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Posts Tagged ‘Birthday’

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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Harley's line Lake front road

Harley’s line Veterans Park

Many of you know riding is all about the camaraderie of the group.  For many it’s the main draw of having a motorcycle.  Fortunately we’ve got a great group of riders with years of experience and haven’t had the kind of chaos that can be associated with large group-riding.

That’s important because navigating around Milwaukee is like being a pro-snowboarder on Black Diamond bumps that go up, and those concrete cracks that go down and then being shot out of a half-pipe to change directions in mid-air.  I’ve never, ever seen Interstate, streets or roads so bad.  They are horrible!

The 110th post card photo

The 110th post card photo op

I ask folks about the roads and they would claim “allocations for street repair have gone up every year.”  My question is where did all those funds go?  Harley-Davidson doesn’t need a test track.  They can just drive across town and based on the conditions of the road check to see what fell off, was worn out or destroyed!

But, I’ve digressed…

The only thing that could have drowned out the V-twin roar in Milwaukee was the music.  Wow, five years ago, 45 bands played the Summerfest grounds across two days.

Summerfest

At Summerfest for Kid Rock Concert

This year for the 110th, Harley-Davidson added an additional day plus 21 more bands.  The motor company also expanded the number of headliners. Instead of building a separate venue in Veterans Park, as it did in 2008 for Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band and Foo Fighters, Harley opted for more headliner options, with Toby Keith on Thursday, Aerosmith on Friday and Kid Rock on Saturday.  Then H-D leveraged the Marcus Amphitheater for even more musical acts to play on five stages.

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

Pano of Milwaukee Skyline

And they say classic rock is dead?!  Sure, not only are the children of the baby boomers pushing thirty, but there’s a whole new generation of kids who have never experienced free-form radio or sitting in front of the stereo listening to full length albums, and if you’re even in the slightest into music then Milwaukee was nirvana.

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

Near the Art Museum at Lake Front

I captured a video of ‘Wille’ G., Bill Davidson and Karen Davidson, thanking all 110th Anniversary attendees for coming and they provided an introduction to the exceptional Kid Rock concert which also featured John Fogerty, but there was so much more.

There was the Doobie BrothersZZ TopDierks Bentley and Brantley Gilbert.  There was Chance the Rapper and Springsteen-inspired punk group The Gaslight Anthem.  The “Sons of Anarchy” star Katey Sagal, performed with her band The Forest Rangers.

Group at the H-D Museum

The group at the H-D Museum

And many local area acts ranging from Celtic punk group Whiskey of the Damned to Gabriel Sanchez and the Prince Experience. There was even a Mexican pop rock band Moderatto, which played at the Miller Lite stage.  There were acts including Shooter Jennings and North Mississippi Allstars who were booked for performances at the Harley-Davidson Museum and the bands such as Sick Puppies and Puddle of Mudd who played at the free street parties.

Bridge near H-D Museum

Bridge near H-D Museum

I’ve listed just a few and if that wasn’t enough competing with itself, the local Harley-Davidson dealers had bands playing all 3-days, including Aaron Lewis of Staind at the House of Harley-Davidson and Grand Funk Railroad at Hal’s Harley-Davidson.

Our group went on the factory tours and talked with H-D reps about Project Rushmore, the 2014 model year touring bikes that received significant refinements to shortcomings that us owners have lamented for years. H-D has encapsulating over 2,400 new part numbers, and customers were sourced for input on updates that included liquid-cooling, touchscreen GPS, infotainment, improved venting, aerodynamics and ergonomics.  The new touring motorcycles have a lot to offer and props to H-D for rolling out enhancements beyond the typical new paint schemes!

Pano of the H-D Museum

Pano of the H-D Museum

We also pre-purchased tickets to experience the museum which featured the first known Harley model in existence from 1903.  The museum has a truly fascinating collection of bikes, displays and some curious homage to Harley’s influence on pop culture and racing.

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

Inside the archive area of the H-D Museum

The history tour doesn’t gloss over the AMC troubled times as they were as much a part of the motor company’s legacy as were the high points.

Prior to departing the city we stopped at the Miller Brewery and enjoyed the tour, refreshments and talking to one of the workers who was working the weekend doing a network upgrade.  We got the inside scoop on the number of cases each employee has for a monthly allocation as well as where the employee pub is located for afterwork libations.  Sounded like a fun job!

The brewery tour.

The brewery tour

If you were unable to make the ride home to Milwaukee it’s difficult to realize the full scope of the celebration from a couple of blog posts or photos.  Our group was fortunate to have participated in the event and being there provides a unique perspective on how welcome and appreciative the residents of Milwaukee made us feel.  Sure I ranted a bit about the roads, but the highways were absolutely jam packed with Harley’s of all shapes and sizes pointed towards “home” in honor of a company for the most part that has excelled for 110 years.  Not many can say that about their history!  Regardless of where we live or where we ride, there were a few days in 2013 that bonded us all together with the heritage of a HOG.

Since 1988, Harley-Davidson started throwing these hometown birthday celebrations every 5-years.  The 110th has to be one for the record books in terms of attendees,  fewest accidents, number of musical acts and from my vantage the number of smiles on attendee faces.

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you H-D for a great 110th celebration!

Thank you Harley-Davidson for a great celebration and here’s to another 100+ years!

The 110th Anniversary Homecoming – Part 1 (HERE) and Part 2 (HERE).

110th Anniversary Accident Stats:  The final numbers are not published yet, but I found these initial statistics encouraging.  Approximately 100,000 riders arrived in the Milwaukee metro area over a 6-day (Aug 29 – Sept 1) celebration timeframe.  There was an average of 4.9 motorcycle accidents per day.  There were 28 motorcyclists transported to the trauma center during that timeframe.  There were no reported deaths.  Wisconsin is a helmet-optional state.

Photos by author.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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We’ve all heard the “Boomer” term or sound bite from advertisers or from the evening news anchor.  More recently there has been a lot of debate about the aging Harley demographic and Boomer accident/fatality rates on motorcycles.

But, if you are like me and recently turn another year older, I wasn’t clear on where the name Boomer was derived?   So, like millions of other web consumers that on a daily basis go on-line to find something or be entertained — I thought I’d best research this gap in knowledge.

The term comes from two primary audiences: the Baby Boomers Generation and Generation Jones – both born during the big 20-year, post-World War II boom in births from the mid-1940’s to mid-1960’s.

  • Baby Boomers were born 1942 to 1953; we associate their youth with Howdy Doody, Davy Crocket hats, and later, Woodstock and Vietnam War demonstrations.
  • Generation Jones, born 1954 to 1965, is a newer concept and name that represents the actual children of the sixties (more wide-eyed than tie-dyed); Jonesers were weaned on The Brady Bunch and Easy Bake Ovens and later were the teens of 70’s heavy metal, disco, punk and soul.

Wow, something new!  I’ve heard the urban slang of “Jones’ing for Something”, but never Generation Jones.  Today, Boomers are 53 to 64 years old and 16% of the adult U.S. population; Jonesers are 41 to 52 years old and 26% of all U.S. adults. Together they make up almost 80 Million people, arguably at the prime of their lives.

I shouldn’t really say “they,” but rather “we,” or “me” because many of us are part of one or the other generation.  I’m truly excited about this new generational paradigm. Generation Jones makes me feel young.  Having been the recipient of extensive major media coverage, AARP mailings and a need-not-apply elusive group of the 16-34-year-old MySpace group, I’m thinking this new “Jones” demographic is worth some buzz.

Jonesers were originally and mistakenly lumped in with the Boomers because of shared high birth rates.  But, generational personalities come from shared formative experiences, not head counts. The dramatically different formative experience of Boomers vs. Jonesers has created two very different generational personalities. I’ve never felt like a “Boomer” even with the AARP flyer in hand, but I totally “get” Jonesers, the differences as well as the similarities.  

I feel so much better now that I’ve redefine my own identity! Next I’ll be evangelizing how a cell phone is technology for anything other than talking?!

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Large Group-StarWhat turned out to be a post-Sturgis story telling and laugh adventure ended up being a birthday celebration for Eastwood, and a re-cap of the Reno-Street Vibrations ride…quite a milestone for the posse to reach this year and doing it on one of finest motorcycles on the planet!

First a big THANK YOU goes out to MC for hosting the gathering and devoting all the time to making it a successful party. Whoo hooo…

What better way to welcome a close of the Northwest riding season (at least without rain gear and winter gloves!) than to have a recap of the heat, the rain, the rides, the repairs, the pretty, the ugly, the FUN!

It was an amazing season of riding and one for Mac’s Most Excellent Adventure – The Movie!   And speaking of movies, a big (“bring it in close” hug) for Jimmy for the hard work on pulling together the movie/slide show of the trip.  Great music mix and something we can review over the years…THANKS!  So,  we’ve put up the Saddle Bags for another year and look to planning next year. Below are a bunch of picts from the party…
















collage created by picasa2html

And speaking of birthday celebrations August 2008 is the 105th Harley Birthday party and 25th Anniversary of H.O.G. in WI. I’m thinking this could be a great adventure to add to my riding log book….

The first Harley Davidson motorcycle was created in 1903 with a single cylinder, three horsepower motor. In 1906, Harley Davidson manufactured the first 50 motorcyles bearing their name. The V-twins that it a household name today came out about 1909. The “Choppers”, we love, were born and “Hogs” were named for the extra room used to transport racing pigs without switching to a larger vehicle. In 1983, H.O.G., The Harley Owners Group, formed its first chapter. Today more than 1,000 chapters are in existence and more than one million members.

I’m looking forward to planning out the ’08 rides. If you are the lucky owner of a Harley then you know what its like being a member of the family.

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