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 Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset

Oculus what?

Developed by a home schooled 19-year old garage hacker, Palmer Lucky, created Oculus Rift, a virtual reality 3-D headset that uses 360-degree head tracking to make it feel like you’re inside a different world.  For example, looking to the left or right will automatically pan the scene in either direction, making it feel as natural as looking around in reality. The eyewear also provides parallel images for each eye, which is the same way your eyes perceive images in the real world.  Facebook recently acquired Oculus for $2B, yes that’s B as in BILLIONs, recognizing it had many untapped applications when it bought the company.

Still don’t understand?  Here is a horse riding experience video.

We’ve all either read or heard about the Harley-Davidson Fit Shop where the local dealer will take you through a step-by-step process literally seating you on a bike and switching out components such as seat, handlebars, suspension and foot controls until they find a combination that fits you.

Always Be Closing...

Always Be Closing…

But, if you’re very early into the motorcycle “consideration” purchase phase and unsure of riding or unclear about the whole motorcycle lifestyle thing, what then?

That’s where the Oculus Rift could be leveraged.  It was made specifically for gaming when it was initially introduced, however, people are using the headset to drive tanks in the military and medically explore the human body, among other fascinating applications.

I’m sure I’ve sparked some interest or debate as to whether Harley-Davidson could really use the technology to good effect.

Why not?

H-D could surely leverage the technology to provide consumers who are unsure if they want a motorcycle, have little knowledge about them or the experience and not sure what kind to purchase.  For some enjoying luxuries that are unaffordable in the real world, this might be just the ticket to spending time in a riding (virtual) environment.

FUSAR Technologies - The Guardian

FUSAR Technologies – The Guardian

For grins, let’s call it the Harley-Davidson Virtual Reality Motorcycle Simulator (HDVRMS).  Potential buyers would sit on a motorcycle mock up, place the headset on, grab the handlebars and the entire system is then hooked up to a computer programmed with virtual reality riding software/content.  This would be very high-quality footage in the motorcycle simulator.  Think UHD/4K video.  Basically, H-D would put multiple hi-rez cameras on the front/side/back of a motorcycle and ride it through the streets of Atlanta, Boston, Los Angeles or through any national park or canyon road with twisties.  The footage would go to a digital film room for editing and then it would be incorporated into the computer system that would run the virtual-reality motorcycle simulator.

Imagine the possibilities.  Riding Highway 101 down the California coast.  Drag racing your favorite Pro Stock champion would be no problem.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to ride a motorcycle in downtown New Delhi dodging tiny rick-shaw’s full of banana trees.  No problem, select it in the computer and go.

Still not buying it?

How about the potential of integrating the technology into Harley-Davidson product development?  You can watch Ford’s virtual reality technology in action in this video.  Essentially, VR would allow Harley-Davidson to test scenarios and designs, and experience products before they are even made.

If not product development or supporting sales then there is the opportunity that an augmented reality motorcycle helmet could save your life.  Young motorcycle riders could attend motorcycle training on the H-D VR simulator so that they can hone their skills and become more proficient on the street.

FUSAR Technologies is doing just that on Kickstarter.  Called the Guardian, it’s a DOT approved helmet with an Android board, two wide-angle cameras and bits and pieces that is fully integrated and connected to the device and motorcycle that allows the motorcyclist to have a full cognitive awareness of what’s going on around them.

The one problem for Harley-Davidson?  It could become so real and addictive sitting in the comfort of the dealer or your home that you actually never get outdoors to ride!

Photos courtesy of Oculus Rift/ Sergey Galyonkin, HD and FUSAR

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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social-overload-big2The thrill is gone!

We know we can connect, but can you affect our regular human everyday lives? That’s where the new frontier is, making us feel better about our existence when we’re not tethered to the computer, tablet or phone.

We’ve got social media fatigue. People have seen the movie, and they don’t need to waste more time.

I remember reading a retail industry study a few years ago which concluded that on average only 1% of total retail businesses actually have a written marketing plan in place.  It would seem that many H-D dealers have hitched their wagon to the theme of creating a monthly flyer (print or email) or as I call it, a marketing calendar that has a “reason to buy today” theme dedicated to each month.

This re-active theme is to make their sales messages more compelling, regardless of what media they choose to get the word out.

And getting the word out they are!   The motor company and now most of the local dealers are relentless.  They think they need to be everywhere.  Email blasts, posting on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+, Instagram, Flickr, FourSquare, YouTube, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, etc.  Talk about getting distracted in so many different directions.

If you look at industry statistics, 6% of people ride motorcycles — and that’s in the best markets. If you’re marketing and casting a wide net, 94% of people you come in contact with aren’t going to be interested in what you offer. So of that 6%, what percentage are males? 90%. And what is the main demographic composition of Pinterest? 80% female. So for this particular market, investment and time in Pinterest is not going to be profitable or effective. It’s just not a fit, demographically speaking.

Another example is G+ which is Google’s answer to Facebook.  It’s only a couple years old, and has grown very quickly.   But, if you look closely you’ll discover that for some industries like photography it is great.  However, there’s very little moto-involvement and likely to be ineffective.

And then there are the ‘old skool’ methods.  Remember that t-shirt you purchased in route to Sturgis at the Montana dealer?  Yeah, they got your U.S. postal or email address and now you’ve become their new BFF with all the local promo’s, rides, service deals, photo contests and HOG prizes.  Talk about an example of casting a wide net… a thousand of miles away!

And speaking of Twitter, like every fad, once upon a time Twitter was cool. You know how it works, you hear about something from your hipster friends, you say you don’t need it but eventually you dive in, love it for a minute and then abandon it because it’s hard to be witty and viral all the time and do it in 140 characters.

My view is that Tweeting is like peeing off a cliff in the dark. No one sees it and you risk getting yourself wet.  Which is why Twitter is a sea of dropouts.  In addition, those who fan the flames of cool, (i.e. the youth), are always on the hunt for the latest and the greatest, moving on to new social networks (i.e.. ask.fm, SnapChat), only to abandon them when they fall out of favor, or when everybody else is there, and lose their cred.

I’m not saying there’s nothing there at Twitter. There is a nugget now and then. But following people, corporations or dealers is time-consuming, and ever less fulfilling. As for participating yourself, why would you?  The Internet has turned into a giant game that everybody’s trying to win.  Remember when everybody was gonna have a Webpage, then a blog?

So, here are some unsolicited thoughts for Harley-Davidson and it’s dealers. 

Clutter is our enemy.  We hate advertisements.  We want information we can use. The more drivel, the less we pay attention.  Just because you have our ear, does not mean we’re interested in everything you have to say. Either play to your core or play to everybody. If you’re doing the latter give us less information.

We live in a word of mouth culture and those social site quantifications are meaningless, because the system is being gamed.  The number of likes and followers are like virtual badges, they’re ultimately meaningless. 

Social media is no match for word of mouth. They can be one and the same, but frequently are not and consumers know the difference between what is hype and what is genuine.

Photo courtesy of m2mediamanagement.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Pinterest Usage Data

Photos as content generates very high newsfeed engagement for all types of users.

And, unless you’ve been living on the Laffing Devils Motorcycle Club fantasy island you’ve more than likely noticed the staggering number of embedded photos on Facebook pages, Twitter and on Instagram as well as other similar type sites.

So, with the marketing resources at Harley-Davidson being at a premium, shouldn’t Mark–Hans Richer, the SVP and CMO of Harley-Davidson be paying closer attention to folks who are pinning photos of motorcycles and motorcycle clothing?  The short answer is yes.  More appropriately someone at the motor company should be standing on a conference room table and ask the question of all the H-D creative’s and strategists… “How did we miss the social growth on Pinterest?

What is Pinterest, you ask?

Pinterest is a kind of visual bulletin–or inspiration–board.  In short order I created one for this blog which you can view HERE.  Users create boards with categories like “Motorcycles I Love” or “Beautiful Motorcycle Places” or “Motorcycle Products That I Like.” Users can then link images from websites or upload images from their computers and “pin” the images to the boards. Similar to Twitter, users can follow other users, and Pinterest images can be re-pinned and shared.

Why should Harley-Davidson take this blog post serious?

Pinterest Growth

Because according to the Experian Marketing Services blog, Pinterest users skew female and young. Fifty-eight percent of users are women, and 59% are between the ages of 25 and 44.  This is a critical and key demographic that Harley-Davidson often states that they are trying to win over and accelerate both clothing and motorcycle purchases.  I’m not paid as a H-D media strategist, but wouldn’t it be a good idea to be visible where potential customers hang out?  This is the biggest no-brainer in the history of no-brainers!

In the U.S., growth in Pinterest has been phenomenal with more than 10 million registered users.  The image-sharing social network grew a staggering 4,377% in the last year, according to comScore’s “State of the U.S. Internet”.  It is outpacing competitors such as Tumblr which grew 168%, LinkedIn (67%) and Twitter (58%).  Outside the U.S. the number of Pinterest users in Latin America for example grew in first four months of 2012 from 153,000 to 1.3M.

It’s time for Harley-Davidson to just Pin it!

However, before they can do that they will need to resolve the issue of domain “parkers” because the current H-D URL belongs to Becky Segovia, yet has no content (boards, pins or activity).

Disclosure:  I don’t work for or have any financial interest in Pinterest.  I do try new technology and developed one for this blog which you can view HERE.

Photo courtesy Modea.com and Experian.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Dan Lyons wrote a terrific analysis of Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in Newsweek.

Bottom line, we live in a mobile world.  Zuckerberg recognized that we’re moving to an access world and rather than try to convince everyone to go back to the past, to keep surfing on PCs, he bought Instagram for a billion dollars, which has a great app (even though no profits) because he didn’t want to be left out of the future.

We live in an attention economy.  Where the most important element is access.  If you’re not available to everybody at a very low price, if not free, your destined for the scrapheap.  And in an era where we’re on information overload, only the incredible takes hold and survives.

Speaking of incredible…

Summertime will be here before you know it and many of us have started planning our annual motorcycle road trip/vacations.  But, before you head out I suggest you download National Parks.  Developed by National Geographic it’s a new travel app highlighted by lush photographs from the vast National Geographic archives.

The application content spans from Maine’s Acadia to Utah’s Zion, National Parks and features information on thousands of points of interest, all tagged with GPS coordinates and complemented by recommendations from National Geographic editors.  It includes global and interactive maps enable filtering by activity and seasonality, and travelers can share experiences via Facebook, Twitter and email while collecting custom-designed stamps for each park they visit.

Best of all its FREE and available for iOS.

We all know that National Geographic projects are separated from rival efforts by the incredible photography and this app doesn’t disappoint.  Information on each park is accompanied by a photo gallery including both contemporary and vintage shots, and the images are stunning, especially on the iPad.

And if you’re like me,  you’ll want to snap some photos of your own and, National Parks also offers tips and tricks from National Geographic staff photographers to help make that motorcycle adventure a picture-perfect experience.

Facebook Mobile illustration courtesy of Kelsey Dake.  Photos courtesy of National Geographic.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Death Valley

I can see it now…

A big room in the basement of a church.  Lots and lots of folding chairs.  Even more Styrofoam cups, the smell of badly burnt coffee in the air.  A platter of cookies that are hard as a bricks.  No one is making eye contact.  A lot of shifting feet and uncomfortable twitching of fingers that have nothing to do with themselves.  A big sign at the front of the room announcing to silence all mobile phones.

Then a person stands up:  “Hi.  My name is [fill in the blank], and I’m addicted to Facebook.”

Yeah, until last Saturday it’s been 187 days since the temperature hit 70 degrees with sunshine in Oregon!  As a result there’s been a lot of folks tethered to the “book” indoors and it’s time to ride.

This week is the Laughlin River Run (30th Anniversary) and nothing’s cooler than riding in some warm fresh desert air.

Clearly I’m due for some good weather riding and luckily I’ll get a chance to take advantage of nature’s air conditioning in Laughlin Nevada later in the week.  Due to work constraints I won’t be riding down and reporting on the trip like last year, instead I’ve had the bike shipped on a transport truck to Las Vegas and will be riding in and around the local area. We’ve got some L.A. buddies who have a place on the Colorado River outside Needles and can throw a sleeping bag unless we opt for plusher arrangements.

Every year it seems like the River Run attendance is getting smaller, but we’ll see if the 30th Anniversary brings an up-tick in people or if gas prices have riders staying closer to home.  They have Ted Nugent as a headliner which is a darn good start to any motorcycle event!

Hope to see you at the event.

Photo taken in Death Valley.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Maybe it’s the weather.  It can be positively gloomy in November in the Northwest.  Overcast, cold, shorter days mixed with long periods of wet.  Unlike So.Cal where this time of year the Santa Ana winds seem to blow warm and people remain in t-shirts and riding on dry pavement.

Even the light is different, as the air takes on that winter snap.

The contradiction got me to thinking about motorcycle bloggers and social media.  Yeah, I’ve been fairly skinny on the number of posts lately as the work gig is never ending, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about how to improve.

I’m talking about ReTweets. Likes. +1s.  If the terms are unfamiliar then stop reading.

Bloggers talk about these things as the currency of meaningful social engagement.  Seriously?  Many insist that the holy grail of social marketing is to create meaningful relationships with readers.  So, why is it we reduce these relationships to the most meaningless metrics?

I have an opinion that when someone clicks a “Like” button it’s similar to a “Hand-Wave” as two motorcyclists pass on the road.  These are folks who give a nod and say, “Sure, communicate with me.” But, from that interaction we never conclude they are advocates or do we assume they have blog affinity. Essentially they were a drive-by, somewhat interested party.   Using a dating metaphor,  a Like or a ReTweet is simply someone saying, “What’s your sign?”  It’s not a relationship.  Bloggers seem to forget that the real relationship and engagement happens after the “Like.” It’s the dance of finding out stuff about each other. It’s the “conversations” which is akin to an unforgettable riding journey together.  It’s knowing the other party cares about who you are and what you feel. There’s a feeling of trust. The “Like” is just a glimpse into the experience and who knows if they will linger.

If your blog strategy is like a teenager who measures popularity by the number of Facebook friends or to “get Likes,” without thinking about your audience or what to do with those Likes after you get them, I would suggest you are what researchers – using that dating metaphor – call “desperate.”   You’re essentially building up a dairy of folks who you can ping later with some form of advertising which most often is hawking someone else’s wares. And just like with dating, you’re going to get rejected more often than not. Most people have more self-respect than that. They’re looking for true “blog love.” While most motorcycle brands (corporations) just want to……well, you get the picture.

Business 101 states that you double down in a recession, that’s when you invest.  That’s the opportunity to pull ahead of your competition.  How many motorcycle bloggers doubled down over the last 4 years?  For that matter how many trade publications and/or motorcycle magazines remain in business or innovated their way out of the downturn?  A few did, but mostly what we’ve heard about are cut backs or the occasional web page that got a fresh coat of paint at most.

The number one challenge remains and that is getting people to listen to you.  And the way you stick is by being different.  It takes longer to get traction, but you last longer.  We know that the public is restless.  People are open to change and they want some new ideas.  If you’re giving them the same ‘ol, same then you’re no different from the government.  Something we tolerate, but can’t really believe in.

The bottom line is if you’re working a social media program you need to think about the entire process, not just the “Likes.” Likes are meaningless without the hard work of relationship building, and until bloggers truly understand this and embrace it, we’ll be viewed like that dating metaphor — an indiscriminate speed dater who is not very clever.

Photo courtesy of Onlyfunnyjokes.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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H-D Liberation Video

Last night, Harley-Davidson launched the next version of their No Cages campaign during the season premiere of Sons of Anarchy (SOA) on FX.

The advertising spot, called “Liberation“, adds to the limited portfolio of creative developed as part of the motor companies crowd sourcing strategy, introduced last year.

Sons of Anarchy Cast

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson’s Chief Marketing Officer stated: “This latest effort builds upon our momentum as the on-road motorcycles market share leader in the U.S., as well as our leadership in sales to young adults, women, Hispanics and African-Americans and the growth we’ve made in international markets.”  He went on to say… “this process has helped to liberate the creativity of our most passionate of fans.”

Like previous No Cages creative, crowd-sourcing partner Victors & Spoils shared the Harley-Davidson creative brief broadly online, and the best idea was further developed and the creator rewarded. In the Liberation case, the idea came from 30-year-old film maker and visual content creator Benjamin Swan of Sioux Falls, SD, who believes that collaboration breeds creation.

And speaking of Sons of Anarchy and last night’s premier for the 4th season. Below are eight video clips from the new season that you might want to check out whether you tuned-in last night or not.

Season Preview
SOA is back for an all new season HERE.

Sneak Peek
Watch an exclusive scene from the all new season of Sons of Anarchy HERE.

Bike Mechanic
Check out the bikes from Sons of Anarchy HERE.

Production Design
Go behind the scenes of SOA and get an inside look into the show’s set and production design HERE.

Make Up
The bruises of SOA tell a story. Go behind the scenes and see how the show creates the gruesome makeup effects HERE.

Wardrobe
Go behind the scenes of the biker style of SOA HERE.

Charlie’s Prison Haircut
Go behind the scenes and find out why “Jax” cut his hair for season 4 HERE.

Hiatus
Take an inside look into what the cast does in between seasons HERE.

Photos courtesy of H-D Facebook and FX/SOA.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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