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A Marketing Staff Meeting at H-D?

Reflection of a Marketing staff meeting at H-D?

I don’t know who the people in “People” are and candidly I don’t care.  I use to have some casual interest, but as I’ve aged, I realized that promoting faux stars is how an industry makes itself feel good about itself.

 
I grew up in a different time.  Yes, I’m getting older, put me down for it, as some readers do, but unlike some of you I’m wise and experienced. And when I grew up, hard work, a bit of skill and insight would not only get you a house in a reasonable neighborhood, but the ability to support your family and go on vacation. Now, most people can’t even pay their bills.

When you think of “aging boomers,” what comes to mind?  Accelerating retirements, workforce skill shortages, stagnant incomes, or runaway health care spending?  It’s unlikely you think about aging as an economic drag on Harley-Davidson, right?
H-D History

H-D History

Down the road from my place, in the rolling farmlands north of Sunset Highway (U.S. 26), is a greasy burger joint called Helvetia Tavern … a place I’ve been known to frequent a little more often than my doctor might recommend, but the burgers are oh so good!  If you stop there on any given summer weekend, you might see a dozen or more bikers parked in the lot, who are talking bikes and showing off their blacked-out or chrome-laden Harleys.  And nearly all of them are over the age of 45. Many are over 50.

This isn’t a coincidence.  Harley-Davidson is a brand whose sales depend disproportionately — almost exclusively, in fact — on middle-aged males. There have been business case studies written and stock investment analysis looking at the H-D demographics while espousing doom and gloom for the company.  The fact is that motor company has been working hard to try and capture a younger, more diverse set of riders, including women and are trying to appeal to the less experienced and younger riders who want cheaper alternatives.

Blackline Appeal

Blackline Appeal

I would submit that riders younger than 30 generally lack the time, interest or the bankroll to buy a Harley for touring. And by the time they get into their 50s or older, riding with the wind in the face loses it’s allure.  It’s the noise, it’s the traffic, it’s the increased dangers, it’s the joint pain of long rides, it’s hot, it’s cold, it’s raining, it’s… always something.

I know that many of you are riding into your late 60s, but my observation is you’re doing it less frequently and you’re not buying a new bike as often as you might have in your 40’s.  That means Harley has a growth problem with the boomer demographic that will not go away.  Even with a robust economy which we are not experiencing.

But, this is all well documented and debatably old news (“Living High on the Hog” (WSJ: February 5, 2007).

Looking at the challenges...

Looking at the H-D boomer challenges…

The challenge for Harley-Davidson, in my view, is how they will continue to tap into the enormous resource that older Americans can provide?  Boomers are generally healthier and more educated than prior generations.  They are the largest group starting new businesses both in Oregon and nationally.  And many economic projections about aging are misguided because they are based on outdated notions about retirement and what it means to grow older.

I can speak with some authority on this aging topic and it’s debatable whether Harley-Davidson can grow if boomers decide to quit riding in mass.  I wanted to offer up some observations:

  • Boomers are bombarded by media.  In an attention overload society it’s very hard for the message to get noticed because it’s noisy out there and hype is more prevalent than ever.
  • Boomers believe everything they’re into should last forever, but it doesn’t, just like them.
  • Have all the latest gadgets but barely know how to use them.
  • Boomers know the lyrics of “Hotel California.”
  • The boomers can’t square looking good with feeling bad. All the hogwash about 50 being the new 30 and 60 being the new 40 has convinced them that they’re breaking the laws of science, but the truth is people break down, everybody does.
  • Want to be anti TV, but talk about doing Netflix marathons.
  • Were into the Great Society, but now don’t want to pay taxes, especially if the benefits don’t flow to them.
  • Believed boil-able vegetable bags by the Green Giant were the future only to find out fresh and local was truly “in.”
  • Thought college was where you grew up and learned something as opposed to overpaying for an entry ticket to a job.
  • Still believe in government, and that their voice and vote counts.
  • Know that you work ever harder for less money.
  • Remember when companies were loyal.
  • Remember when you fixed stuff, now you just throw it out and buy a new one.
  • Want manufacturing to come back to the U.S., but still want very cheap electronics.
  • Boomers talk about their health. The pills they take, the conditions they have, it comes up in conversation, and it doesn’t bug them, it’s akin to discussing bands when they were younger.
  • Realize opportunity has slipped through their fingers. But are still dreamers nonetheless.
  • Baseball, motorcycles and big block automobiles are so twentieth century.  Baby boomers don’t stop talking about them, but their kids shrug their shoulders and lust for the latest mobile device.

Sure some of these observations are broad generalities and I’m painting a large group with a wide brush here, but I’m sure something resonated, right?   Once upon a time the baby boomers were the younger generation, champing at the bit to replace our parents. But now we’re fading off into the sunset, just like Letterman.  So long the era of the baby boomers. They were the largest segment of the population, who pushed and pulled and help change the world.

But, let’s face it, aging isn’t so much about the fact that we are getting older.  It’s about how the motor company is always going after the young buyer and often denigrates or discounts the older demographic.  They make an assumption that today’s Americans will behave in much the same way as prior cohorts did.  I don’t know about you, but boomers in general have reshaped every element of society as they’ve aged.  And, I would submit that Harley-Davidson is placing a disproportionate amount of focus and customer feedback on the youth lifestyle.  Sean Cummings, H-D senior vice president of global demand reinforced this by stating:  “We’re targeting the 55 million Generation X’ers to get them back out and riding.”  In doing so, it makes it harder for Harley to keep a finger on the pulse of the aging motorcyclist.

It might be someone else’s time (looking at you Millennials and GenX), but what is not fixed is how affluent boomers respond to Harley-Davidson motorcycle changes.  You have to give boomers motorcycles/features they can get excited about and you can’t be too catering to old age.  No one likes to admit they’re getting older and at the other end of the spectrum you’ll alienate the entire boomer group if you cater to youth.

Power, sex and youth have long been used to sell motorcycles, so anything that suggests older buyers might not be as virile and agile as they were could backfire and only serve to fulfill the “Silver Tsunami.”

Photos courtesy of marketoonist.com and H-D.
All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog
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Curves Ahead

Curves Ahead

We’ve all done this a number of times.  Riding into a curve, adjusting your speed and noticing that you’re going 5 to 10 miles per hour above the posted speed on those yellow curve advisory speed signs.

Rarely do they seem accurate.

This is all about to change, but I feel compelled to go over this once again since it happens so often. The most common cause of single-vehicle, motorcycle crashes is where riders are seriously injured and/or die each year when they “drift” and/or fail to negotiate turns or curves, and they either end up in the opposing lane of traffic, or they lose control and crash.

One could debate that the worst riders are sometimes the people with the most experience because they think they are the great riders so they sometimes do not exercise the caution that they should.

Screen Shot 2016-07-15 at 11.26.09 AMThe circumstances of drifting and the failure to negotiate a curve have resulted in multiple motorcycle deaths in Oregon just over the last 2 months!  Excessive speed is most often the main reason these “accidents” occur yet it’s one of the most preventable motorcycle crashes.  What typically happens is the rider gets into a turn and suddenly believes they are going too fast to make it around the curve. Maybe the rider hears the pegs start to scrape. Since they are not familiar with that sound, they panic, straighten up the bike, then look at the yellow line in the road, the guard rail, or even the oncoming vehicle and a crash occurs.  In many situations the motorcycle was very capable of making the turn at the speed the rider was going, but the rider was not.

They teach you in motorcycle safety courses that before you enter a curve you should direct your motorcycle to the farthest part of the lane away from the turn so that you can theoretically see around the turn more.  For example, when rounding a curve to the left, position your bike to the right side of the lane and focus on the end of the turn and no where else. Never look at the yellow line, the guard rail, or the oncoming car. If the road curves to the right, position your bike to the left side of the lane as you enter the curve.  However, you might find that sometimes it is not safe to go to the farthest part of the lane away from a curve because of oncoming cars or debris on the shoulder.  In the end the safest thing to remember when going around curves is to keep a safe speed period.

Changes...

Updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs…

Now about those changes…

Updated federal procedures require consistency of curve advisory speeds on all public roads and the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) is updating curve ‘advisory speed’ signs around the state. This means that some 50-75 percent of all curve speed advisory signs will change over the next three to four years, most will see an increase in the advisory speed of 5 to 10 mph.  Yes, you read that correct.  An INCREASE in speed!

Historically advisory speeds were very conservative or inconsistent and now with new technology to determine advisory speeds for curves they will be closer to what riders should be traveling at through a curve. If you are accustom to going faster than the posted advisory speed it may not end well!

Read more on the comprehensive assessment of the ODOT Curve Advisory Speeds Program (PDF file), performed by Oregon State University researchers.

Photos courtesy of ODOT.
All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Project RUSHMORE on the prototype table.

Project RUSHMORE on the prototype table.

Pop quiz time.

What does Project RUSHMORE mean?  Can you explain the concept in the amount of time that it takes to pour your favorite refreshment?

Insert  — 30 second timer with Jeopardy “Thinking” music…

Give up?  Well according to Harley-Davidson’s U.S. Media Relations Manager, Jen Hoyer: “The term Project RUSHMORE has a dual meaning. First, it’s rooted in the image of Mount Rushmore and its significance to many motorcycle riders around the world as the iconic destination of a dream ride – along with the relationship to Sturgis and the South Dakota’s Black Hills. It’s that kind of motorcycle journey that brings Harley-Davidson products to life.

Early drawing of Project RUSHMORE

Early concept drawing of Project RUSHMORE

“Second, RUSHMORE is also about the combined ideas of ‘rush’ and ‘more,’ representing the performance and features Harley-Davidson has designed into new motorcycles. Working with our customers, we’ve created motorcycles that allow us all to see more, feel more, hear more and of course rush more. We wanted this era of Touring bikes to be distinguishable in terms of all the changes that we made.”

From my vantage Project RUSHMORE was simple.  The factory talked to thousand of riders, asking what kind of improvements, gadgets and updates they would like to see. Then, they took the unusual step of actually engineering and incorporating the best of these ideas into production bikes.  Imagine that.  A business culture where you ask the customer what they want and then provide it!

Initially eight models were retooled and enhanced under Project RUSHMORE, making it the largest new model launch in Harley’s history.  Innovative marketing mixed with a proactive approach to customer satisfaction.

Photo taken by author at the H-D Museum.
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Screen Shot 2016-07-10 at 3.41.17 PMI’ve never been ask this question, but I was curious how you know if you’re under Federal investigation?

In Harley-Davidson’s case it might have been a knock on the door of the Milwaukee HQ.

As it turns out, the U.S. government is investigating complaints from Harley-Davidson owners who say their motorcycle brakes failed without warning.  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states the investigation covers 430,000 motorcycles with model years from 2008 through 2011 and the investigation stems from motorcycles with an anti-lock braking system.

A common motorcycle maintenance task is to replace the hydraulic fluid in the brake system.  Check your service manual, but for many Harley-Davidson models it’s recommended to change the D.O.T. 4 fluid and flush the brake system every two years.

Did you know brake fluid can collect condensation over time from the outside air?  Brake fluid collects water in a similar fashion as your McDonald’s soda cup has water droplets on the outside. Hydraulic fluid will over time absorb water which causes the fluid to boil when the brakes are applied and will reduce effectiveness of the system.  A spongy brake feel might be a combination of contaminated brake fluid or air in the system. Either way, changing the brake fluid is often recommended.

41300152_obBut, I’ve digressed.  Motorcyclists have reported that the brakes on the hand lever and foot pedal did not work, causing one driver to crash into a garage door.

Government regulators said they’ve received 43 complaints, three reports of crashes and two reports of injuries.  The NHTSA said it is possible that some riders who experienced brake failure did not change the motorcycle’s brake fluid every two years as recommended by Harley-Davidson Inc.  The old fluid may corrode valves in the anti-lock braking system, but even if riders did not change the fluid, the sudden brake failure “is a concern.”This is not a motorcycle product safety recall as of yet.

Harley-Davidson stated it was aware of the Federal investigation and that it was cooperating with regulators.

Photos courtesy of H-D.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.07.03 AMI never had the opportunity to meet or hang with Adam Sandovalas and Scooter “Trash” Sandoval, his Chihuahua.  He’s traveling around the U.S to every Harley-Davidson dealership raising money and awareness for the children of fallen soldiers. Basically it’s a ride, stop, meet and greet, throttle up to the next dealer and repeat.  You can follow along on his web site at Scootin’ America.

Similar to the USPS slogan, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will keep Adam and Scooter from the swift completion of his task.

I remember seeing a Facebook post back in June of Adam and Scooter stopping at PDX Speed Shop and recall thinking it would have been cool to shake his hand and listen to a couple of his stories on this cross country adventure.  I admired the fact that here is a person willing to put his personal life on hold and do what he believes in to get the job done.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 11.14.26 AMMany of us have thought about doing something similar or noteworthy on our motorcycle.  I’ve heard and been part of the discussions in my own riding circles.  Take a couple months to do this or a bucket list dream ride of doing that, but more often than not we stop – just short of pulling the bike out of the garage.

Adam has dedicated a couple of years time to ride thousands of miles on his 1996 Harley-Davidson Electra Glide and spread the word benefitting those who need a hand.  I could drone on about Adam and his accomplishments, but this has already been done. I could write about his dedication to see this project through to the end and his drive to make a difference, but there are plenty of photos of the endless handshakes and well-wisher’s.

What I really wanted to bring attention to is that on July 2nd, on the way to one of the first Harley-Dealer stops of the day, a lady driving in oncoming traffic came across the center line and hit Adam. Scooter was okay, but they Life-Flight Adam to the UPMC Presbyterian hospital in Pittsburgh where he was admitted. He was stable and underwent surgery on July 3rd. He is progressing well given the situation and started the first day of physical therapy on July 5th.  If interested you can follow his updates on his Facebook page HERE or on his Twitter page HERE.

His stated goal is to fix himself up along with the Harley and complete his mission for our soldiers.  If you want to know how-to-help please visit HERE.

To read that Adam wants to get back out there and finish the task got me to thinking that innovative marketing is the underbelly of Harley-Davidson success and wouldn’t it be cool if they provided a bit of positive outreach and started a fund to loan or buy him a new bike!  This is something that would clearly serve all and is a win-win-win.

Harley-Davidson’s U.S. Media Relations Manager is Jen Hoyer.  If you have some passion about this her contact info is HERE.

Photos are courtesy of Scootn’ America.

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Screen Shot 2016-07-07 at 3.34.02 PMThe State of Oregon has more than 74,000 miles of total roads and highways to wander as you set out on your northwest adventure.  The state is known for a diverse landscape including the Pacific coastline, the Cascade Mountain Range, and the flat central/eastern desert. It’s the ninth largest state and with a population of 4 million, the 26th most populous.

Yet, over the last couple of weeks the state is being defined by an alarming spike in motorcycle accidents and rider deaths!  OSP flash alerts are HERE.

  • On Highway 36 on June 24th a 2004 Harley crossed the center line and struck a Ford Ranger head-on. The motorcyclist, 56-year-old Michael R. Lucier of Swisshome, died at the scene.
  • On June 25th there was motorcycle crash on Highway 46 at milepost 7 (Caves Highway near Cave Junction).  The preliminary investigation revealed that a 2001 Triumph motorcycle was eastbound on Highway 46 at milepost 7 when it left the roadway on a corner. The motorcycle struck a tree and the rider, Patrick Michael Daley, age 57, of Cave Junction, was thrown down the embankment and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • On June 26th there was a report of a truck versus motorcycle collision on Interstate 5 at the 235 interchange (just north of Albany). The 1995 Kenworth truck tractor was towing a chip trailer and had been traveling southbound on Old Salem Road. The truck began to make a left turn onto the Interstate 5 southbound on-ramp, but turned in front of a northbound 1995 Kawasaki motorcycle. The motorcyclist crashed as a result of the truck turning into its path. The rider, Kevin R. Argo, age 39, of Lebanon was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.
  • On June 30th near Deadwood, OR, Richard F. Araujo, 68, died when he missed a corner on his 1992 Harley Davidson and sideswiped a Dodge pickup. It was the 2nd fatal motorcycle crash on Highway 36 in less than a week.
  • On July 2nd OSP responded to a report of a motorcycle versus vehicle crash on London Road near the Cottage Grove Reservoir.  Information revealed a 1999 Honda 900 motorcycle was traveling southbound on London Road at a high rate of speed just as a 2008 Chrysler Sebring was pulling out of a private drive northbound. The motorcycle impacted the driver’s side of the Sebring. The rider, identified as Cory Nathan Tocher, age 33, of Cottage Grove, was thrown from the motorcycle and pronounced deceased at the scene.
  • Also on July 2nd there was a report of a traffic crash involving a motorcycle rider and an SUV on Southeast 82nd Avenue near Schiller Street.  Efforts to save the motorcyclist, 45-year-old Aaron Christopher Rufener were unsuccessful and he was pronounced deceased at the scene by emergency personnel.  The driver of the SUV, a 44-year-old man, remained at the scene and was cooperative. Officers learned that he was driving northbound on 82nd Avenue and was turning left into the Don Pedro Mexican Restaurant parking lot when the southbound motorcycle rider crashed into the passenger side rear of the SUV, a 2004 Chevrolet Trailblazer. The motorcycle is a 2013 Harley Davidson.

In addition, on July 5th there was a vehicle crash reported on I-5, just south of Ashland.  The crash, involved a BMW motorcycle and a semi-truck going southbound at mile post 10.5.  The motorcycle was from Mexico and was traveling at about 70 mph when it ran into the back of a semi-truck.  The motorcycle driver was transported to Oregon Health and Science University to be treated for his life-threatening injuries.

On July 6th, again on I-5 in northern Josephine County near Wolf Creek, OSP responded to the single-vehicle accident at milepost 80.  David Carl Freiboth, 61-year-old of Mercer Island was riding his Triumph motorcycle in the fast lane of I-5 when a semi-truck in the slow lane quickly signaled and changed lanes in front of him.  Freiboth told OSP he hit his brakes and quickly veered away from the semi, which caused him to hit the median and lay his bike down. He complained of shoulder pain and was transported by AMR Ambulance to Three Rivers Medical Center for treatment.  A motorcyclist behind Freiboth confirmed the incident, but was unsure about the description of the semi – which did not stop after causing the mishap.

Oregon has no shortage of steep grades, tight curves and awesome views that can be fascinating on a motorcycle.  But, please, PLEASE pay attention because we want you to live through your trip here!

If you are new or considering a motorcycle visit to the state I urged riders – to review motorcycle safety information.

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If you’ve heard this before…

WhereI’m sure you’ve noticed that the NW Harley blog hasn’t seen an update in months.  In fact, it’s been 9-months since the last post.  Sure, I’ve approved a comment here and there, but mostly it’s been crickets.

Somehow I got swamped at work or maybe it was all the other distractions in life and priority changes in this turbulent world.  Quitting was a tempting option especially when it seemed like I was writing for others (which isn’t necessarily bad), but it can’t be the primary reason to blog as it saps you of your creative energy.

Someone told me a while back, that dedication was doing what you said you would do long after the mood you said it in had passed.

Well the mood has passed and I’m upping my commitment to post more often on this site.

All Rights Reserved© Northwest Harley Blog

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