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Posts Tagged ‘Brand’

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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screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-11-15-09-amPolaris, the MN-based maker of motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles announced today that it’s winding down the Victory brand effective immediately to concentrate on its better-performing Indian Motorcycles business.

Polaris said it will assist dealerships in liquidating inventory and will supply parts for another 10 years and honor warranties in place.  Victory motorcycles are primarily manufactured in Spirit Lake, Iowa.

The first Victory motorcycles rolled out in 1998, yet never took much market share from Harley-Davidson Inc., in the cruiser-bike category. Indian Motorcycles, which Polaris relaunched after a 2011 acquisition, has performed better, however Harley’s market share remains at 48 percent to Indian’s 3 percent.

Polaris Industries Chairman and CEO Scott Wine stated, “This decision will improve the profitability of Polaris and our global motorcycle business, and will materially improve our competitive stance in the industry. Our focus is on profitable growth, and in an environment of finite resources, this move allows us to optimize and align our resources behind both our premium, high performing Indian Motorcycle brand and our innovative Slingshot brand, enhancing our focus on accelerating the success of those brands. Ultimately this decision will propel the industry-leading product innovation that is core to our strategy while fostering long-term growth and increased shareholder value.”

Photo courtesy of Victory/Polaris.

All Rights Reserved (C) Northwest Harley Blog

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Maisto “Sons of Anarchy” 1:18 Scale Bikes

Maisto “Sons of Anarchy” 1:18 Scale Bikes

There is now the Sons Of Anarchy collection of die-cast motorcycles.

Back in December, Maisto announced they worked closely with 20th Century Fox and Harley-Davidson to bring fans of the show 1:18 scale die-cast versions of the SOA motorcycles in association with the TV show characters: Jax, Clay, Opie and JT – the SOA Motorcycle Collection.

Not only can you now dress and ride like SOA outlaws, thanks to a flurry of licensing deals that includes everything from actual motorcycles at Bartel’s H-D to hats, games, stationary, jewelry, calendars, stickers, wall graphics and more.   Now while sitting in your work cube thinking about the winter cold you can have your very own die-cast outlaw motorcycle to stare at and think about how you can’t wait to ride in warmer weather!

The Maisto brand name was registered in 1990 by May Cheong, a vertically integrated manufacturer based in Hong Kong. The company has been manufacturing die cast replicas for over 40 years.  They have over 11,000 employees worldwide, and manufacturing facilities covering more than 2 Million square feet.

Sons Of Anarchy merchandise sales have grown 70% year-to-year since 2010.  This is not a U.S. only concept as the TV show is a hit in U.K., Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the Netherlands.  And with the TV show committed through a seventh season merchandise sales will only increase.

Previous SOA/H-D license deals blog post HERE.

Photo courtesy of Maisto, 20th Century Fox and Harley-Davidson.

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Limited edition Son’s of Anarchy motorcycles

I called this back in 2009 with a post called Bottling Ideas.  UPDATE: Actually now that I’ve re-scanned the blog it was even earlier with a post in 2008 called Harley SAMCRO Limited Edition Motorcycle HERE.

I’m talking about the FX television series “Son’s of Anarchy (SOA)“, and a new deal with Harley-Davidson for custom motorcycles made by 20th Century Fox Consumer Products as part of a flurry of licensing deals for SOA that includes clothing, leather jackets, hats, t-shirts, games, calendars, stationary and much more.

Thanks to Bartels’ Harley-Davidson the bike maker will produce 100 limited edition Son’s of Anarchy motorcycles that will retail for about $25,000 each at Harley dealers this fall.   Now TV viewers can further tap into the motorcycle club fantasy… who doesn’t want to pretend to be a ‘clubber’ and ride a faux outlaw biker motorcycle, right?

I can’t think of another TV show that cuts across multiple gender identities, social boundaries, is a taboo breaker, a mainstream manufactured product for the rebellious and the dispossessed.  If ever there was a Harley-Davidson brand ambassador it would be Kurt Sutter’s (@sutterink), Son’s of Anarchy!

SOA is about to enter its fifth season, and is now the most-watched show in its history among total viewers 18-49. The most recent season the show averaged 5.5 million viewers per episode. It was also the number three DVD release among TV shows in 2011.  And after growing online merchandise sales for FX’s top-rated show about 70 percent year-to-year since 2010, Fox is shifting to brick and mortar retailers like Spencer Gifts, Transworld/FYE and Hastings.

I wouldn’t be honest if I failed to mention that this feels like a disaster for any person who rides to a rally thinking they’ll have instant club admiration.  However, it could be shrewd marketing of misbehavior and we’ll see a formal offering from the motor company every year!  Any of the “noise” generated in the press and blogosphere helps in terms of show profile, helps H-D reinforce how the middle finger of rebellion built the brand.  And isn’t that all that matters in the end?!

I don’t have a Kurt Sutter man-crush, but he does deserve a big shout-out for remaining true to the setting in the TV show without becoming stereotypical.  We know it’s hard work compared to the Laffing Devils crap the Discovery Channel is trying to pass off as good TV.

Here are some previous SOA blog posts made over the years: OMG New Media Darlings; Men of MayhemBikes, Bullets & Brawls; Mail Room of LifeBottling Ideas; Be Good & You’re Lonely; Sutter Shout Out; Season 3 IdeasWorking The SOA Trail

Photo courtesy of SOA and RatRodStudios.com.

All Right Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Fritz Clapp Letter to H-D

It takes muscle to avoid.  Not strained, forced muscle; but strength that’s supple, agile, free-flowing: that’s the tone of a healthy brand.

Yet, Harley-Davidson is using all its muscle and threatening people… all disguised as protecting brand equity.  It can only lead to more legal costs and is often the case, bad press.

So what’s the background?  It seems that H-D is fresh off a boot butt kicking contest with the Marlon Brando estate — Brando Enterprises LP — along with Wolverine Worldwide Inc., and agreed to settle a suit over the unlicensed use of the Brando name on a Harley-branded boot that resembled the ones Brando wore when he played Johnny Strabler in the 1953 movie “The Wild One.”  That whole gig had to have cost the company some pocket change just to run it through the court system process only to get to the point of where all parties mutually decided to “agree” that there wasn’t any infringement.

It’s no secret, the motor company has an extensive licensing business, and last year it generated $43.2M selling the rights to use its name on products ranging from jewelry to cake decorations.

Not satisfied with their “boot win” the trademark bloodhounds at H-D decided that a 6-week old forum web site called HarleySpace.com was threatening one of the world’s most recognized brands and told the owner to “cease and desist” using the name because it’s a trademark infringement.  Huh?  Doesn’t this show just how far they’ll go in pursuing the exclusivity of a famous trademark?

In my view this has the markings of a Susan G. Komen for the cure public relations fiasco written all over it.

Mr. Fritz Clapp

The owner of the site, James Coulbourne did what most of us would do and hired an attorney.  Not just any lawyer, but Fritz Clapp, who is most often known for representing the Hells Angels Motorcycle Club (HAMC) in intellectual property cases and goes by the name “lawyer from Hell” on his website.  Having sued the Walt Disney Co., Marvel Comics, and the late fashion designer Alexander McQueen to protect the HAMC name, Mr. Clapp knows a little bit about trademark law/infringement and enthusiastically took on the case at no charge!

If you do a Google search you’ll find that there are many, many other motorcycle blogs and social media sites with the name Harley in them.  They are clearly noncommercial and are easily and immediately distinguishable from the commercial merchandise offered and sold bearing the Harley brand.  So what’s their beef?  It seems that Mr. Coulbourne sent emails to Harley-Davidson dealerships promoting his 6-week-old website and that sent the trademark boys over the abyss. 

As educated consumers we know that great brands have a core clarity to them.  Enthusiasm spreads the message.  It also unburdens the company from having to force-feed passion for the brand and they should no longer be focused on convincing. Instead, their goal should be revealing. Others testify to H-D attributes and for this to happen, they need to give up some control because the core H-D brand identity is firmly in hand.

UPDATE: April 25, 2012 – Last week (April 20th), Mr. Coulbourne changed the name of his biker social-networking site from HarleySpace.com to IronRides.com. 

Photo courtesy of Fritz Clapp, IP Magazine and James Coulbourne.

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Five of a Kind At Grand Canyon

This is a shout out to an extraordinary posse.

Hardly the stereotypical, tatted-up, badass bikers portrayed in pop culture or do we ride the machines of American Chopper — slick and polished.

From the outside looking in you can’t understand it, but there are many benefits to riding a motorcycle with a group.  Aside from the obvious “wind in the face” to take your mind off daily troubles to the cool events that you visit from glitz to back-water destinations.   From the moment you mount the motorcycle the most important aspect from my vantage is the posse camaraderie.

Whether I’m with my family at home or the “family on the road,” the center piece of the posse is the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Oh sure some lost their way for a time and rode other kinds of bikes, but these days the posse is like a mini-community based on a shared passion and a common interest around the Harley brand.  And while we defend the motor company we haven’t drank the Kool-aid!  We’re a demanding and very vocal enthusiast bunch when it comes to items the company needs to do to please it’s customers.

A Half-Dozen at HCMR

Has the posse always agreed on everything?  No.  We’ve had the typical debates about the merits of camping vs. checking in, riding with a large group or going solo, silence vs. Boom! Audio, up early vs. sleeping in, freeway speed or riding slow back-water roads and the more contentious item of planning way ahead or plan as you go.  We’ve tried them all and each has offered up some unique and fun adventures.  And no matter what the trip or the destination, all a good motorcycle ride needs is camaraderie and fun roads, right?

And speaking of roads, one common thread is that we all have plenty of time to ride.  That is to say, we make time to ride.  As much as we have in common, all of these accomplished riders is also entirely unique.  Each has his own set of experiences, his own philosophy of life and riding, and his own collection of interesting stories about life on the road.  I especially look forward to riding in the dry hot desert while others think a misty Highway 101 ride down the coast is “just perfect.”

I’ve been riding with this group for many years and everyone adjusts.  In fact, some of the members have history back to the coastal range and the dirt bike days at Lee’s Camp before a Harley-Davidson motorcycle stirred up any emotions.

The remainder of the posse at the CCA Ride

I’ll often get ask how we do it.  How do we handle riding all those miles.  I’ll typically just say that if you string a few 300 mile days together, one day at a time, then you’ve got a Posse Ride!

We’ve enjoyed following the “road less traveled” as so many other riders do.  It made us appreciate how divvied up this western part of the U.S. is, with dozens of valleys separated by mountain ranges, woven together by asphalt strips. These roads are really three-dimensional curves, and a rider will certainly get longer life out of the Dunlops, wearing out the sides as much as the middle.

As the years fade away — I’m reminded of winding our way along the back roads of the countryside – and it made me appreciate how rich the memories are of the years riding with an incredible group of friends.

Thank you all for the memories!

Photos taken by author

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H-D announced Q2’11 financial results this morning.

In a word – Booyah!

By every financial measure Harley-Davidson generated improvements in the second quarter of 2011, with strong earnings growth, increased shipments and growth in its dealers’ new motorcycle sales both in the U.S. and globally.  Here are some of the stats that CEO Keith Wandell and CFO John Olin reviewed from Anaheim, CA. where the annual dealer meeting and new product launch was in progress:

  • Revenue in Q2’11 was $1.51B (up 15%) with income up 36.8% to $190.6M
  • Motorcycle shipments up 7,769 in Q2’11 vs. Q2’10; Motorcycle segment revenue up $204.6M (18%) vs. Q2’10
  • Touring motorcycle shipments made up 38.3% in Q2’11; up 3.6%
  • International shipments were 36.2% in Q2’11 vs. Q2’10 at 42.5%
  • Shipment forecast for 2011 rose by about 8% and now H-D expects to ship between 228,000 and 235,000 motorcycles worldwide
  • Market segment share (651+cc) is 53.8%; up 0.2% from 2010
  • U.S. dealer network sales of uses motorcycles up 11% through May; Used bikes sales continue to firm up (meaning they offer the dealer a method to help offset the “sticker shock” of new bikes)

Did anything go less positive?  Well that depends on your viewpoint.  From a shareholder’s perspective it’s “Houston, we’re ready to throttle up”!   Stock price set a new 52-week high at $46.88.

As a rider/layman the touring motorcycle shipment increases were offset by the decreases in Custom and Sportster declines.  There were no age demographics quoted in the analyst call, but we’ve been told that typically “youngsters” don’t buy the higher priced baggers.  In addition, the new 2012 touring models that were announced earlier in the month have… shall we say… “lean” engineering innovation compared to previous years.  In a number of cases there we’re only paint palette changes and price increases made up the so-called “new” touring models.  There was about a 1% price increase in the U.S. market.  The lack of innovation is especially troubling (to me) given that product development spending was up $7M in the first half of 2011 which was described as a continuation of their strategy and focus on leaner engineering.  Sure metals and fuel costs are up, but the lack of stronger product changes is not always a recipe for long term success.

Nothing was noted on the call about the recent expansion in India.  Not sure why given that SG&A expenses were up about $13M on the strategy to grow 100 – 150 international dealers by 2014.  Latin America saw a decrease in retail sales which was largely due to all Brazil dealers being terminated.  There was a restart in that country and the new dealers (6) were coming up to speed.

Congrats to H-D on a great quarter!

UPDATE: Full transcript of the analyst call is HERE courtesy of SeekingAlpha.

Photo courtesy of H-D.  Full Disclosure: I don’t own H-D stock

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