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donnellyReally?  Or at least that is what Harley-Davidson’s chief marketing officer (CMO), Mark-Hans Richer hopes for with the new Sportster Iron 883.  Richer was hired as CMO in July 2007 after leading the marketing efforts at General Motors’ Pontiac unit.  So, I ask Mr. Richer have you truly met with today’s youth (see illustration) to understand their eclectic buying style and randomness?

Don’t get me wrong I like the gothic stylized Iron 883 bike, but in an economic acknowledgment of the challenges of selling premium motorcycles, Harley introduced a print ad aimed to play off the Iron 883’s low price with a focus on appealing to youth and non-traditional audiences. The message:

“About six bucks a day. Cheaper than your smokes, a six-pack, a lap dance, a bar tab, another tattoo, a parking ticket …”

This might be Mr. Richer’s idea of an “off the hook” marketing offensive, but I don’t see how it will attract younger buyers.  Especially blacks or Hispanics.  Wouldn’t applying principles of the “urban-suburban hip-hop settings” provide better reach?”  It seems that Harley-Davidson is trying to be everything to everyone all the time.  They look to uptick their image with riding mom’s of all shapes (soccer and hockey) to traditional geezers and even one-armed midgets if they didn’t think it would hurt the brand!

harley_883No disrespect to ethnicities or “height challenged” members of society, but I think Harley has fallen down in delivering a motorcycle rider message.  They have become just part of the blah, blah, blah advertisement (nausea) “noise.” Isn’t it time to reach out beyond the comfort zone and get a ‘hip-hop’, bump-pumping gangsta makeover?  I’m talking about an extreme makeover with a page borrowed from Gravediggaz.  Melding the dark and gothic themes of the Iron 883 with a hardboiled gangsta rap phenomenon.  Include a bundled switch-blade skull knife along with models named; Grym Reaper, De La Soul, Dubsteppah or Aristacrank if you have too.

Do keep in mind that I’m only one customer’s viewpoint and statistically there’s always a significant chance that a reinvention attempt will not only fail to revive the brand, but indeed may actually succeed in killing the “bling.”  Tangential, do you remember country singer Garth Brooks as Chris Gaines?  Pretty much a textbook example of an extreme makeover and once people listened to the album – supposedly the greatest hits of a fictional musician with a…oh, screw it, Brooks’ career went totally Tom Cruise cold and now he’s doing Saturday morning cartoons in clown pants!

Memo to Mr. Richer – know your customer/demographic.  For example, during a press conference for Valkyrie in Rio de Janeiro, Tom Cruise greeted the Brazilian press with ‘Hola’ and ‘Gracias’ before saying he fell in love with Brazil while watching movies about Tango.

They speak Portuguese, the idiot. And dance the samba!

Photo courtesy HD and illustration courtesy Australian artist Eamo Donnelly.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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soa_wingFor a company that has been around since the dawn of time Harley has been most successful in what’s called “licensed lifestyle” items.  You’ve seen all the pet products, footwear, jewelry, under garments, furniture, Burger King toys, and other companion products which promote or extend to items that people use as a badge of identifying themselves with the Harley brand.  Some might argue that Harley could win the “Motorcycle Whore Award” for the brand that has most “sold out” and sticks their logo on about anything.  Remember the Harley-Davidson cake-decorating kit made available in baking stores and on web sites?  It was licensed by Bakery Crafts.

hd_icing_kitI’ve written previously about Harley’s brand promise and their movie product placements.  They have had a number of successes, but that cake-decorating kit was bad, illogical and a case of product dissonance between the companies core identity and how to reach untapped markets.  It diluted the brand.

But we live in an age of relentless co-branding so, what should Harley do?  I suggest they leverage the success of the TV show Son’s of Anarchy and launch a co-branded SAMCRO Edition Motorcycle.  Make it a limited edition “Reaper Crew” model specializing in the club paint theme and graphics.  This embraces the free spirited and rebellious associations of the Outlaw Motorcycle Club while nurturing family relationships that maintain a loyal motorcycle community.  A core identity for Harley.  As a bonus they could throw in a DVD set of Season #1, a wallet cheat sheet of the biker language and club terminology, a unique skull-head key FOB and maybe even a t-shirt!   We’ll talk about SAMCRO cologne later!

There is precedence (Clapton/Fender, Jordan/Nike, BMW/007) for a product and “sell-lebrity” co-branding and the key to any brand extension is make sure it connects with what people love most about the brand. 

A SAMCRO Edition motorcycle might be just the ticket.  What do you think?  Would you consider buying a SAMCRO Edition motorcycle from Harley-Davidson?

Photos courtesy of FX Networks and Bakery Crafts web site.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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It’s about as “old skool” and chopped as Harley can be out of the factory.  The wizards introduced the new Softail “CROSS BONES”.  It’s part of the Dark Custom series of bikes and designed to bring back bad boy roots or your memories of living the dream. 

Very cool mini “ape-hanger” bars, solo spring-seat, fat-bob tires with primer paint and drilled-out metal parts…stripped and raw are the marketing adjectives.

Now you have a good reason to counter the ‘recession’ pundits and leverage Harley’s 105th anniversary finance package (1.05% APR) to drown out the opinions of the world!

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