretation” and point out their view of the pitfalls of Interbrands ranking system – Harley-Davidson spokesman Bob Klien stated: “Given the financial focus of the Interbrand rankings, the results aren’t really all that surprising,” and then went on to say “It’s to be expected given the economy and the effect it’s had on the motorcycle industry and Harley-Davidson.”
Not that surprising. Huh? If it’s a financial focus let’s contrast the H-D brand with the auto industry which has had a difficult time in this economy too. Mercedes Benz (#12) and BMW (#15) were able to sustain and build their value through innovative design and a focus on delivering premium value vehicles with luxury features. Award-winning products like the Q5 helped Audi (#63) lead industry growth this year with a 9% increase in its brand value. Even the media’s preoccupation with the Toyota (#11) recall which caused the brand to lose -16% of its brand value was handled in a way that it out performed H-D!
What about other luxury brands? Even with the economic downturn, luxury brands Cartier (#77), Armani (#95), Louis Vuitton (#16), Gucci (#44), Tiffany & Co (#76) and Hermes (#69) all saw the value of their brands increase in 2010 by continuing to invest in their heritage and legendary status. Outstanding customer service and a focus on unique in-store and online experiences allowed them to stay strong, even while consumers cut back spending.
Interbrand publishes the ranking of the top 100 brands based on a unique methodology analyzing the many ways a brand touches and benefits an organization, from attracting top talent to delivering on customer expectations. Three key aspects contribute to a brand’s value; the financial performance of the branded products or services, the role of brand in the purchase decision process and the strength of the brand to continue to secure earnings for the company.
The Harley-Davidson brand investment does not seem to be working. Now what?
Photo courtesy of Interbrands.