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It started out like any other routine day.  Up early, shower, comb the hair, brush the teeth, start up the automobile and head out enroute to various scheduled appointments.

Except on this day Marcia Brandon was guilty of listening to the radio as she fidgeted with the automobile controls and multitasked down the highway.  The preening on the road was a costly lesson as she drove distracted, lost in thought on the road.

Because on this day the 82-year old woman was cited by Oregon State Police (OSP) for driving 110 mph in a 55 mph zone on Highway 26 west of Gresham.  That’s correct 110 mph!  When the OSP trooper finally overtook the hulking Pontiac Bonneville and was able to pull over Marcia Brandon (did I already state she was 82 years old?) she stated that she wasn’t aware she was driving that fast.  In fact, she had no idea that the car’s hazard lights were blinking on either as she whizzed past other traffic.

Ms Brandon was cited for Violation of the Basic Rule – 110 mph in a 55 mph speed zone.

Convictions for driving over 100 mph now carry a mandatory minimum 30 – 90 day suspension in addition to a $1,103 fine.  Since 2006, with the stronger law and penalties, drivers traveling 100 mph or faster have decreased.  In 2009, troopers cited 298 drivers for traveling 100 mph or faster on Oregon highways, an approximate 21% decrease from 2008 (376 drivers cited) and 45% since 2006 (537 drivers cited).  In 2009 DMV noted 313 drivers received court ordered suspensions for driving over 100 mph, 366 court ordered suspensions in 2008, and 428 court ordered suspensions in 2007.

But, this isn’t my main point.  After a quick scan of the OSP site, Ms Brandon is in good company!  I’m alarmed at the number of age impaired driving accidents over the last 30 days and this is just a small sampling of the accidents:

  1. Roy Lester Shideler (age 82) – driving on a suspended  WA. license traveled into the ditch on Hwy 395 and was ejected from the vehicle and died.
  2. Irma Crumrine (age 81) pulled in front of a vehicle on Hwy 97 and seven people were injured.  All survived.
  3. Sandra Boehme (age 66) traveled across the center line striking a pickup which then created two other vehicles to crash.  All survived.
  4. Delia Le Blue (age 78) collided with a van making a left hand turn on Hwy 26 resulting in serious injuries.
  5. Clinton Deshazer (age 71) for unknown reasons crossed the centerline and collided with a semi-truck which resulted in serious injuries.

It turns out the fastest growing segment of the driving population are seniors who make up 9% (about 19 million) of the nation’s drivers. This figure is expected to jump to more than 30 million drivers by 2020.  Drivers aged 75 and older have a 37% higher crash rate than younger drivers, according to the Elder Law Journal, published by the College of Law at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  And with the exception of teenage drivers, seniors have the highest probability of death resulting from an auto-related accident of any age group.

Sure, age alone does not determine a person’s ability to operate an automobile, but evidence suggests that certain characteristics associated with aging impair driving performance.

I acknowledge that independence of senior drivers is very important and fundamental to maintaining our freedoms, but I’m not sure the state/DMV tests are doing enough for road safety when an 82 year old is licensed and feels empowered or unrestricted to travel 110 mph on her way to errands.

Why so many age related vehicle accidents when by law Oregon drivers aged 50 and up must undergo a vision test verifying they can safely scan and traverse the roads?  The testing must occur upon license renewal and every eight years thereafter.

Given the aging population trends there needs to be more done by DMV in validating an aged driver’s abilities.

UPDATE: October 26, 2010 – Just yesterday, Martha Lockhart (age 82, from Olivehurst, CA.) stopped near Toledo on Hwy 229 at the intersection of Hwy 20.  For some unknown reason she pulled out into the path of a semi-truck which was pulling empty pole trailers.  The collision flipped the trailers which in turn collided with a Chevy truck registered to Oregon State and was being driven by Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife (ODFW) employee Tamara Elizabeth Wagner (age 52) who was pronounced deceased at the scene.  Ms Lockhart and the truck driver received non-life threatening injuries.

Photo courtesy of: The Incredible Hulk from The Super-Hero Squad Show, © Marvel Entertainment

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Harley-Davidson has shown superb marketing prowess in the motorcycling industry with some absolutely brilliant campaigns, but could someone tell me what the exec’s were thinking of with this one on the right?

I thought about calling them to say, “Hey Harley, Scientology telephoned and wanted to let you know the spaceship is on the way…long live Zenu!” after reading it.

Sure the Motor Company is a textbook business school case study for “lifestyle” marketing, but this advertisement at minimum shines a spotlight on age disparity, trophy-wife dysfunction (TWD) and connotes enticement to underage marriage (depending on the state).  It’s a non-rational marketing decision to be sure.  It harkens back to the AMF marketing days where motorcycle rebels cared more for role models than reliability and the bad memories of the “Harley-Davidson Cigarettes” campaign in 1992-1993.  A miserable flop to be sure with several lawsuits leaving a bad taste (pun intended) in consumers mouth.

So, if I have this correct…we have a slightly weathered and bearded 50-something ‘boomer’… proclaiming that as a “quiet gray gentlemen” he would never let his under-18 aged wife ride his motorcycle until she turns of legal age.  In this era of hyper-pedophile-mania there is nothing more classy than old men married to under-18 girls. I find the ad downright creepy to suggest that under-18 girls are looking to ‘hook-up’ with a 50-something boomer. This marketing doesn’t make sense even for boomers let alone as a way to reach-out to the youthful motorcycle riding demographic.  The only thing I could imagine being worse is using it in a branding blitz during Child Abuse Prevention month or to post it on a billboard advertisement in Houston while the polygamy trials run through the court system!  To be fair, this ad/photo has been circling online since ’08 and I’m not exactly sure where it ran in print.  Let me know if you’ve seen it.

Last quarter when Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell stated the company was investing in the brand I first thought this was some kind of ‘code word’ for more layoffs, but little did we know it meant CMO, Mark-Hans Richer was deep in the H-D branding lab, with his sleeves rolled up, hitting the marketing white board to improve the company image.

H-D likely spent hundreds of man hours building out the creative concepts for this advertisement.  What’s next?  I’ll save them some time and $$… I’m visualizing a multi-city billboard campaign with a “cougar” straddling a Dark Custom… a Glee club drop-out on the back holding on with the tag line… “I just added my first aftermarket accessory.  I think his name is Billy.”

Time for a new marketing road Harley.

Photo courtesy of H-D and Flickr.

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Concert In The Park

Concert In The Park

Do you feel it?  The smell of fall as the lazy, hazy days of sunshine dwindle faster than a Harley-Davidson financial comeback.

Too soon the leaves will fall, rain will flood the roads and snow will fill the air as television news canvas the area to report fender-benders over and over.  Before this happens, however, there is still time to ask: “Am I making the most of my 2009 summer riding season?”

In trying to stretch out summer as much as possible I attended an outdoor concert last night.  Was it motorcycle exhaust fumes mixed with cigar smoke and classic rock music like Summerfest in Milwaukee?   No, but Body & Soul reunited last night to perform high-energy Tower of Power, Chaka Khan, Stevie Wonder and classic rock.

Speaking of classic rock,  I’m not talking about Steppenwolf’s “Born to be Wild” or Springsteen’s “Born in the USA”, rather it’s about Steely Dan and “My Old School.”  Remember it was the “boomers” who grew up with music at the center of their lives.  There were no cell phones, there was no Facebook.  They lived to twist the AM dial in the coupe, if lucky had a FM radio and a phone in their bedroom.  The glue that kept them together was the music.  They call this music “classic rock”.  Classic, as in aged, as in done.  But, I beg to differ.

Body & Soul Music Group

Body & Soul Music Group

Insiders will tell you the best Steely Dan album was the second, “Countdown To Ecstasy“, the one that ended their touring career, the one sans any hits.  I disagree. It was “Can’t Buy A Thrill” which was truly a masterpiece.   At the concert last night Body & Soul performed “My Old School” and hearing those guitar riffs made me want to blog about it.

For the uninitiated, or those who grew up in the mid-west, or even further left, Annandale-on-Hudson is the location of Bard College, where those who were smart, but thought high school was B.S and didn’t have the grades commensurate with their intelligence ended up going to college to further their creativity.  It’s where Walter Becker and Donald Fagen went to school before moving on to back up Jay Black as two of his Americans and ultimately getting a deal with ABC Records.  They were forced to get a lead singer, David Palmer, since Fagen’s voice was “supposedly” deemed not radio-ready by the studio execs.  Mr. Palmer sang the lead vocal on a legendary track, but I like this version of “Dirty Work” however, when performed live it hasn’t got the same power with backup singers taking the lead.

SDAfter struggling in the music trenches for years, plying their trade far from the spotlight, Steely Dan became a success and was an AM radio fixture.  Not an FM staple.  Remember back… FM was in the process of getting dumbed down, featuring meat and potatoes rock as opposed to intelligence, but when the hooks of “Do It Again” and “Reelin’ In The Years” poured out of one speaker it could not be denied by AM radio and the album “Can’t Buy A Thrill” became a huge hit.  It was an album seen most often in dorm rooms of those not quite hip, but didn’t have to worry about their cred.

For those of us who lived through it, when we hear Steely Dan songs we’re brought right back.  I’ve seen Becker and Fagen at the Gorge Amphitheatre a couple of times.   Their troupe of hired musicians return us to what was and who we used to be.  And one could say it was aged music, but like wine, some things get even better as the years go by.

Even though youngsters these days might not understand, they positively get awesome musicianship.  It’s not about staging or production it’s about the music. Yes, the sun is setting on these baby boomer acts.  Their audience is getting older, fans don’t feel the same need to go to the show.  But if you’re a musician you play anyway.  That’s what you’re in it for, the SOUND!

Steely Dan and Body & Soul photos courtesy of respective web sites.

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mfg_plantBaby boomers and Harley-Davidson motorcycles.  The combination of these two delivered a plethora of profits.

I was upgrading my Mac OS and while I waited, I read magazines.  First it was “Baggers” then “BusinessWeek.”

Skimming the BW magazine I notice an article about business book guru Jim Collins.  He wrote “Good To Great.”  Collins was brought to West Point, where he chaired a discussion amongst military men and civilians.  Had America lost its greatness, was it in decline?  The attendees were split as to America’s future, half optimistic and half pessimistic.  But what fascinated Mr. Collins was an observation from a CEO during a break.  The dude stated: “I’ve been thinking about your question in the context of my company.  We’ve had tremendous success in recent years and I worry about that.  So what I want to know is: HOW WOULD YOU KNOW?”  This question formed the basis of Collins new book, “How The Mighty Fall.”

Harley-Davidson has been quite mighty.  But they broke the first rule of Mr. Collins’ book.  Which he labels Stage 1: “Hubris Born Of Success”.  “Stage 1 kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement, and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place.”

Mighty_FallBingo!  Harley-Davidson and Baby Boomers.  H-D execs actually believed they were geniuses, who’d found the golden formula.  Dealers marked up everything from t-shirts to baggers.  From then on, motorcycle model after model would all sell thousands of bikes, there would be untold profits!  Rather than questioning their success (“We might have been just really lucky/we’re in the right place at the right time…”), they believed they were entitled to it.  And ultimately blamed this decline of their fortunes on the economy.

Stage 2 of Mr. Collins’ theory of corporate decline is “Undisciplined Pursuit Of More”.  Here we have H-D catering to image buyers… selling sizzle, style and fashion over function paradigm.  With spokespeople like Marisa Miller.  If TV sells motorcycles, let us find the least amount of clothing and the most telegenic performer and craft a message about lifestyle for TV/print consumption!  

Stage 3 is “Denial Of Risk and Peril.”  That’s the beginning of the end.  “Those in power start to blame external factors for setbacks rather than accept responsibility”.  It’s like the music industry saying the Internet ruined it’s business!  It’s the economy’s fault, we couldn’t get bank funding at HDFS, etc. But what’s Harley’s business?  Manufacturing premium (overpriced?) priced one-dimensional products and marketing them for sale on TV and print magazines to the ‘boomers’, the young, minorities and to women?  No difference in product just marketing messages.

Stage 4 is “Grasping For Salvation”.  “The critical question is: How does leadership respond?  By lurching for quick salvation or by getting back to the disciplines that brought about greatness in the first place?”  We’ve got Harley-Davidson heavily invested in MV Augusta and embedding advertising space in video games (UFC).  A non-motorcycle riding enthusiast at the helm.  Is that their core mission?  And we’ve got dealers exiting the business.  All the while the motor company works to protect a business model of an overexposed limited product to reap giant rewards.  Dealers are up in arms that corporate got rich and the locals did not…  But once again, what was each entity’s core mission?  Dealers were made to expose.  The motor company were made to..?  MAKE!  That’s what manufacturing companies do.  Making motorcycles is their core competency.  It’s their defining MISSION!  But that got lost in the shuffle of incredible profits during the nineties.  Harley started selling branding, lifestyle, sizzle, fashion and even some premium priced motorcycles!

Stage 5 is “Capitulation To Irrelevance Or Death”.  Some would argue that’s where the motor company is today.  “In some cases the company’s leader just sell out; in other cases the motorcycle institution atrophies into utter insignificance; and in the most extreme cases the enterprise simply dies outright.”  How long until Harley-Davidson chops up the parts and sells it for catalog value?  

What is the future?  Not the past.

“Never give in.  Be willing to kill failed business ideas, even shutter big operations you’ve been in for a long time, but never give up on the idea of building a great company.”  It’s clear.  Looking for an instant success like the old Michael Jackson days of MTV ultimately render instant irrelevance.  The company needs to be about MOTORCYCLES!  Today’s execs seem only interested in tonnage.  They could be selling anything!  They are not necessary.  Harley needs to find unique talent and nurture it.  Leverage independent blogs?  Motorcycle artistry/development isn’t finding more people to buy a plain stamped out bike, it’s a creative arc, over a period of iterations, wherein the motorcycle grows and more and more people come along for the ride.  

That’s what you need to survive…”to build an enterprise that makes such a distinctive impact on the world it touches (and does so with such superior performance) that it would leave a gaping hole – a hole that could not be easily filled by any other institution – if it ceased to exist.” Everyone knows that real motorcycle enthusiasts are the indies.  The commercial crap from the majors is about commercialism more than artistry.  Today it’s about manufacturing cookie-cutter stuff and yelling at the public to buy it, all the while bitching that the economy is failing.  This is a recipe for disaster.

Rather than whine, be the company that accepts reality, that notes change and adapts to it.  That doesn’t mean charge huge upfront fees for anybody who wants a CVO.  Or clothing attire marked up to the point that celebrities question the essence of imported fabrics.  Your average Joe consumers are your partners, they’re the ones who are going to make you money.  

If you lose your core, you’ve lost everything!

Photo courtesy of Newsweek.

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leisure_seekersThe upcoming riding season has me contemplating a “Route 66” road trip…and this version of the famous song which spotlights steel guitarist Herby Wallace will have any country/swing fan smiling at the classy display of talent.  Or if you’re a Jazz aficionado then you’ll really appreciate this piano version from Japan.

But my story starts with John and Ella Robina.  An elderly couple from Chicago.  He has Alzheimer’s.  She has an incurable case of cancer and stopped taking her treatments.  He’s driving the family’s late-1970’s RV.  She’s riding shotgun and popping pain pills.  He has random outbursts of anger mixed with confusion…she’s cynical.  Ella calls all the shots and decided they should take a final vacation together — to Disneyland — on Route 66! 

Are you troubled with where I’m going on this? 

It’s the story from Michael Zadoorian’s new novel, “The Leisure Seeker” which arrives in book stores this week.  It’s quite the “geezer” adventure on the “mother road” in search of a past that they both are likely having a hard time remembering.  Even though the book is fiction, the idea of mixing geriatric-age couples with motorcycles on a two-lane road raises the question again of “When is too old to Drive?”  I’ve blogged about this previously HERE.  I’m thinking about camper after camper loaded up with “recliner drivers” — drugged up on meds — in need of hourly naps — yet damn determined to rediscover life in their golden years.

Scary…I may need to rethink this?

Photo courtesy Flickr.

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cycle_movieOne thing I’ve noticed over the last year is the popularity of electronic devices targeted toward the geriatric-age bracket.

Now I’m all for helping out Grandma, but does she really need a Bluetooth diabetes monitor? Isn’t there enough on her plate with the upcoming digital channel transition and now we want to burden her with wireless medication, too!

And since we’re chatting about products and a subject I’m fond of — motorcycle “gizmo’s” — these days either mounted on or embedded in the dash is cruise control, GPS, XM Satellite, Alarms, remote starters, radar detectors, iPod music, intercom radio, video camera, CB radio, Bluetooth headsets and heated hand grips.  I’ve even seen a number of “pimptastic” motorcycles with a mini-home theater/video system!  It’s easy to imagine the future and the day of web-enabled motorcycles is just around the corner.   Being able to interact with the internet, get email or stream video content at the push of a button – all from your motorcycle dash.  It seems that all we’re missing is parking sonar!

In 2006 about 250M wireless phone subscribers in the US sent nearly 158 Billion text messages (Source: HERE).  I’m sure some of the those originated from a motorcycle.  And since 2001 the average age of motorcycle owners has increased from 40 to 47 (Source: JD Power).    So, if the average guy buying a motorcycle is getting older and if you follow the logic that implies age effects attentiveness and response times then a logical debate is older motorcycle drivers don’t need any more “bright and shiny” objects on the motorcycle to distract them, right?

Believe me when I say that I struggled to bite my tongue on this, but does anyone see these electronic devices as potential cause of accidents?  Motorcycle driver inattention due to text messaging seems obvious enough, but government legislation may not stop there.  What about those “entertainment” type devices that are behind or on the handlebars?  Many legislators believe that ANYTHING which can distract you from motorcycle driving is considered hazardous and they want to ban use and protect you…independent of reasonable people not engaging in such behavior.  And here you thought after market exhaust pipes with the EPA stamp was your biggest concern.

As the industry continues to struggle to attract and qualify younger first-time motorcycle buyers the future for “older” motorcyclists may be more about eating popcorn at garage parties and watching a movie.

Photo courtesy of Retro Thing.

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I’ve noticed lately that I’m getting old-r. Maybe ’cause it’s that time of year for a lot of birthdays or maybe it’s my lack of patience?  Anyway I’m standing in the Starbucks line to buy my normal Grande Coffee and it’s like freakin’ 700 people long ’cause the only thing the teenage boy at the register is thinking about is the teenage girl at the other register and some lady has her purse inside out trying to win the “exact change” trophy…Mac, take a breath…it’s only 6:30am so, just drink your coffee and chill…

Okay, where was I? Oh yeah, I’m getting old-r and as a “Generation Jones” I’m starting to question if I’m living the dream or just growing old (dis)-gracefully.

When I think about this age gig and demographics I’m sort of hip and fit into the internet generation. I do “The Google“, I blog a bit, I’m on Facebook, I Flickr and Picasa photo’s, I connect with groups on CollectiveX, I’ve planned parties on MyPunchBowl, I’m hip to Wikipedia, I manage calendars online with Eventful, I Digg lots of articles on the web, I jog with an iPod, I ride a Harley.  But, then I get reminded just how “un-cool” I am when I can’t find music on the mainstream radio that I like and I tire quickly of the “10/2-minute” (10 minutes of ads for 2 minutes of content) rule of commercialization.

Speaking of music, how about that hip-hop Jibb’s song ‘Chains‘.  I was flipping radio channels in the cage and thought…Jibbs who?! I don’t get it. I understand the lyrics and get the thump, thump, thump, but I could hardly change the channel fast enough!  If it’s hip-hop then I’m into the Kid Rock ‘Cowboy‘ style.  Nobody I know is wearing a chain with their ‘NAME’ spelled out in diamonds. They don’t have 26’s (rims) on a Range Rover.  Heck most of us are driving a Pontiac Sunfire or Toyota Corolla’s… on 12’s… and with squeaky brakes…, so why is everyone bounc’n to Chains?

What’s next?  Harley is not “cool” and I’ll need to mortgage the house for a six-figure V-Twin custom that’s overloaded with billet and explosions of flame colors?!

Yep, I’m getting old-r because I don’t care if people want to debate what is or is not cool.  I personally, couldn’t care less.  I’m going ridin’.  Ya comin’?

Bicentennial poster photo courtesy of H-D Museum.

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