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Posts Tagged ‘Brand Loyalty’

BITW-HelmetAs I write this I’m reminded that I was flying home from Barcelona, Spain about this time last year after a long work week at an industry event and that every year in business is different.

A few years are easy, some are hard, and most are somewhere in between. Each year you face a different set of circumstances: changing economic, political, social and what’s cool in the billet industry.

We know from the Discovery Channel which scripted a mini-series project about the history of Harley-Davidson, that in the early years the company really struggled to survive. From month to month, they worked hard to keep from getting further behind and sinking further into debt.  There were the AMF years and then came the housing bubble.  Those of you who have tried or are establishing a little business of your own know that success is much harder than you envisioned it should be. Many folks think there must be “one big thing” they are missing that if discovered and remedied would turn things around and put them on the path to major prosperity.

Clearly, that isn’t the case, and over the course of a few startup years often you learn that rather than “one big thing,” there are many functions throughout the business that had to get established in good working order for the business to really succeed.

After 114 years, this still holds true for Harley-Davidson. There are no guarantees or shortcuts to success. There is only doing the hard work that needs to be done, doing it to the highest standards, and identifying the next area to establish or improve in order to build the next generation of Harley-Davidson rides and riders to control their destiny.

All of this became acute over the last week when Harley announced their Q4 and full-year 2016 financial results (HERE).

Words like “intense competition, flat market, soft sales, and earnings miss” ruled the day.

These are just words.  I’m of the viewpoint that how well any company performs is a key factor in how well they succeed compared to their competition.  Since we’re a few days before Super Bowl — a sports analogy is in order — how well a team executes ALL aspects of their game has everything to do with whether they win or lose.

Obviously taste in motorcycle brands, styles, or in paint schemes, is subjective. Some in the press have beaten down the overall market with reports that seem to indicate the riding “fad” has ended. Granted there’s been negative publicity with Polaris shutting down the Victory Motorcycle brand and overall motorcycle industry earnings not being great, but there are many very nice motorcycles being made, and WE the riding enthusiasts/public have lots of choices.

Why do I bring this up?

I’ve notice in my travels that many successful companies have a sense that they are masters of their own fate; their success is within their control. They know it’s a myriad of little things done well that add up to their success. And no matter what their size, they realize that a company always has the resources at hand to take their next step. Isn’t that really the “art” of it: to creatively employ existing resources to advance the ride, the employees and the company?

Most of us know the answer to a problem is rarely found outside the company; it usually comes from within.  I’m confident that Harley-Davidson will find the answers and simply function better as an organization.  I predict they will do a more thorough job of performing the functions a successful motorcycle company needs to and roll out compelling new products that will be industry hits.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Think Snow Bumpersticker - HD Advertising (circa: 1972-74)

It was a big year for Harley-Davidson as they shifted from downsizing, labor agreements and weathering the recession to now looking forward to growth in 2011.  With freezing temperature and snow falling in many parts of the U.S., I’ve compiled some 2010 highlights to provide you some entertainment as you warm up with hot chocolate:

January
1.    Downtown H-D Renton, WA., one of the northwest dealers named among top 100 (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D reported its first quarterly loss since 1993 (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D announces the new, but “old” Forty-Eight Sportster (Link: HERE)

February
1.    H-D donates 28 new Buell and H-D motorcycles to assist in the earthquake disaster (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D marketing continues to pitch brand with young-rebel-with-tats ethos (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D internal documents indicate 382,000 absenteeism hours in the factories (Link: HERE)

March
1.    H-D promotes danger as Seth Enslow breaks Bubba Blackwell’s jump record (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D dealer (Shumate) in Kennewick, WA., closes under a mountain of debt. (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell 2009 compensation package becomes public as the $6M dollar man (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D marketing pulls out all stops on innovation and launches Super Ride II (Link: HERE)

April
1.    H-D consolidates motorcycle testing in Arizona Proving Grounds (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D files mass layoff notice with Wisconsin department of workforce development (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell is “encouraged” as Q1 motorcycle sales revenue declines 20% YOY (Link: HERE)
4.    After 26 years of service Bill Davidson is put in charge of the Museum (Link: HERE)

May
1.    H-D CEO, Keith E. Wandell states in interview that H-D is like GM…a fading American industrial might (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D threatens to leave the state of Wisconsin (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D CMO, Mark-Hans Richer is no man crush of this blog (Link: HERE)

June
1.    H-D launches XR1200 Refresh (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D launches Wii based-game: “Road Trip” (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D at the National Law Enforcement Museum (Link: HERE)

July
1.    H-D opens Hyderabad, India showroom to pandemonium (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D reports Q2 earnings with financial services being largest money maker (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D launches the 2011 model lineup of 32 bikes vs. 38 the prior year (Link: HERE)

August
1.    H-D announces closure of sidecar business which operated since 1914 (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D announces 1-MILLION fans on Facebook (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D sold back MV Agusta to its previous owners (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D announces that after 31 years they’ve parted ways with PR firm Carmichael Lynch (Link: HERE)

September
1.    Erik Buell releases teaser ads promoting a new street bike based on 1190RR (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D gives away free posters of any of their 32 models (Link: HERE)
3.    H-D under threat of moving out of state announces ratified 7-year labor agreement (Link: HERE)
4.    H-D “spins” the fact that massive branding efforts result in a 24% brand value decline (Link: HERE)

October
1.    H-D reports Q3 earnings with motorcycle sales declining 7.7% worldwide and 14.4% in the U.S. (Link: HERE)

November
1.    H-D management “negotiates” with Kansas City plant to accept a new labor agreement or we’ll leave state (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D turns down a $25M tax credit deal by Wisconsin State (Link: HERE)

December
1.    H-D never disclosed a $2.3 BILLION deal with Federal Reserve (Link: HERE)
2.    H-D announces first ever “Crowd Sourcing” for new marketing ideas (Link: HERE)

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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HOG Bank

Start with the “charisma and swagger” of Charlie Sheen, add a little Lady Gaga recklessness, mix it all together with the sensibility of John Mayer, and you’re well on your way to a vibrant digital marketing campaign.

Or at least that’s what Harley-Davidson’s, CMO, Mark-Hans Richer seems to believe.

Taking a page from celebrities and musicians who blazed the path before them they’ve embarked on a crowd-sourcing recipe with Victors & Spoils, a Boulder-based crowd sourcing agency who intends to deliver successful digital marketing.  It would seem that every American company on the planet is amassing a rapidly growing list of crowd sourcing digital data to give marketers an even more precise method for targeting their ad messages to specific consumers.

I know, you hate social media.  More people despise Twitter than use it.  You thought Foursquare was a church.  You like Facebook, but you fear its Big Brother qualities.

Well, you probably don’t understand that Twitter is the number one news source for news happening right now.  But if you can’t wrap your head around that, maybe you should look into SproutSocial, which allows you to track your company in social media.  And if you don’t think social media is key to any company’s future, you’re on the road to extinction.

Mr. Richer totally gets it.  H-D has a multi-generational and multicultural customer strategy with a need to get potential customers more engaged in the brand.

You do that through social media.  But, part of the problem for the motor company is its audience knows too many people, who connect with each other online.  Once consumers start talking to each other not only do they spread the word about the so-called “motorcycle lifestyle,” but they also let each other know which products are good and which ones are bad.  Suddenly, the dealers can no longer jam any old product down the motorcycle riding public’s throat.  It’s bad enough when new products leak in advance and are dead on arrival due to bad word of mouth, but even those that make it to the release date intact are not guaranteed sales.  Because by the end of the week, the target audience knows whether the product is worth owning via references from friends.

It all comes down to who you know.

But, the reason I’m writing this is because of the job market.  Unemployment.  It’s steady at 10.5% here in Oregon.  About a point above the national average and has remained there most of the past year.  Just this past week the Oregonian reported another 300 layoffs by 3 different companies closing down operations.  And if that wasn’t enough did you happen to catch Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke last night on 60 Minutes?  He painted a grim picture.  Stating that the U.S. recovery is still not self-sustaining while defended his $600B bond purchase to help keep interest rates low.  Heady stuff.

Oregon and U.S. Unemployment - Dec 2010

I hate to frighten you, but all your partying and drunken pictures are going to work against you in the job market. Inebriation is not a criterion for employment, not even at Miller Brewing.  You see you’re building your resume every day online.  And whether you can get a job or not is based on this resume and who you know.  People always complain how they can’t get a job in this industry or that industry because they aren’t connected.  Hate to tell you, but it just got worse!  No one’s going to hire anyone without a history, who can’t be recommended by someone.  The days of placing a blind ad and taking on all comers is history.  That doesn’t even work on Craigslist, and have you seen the type of jobs on that site lately?

If you want to succeed in the future, you’ve got to know people.  Who can vouch for you.  Ever get called for a reference?  You never lie if you know the caller, it’s your reputation on the line.   And now that we’re all networked through social media, there’s always someone who knows you, who if they won’t say something negative, certainly won’t say something positive.

And you thought you were just playing online?  You see we all live in a social media world.  Scary huh?!  And as if to help prove my point the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, was also interviewed and talked about changes coming in a redesign.  For example, instead of a single profile picture, people who visit your page will soon see a row of photos you’ve been recently tagged in.

It might be time to start making deposits in the persona-curating bank account…

Photo courtesy of Harley-Davidson, SocialSprouts and Google.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Communication technology and digital media have transformed almost every sector of society, altering the way we express ideas, participate in public debates, connect with others, entertain ourselves and define our identities.  The implications of the digital age are profound

And for the past 31-years, Minneapolis-based Carmichael Lynch has helped build the Harley-Davidson brand through innovative ideas in advertising, digital and public relations.  You may not know the agency, but you’ll remember their “Screw It, Let’s Ride” campaign which inspired people to get out and ride independent of what the economy is doing or what the pundits tell us.  In addition they developed the more recent award winning Harlista campaign which resulted in an 8.2% increase in share of motorcycles among Hispanic targets and a 615% increase in web traffic to the Hispanic section of the H-D web site.

But the relationship is no more.  The two companies have what the Tiger Woods divorce attorney’s might label as “irretrievably broken” as the two companies parted ways this week.

Clearly Carmichael Lynch wasn’t satisfied with a smaller lead advertising role and “resigned” as H-D’s new strategy has been moving away from a singular consumer agency and instead is working with several creative agencies like McCann, VSA Partners, Davie Brown and others.

In an era when relationships are measured in “internet time” the fact that this agency has been able to successfully maintain a client relationship for so many years and produce quality, award winning creative against many odds stands for something in my book!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Carmichael Lynch.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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I’m not a brand expert, but brand promise (“This brand is all about….”) seems to be the corporate mantra and all companies are looking at how to best bond with customers and retain their loyalty.  I don’t like to admit that I’m a fan-boy for certain brands.  I’ve come to realize that there are probably three or so that I really am devoted too. A few of them are:

Harley-Davidson:  They work to deliver on a fantasy of complete freedom on the road and a comradeship of a kindred spirit for the avid motorcyclist…  If you want to experience the psychology of hard-core devotion and feel the sense of anxiety that comes from not being part of the inner circle — wear your Polo Shirt, Tommy Bahama shorts and flip-flaps to the next biker event.  Point is that each touch point in the Harley brand mates with consumers and is really organized to uniquely deliver on this promise.  The Harley brand ‘essence’ has largely remained unchanged for decades.  Sure they have refreshed and added different ad campaigns, but the hallmark of the company quickly describes the brand.  Free spirited and rebellious associations while nurturing relationships to maintain a loyal motorcycle community.  Harley has the looming issue of reaching younger consumers entrenched in the internet age where the word “classic” and “tradition” have less marketing leverage.  But, we do need to give them credit for trying through the roll-out of blogs, MySpace and Facebook social networks as well as explains why they’ve tried video games.

Starbucks: This devotion is one that really grips me.  I’ve failed to shake the coffee habit.  “Bucks” is not about providing me a great cup of coffee!   They do, but it’s more about providing me a great coffee “experience” and rewarding everyday moments.  They are about lifting up my spirits one cup of coffee at a time and, looking back over my cash outlay this past month…they are doing a mighty fine job of lifting spirits!!  Similar to the Harley brand, Starbucks portrays a lifestyle image.  Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to leave the corporate 10 hour day mad-dash to become a Barista?!   From napkins to paper cups, in-store posters, t-shirt designs to in-store architecture…the “Bucks” Creative Group tells a story to feed my habit all the while they put skim on a macchiato.

Born Shoes : I don’t buy a lot of shoes (or clothes for that matter; I’m kind of a charity case), but these shoes fit what my friends call my “techno-sporty” fashion sense. I was shooting for a cross between the Marlboro Man and REI fitness so, I’ve got some work to do in this department!  I’ve been buying Born shoes for a couple years, and they have consistently been my “everyday” shoes. Do the math: that means each pair is lasting a couple years. That’s a deal.

I’d like to be absence brand loyalty. I think everyone around has similar problems.  Find someone who reacts with the “I don’t have any brand loyalty!” and I’ll bet within five minutes’ of conversation, you’ll expose:

  1. Google (yeah, it’s a brand)
  2. Black Butte Porter 
  3. Tillamook Cheese

So, what are your brand loyalties?

Photos courtesy of respective web sites.

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I’m not a brand expert, but brand promise (“This brand is all about….”) seems to be the corporate mantra these days on how to bond with customers and retain their loyalty.

I don’t like to admit that I’m a fan-boy for certain brands. But, I’ve come to realize that there are probably three or so that I really am devoted too.

A few of them are:

  • Apple products: I’ve really drank the Apple juice, but it is what it is. I have a work provided MacBook Pro, have a G5 iMac, multiple iPods and I’ve been pushing out an iPhone purchase because it will clash with the blueberry holster. But, a Mac Mini and Apple TV are on my holiday wish list of “need to have’s”. What it comes down to is that I spend a lot – maybe as much as half of my waking life in front of a computer. Everything needs to work well, and the peripherals and devices need to integrate with it. Apple just feels right! The products work and do what they say they will do. And if I’m feeling a little blue I can visit a store and get little moments 1-to-1 time of uplifting experiences…
  • PHD

  • Harley-Davidson: They work to deliver on a fantasy of complete freedom on the road and the comradeship of a kindred spirit for the avid motorcyclist… If you want to experience the psychology of hard-core devotion and feel the sense of anxiety that comes from not being part of the inner circle — wear your Polo Shirt, Tommy Bahama shorts and Sperry Topsider deck shoes to the next HOG wanna-bes event. Point is that each touch point in the Harley brand mates with consumers and is really organized to uniquely deliver on this promise. The Harley brand ‘essence’ has largely remained unchanged for decades. Sure they have refreshed and added different ad campaigns, but the hallmark of the company quickly describes the brand. Free spirited and rebellious associations while nurturing relationships to maintain a loyal H.O.G. community. With over 660,000 members it’s the largest motorcycle-sponsored club in the world and seems to work. I do think Harley has a looming issue of reaching the younger consumers entrenched in the internet age where the word “classic” and “tradition” have less marketing leverage. Maybe that explains why they’ve tried video games?
  • Starbucks: They are not about providing me a great cup of coffee! They do, but it’s more about providing me a great coffee “experience” and rewarding everyday moments. Lifting up my spirits one cup of coffee at a time and, looking back over my cash outlay this past month…they are doing a mighty fine job of lifting my spirits!! Similar to the Harley brand, Starbucks portrays a lifestyle image. Who hasn’t thought about what it would be like to leave the corporate 10 hour day mad-dash to become a Barista?! From napkins to paper cups, in-store posters, t-shirt designs to in-store architecture…the “Bucks” Creative Group tells a story to feed my habit all the while they put skim on my macchiato.
  • Born Shoes : I don’t buy a lot of shoes (or clothes for that matter; I’m kind of a charity case), but these shoes fit what my friends call my “techno-sporty” fashion sense. I was shooting for a cross between the Marlboro Man and REI fitness so, I’ve got some work to do in this department! I’ve been buying Born shoes for a couple years, and they have consistently been my “everyday” shoes. Do the math: that means each pair is lasting a couple years. I walk a lot and that’s a deal.
  • I’d like to be absence brand loyalty. I think everyone around has similar problems. Find someone who reacts with the “I don’t have any brand loyalty!” and I’ll bet within five minutes’ of conversation, you’ll expose:

  • Google (yeah, it’s a brand)
  • Facebook or MySpace
  • Tillamook Cheese
  • So, what are your brand loyalties?

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