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Posts Tagged ‘Minorities’

2012 Interbrand Top 100 — Harley-Davidson #96

Maybe it was the Willie G. retirement?   Or it could have been a result of Mark Hans Richer (H-D CMO) flexing marketing muscles on the urban scene.

It might be that after nearly three years of downsizing, plant closures and restructuring its business, Harley-Davidson is firing on both cylinders and there is a lot less heat buildup due to the “synthetic lube” of Keith Wandell’s (H-D CEO) new break-in procedure?  Whatever the case, it has emerged with an improvement in brand value.

This according to Interbrand who recently released the 2012 Best Global Brands.  In 2010, the H-D brand was 100 on the top 100 list.  In 2011 it improved to 98th and for this year it again improved its ranking to 96th.

How does Interbrand choose which brands it considers best?

The research firm uses three factors: 1) the financial performance of the branded product or service; 2) the role the brand plays in influencing consumers; and 3) the strength of the brand in asking a premium price for its products or bringing in earnings for the company.

“Stereo Typical” Harley Ad

The restructure strategies seems to be paying off with signs of solid performance and consistent growth. Sure there are significant “head winds”…  meaning challenging economic times and the motor company knows that it cannot solely rely on baby boomers, and needs to appeal to women, minorities, Gen Y, and Millennials.

HERE is an example of that new outreach (#stereotypicalharley).  Or the remix version HERE.

The management at Harley-Davidson want customers to “feel a certain way” when using their products, visiting a dealer, or surfing on the H-D Web site.  They know that a brand connects a business with the hearts and minds of consumers.

Photo courtesy of Interbrands and H-D.

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The Changing Faces Of Harley-Davidson Owners

Don’t you just like that word?!

You’re either out of the inner circle or working hard to remain firmly in the trusted seat.

Maybe you’re that guy who is tired of missing out on his friends’ weekend motorcycle trip because he doesn’t ride. Or maybe she’s the woman who has been a passenger for years and wants to ride her own ride. Maybe you’re that middle-aged guy who sees a kid on a dirt bike and remembers the happy riding days of his youth, and suddenly can’t recall why he ever stopped riding. Or the young woman who spots a sleek new “72” in the local Mall and suddenly decides, with absolute certainty and no warning, that she simply must have it and learn to ride it.

There are many different ways or reasons to get into motorcycling, but the common riding experience is inclusive for everyone.

And speaking of inclusion, last month I read how more and more businesses are looking to make sure they get their fair share of the black dollar and how H-D is no exception in making sure that this community is appreciated for helping strengthen their bottom line.  In fact,  there were reports of African-American reporters who were completely immersed (read wined and dined in Milwaukee on H-D’s dime) into the biker culture with the motor company for three days and pitched on the company attributes in hopes of them writing about the experience and then even more African-Americans coming over to participate in the H-D lifestyle.

If nothing else, Harley-Davidson, is showing how serious it is about broadening its reach.

I’ve often blogged, that if the motorcycle industry is to be reborn — and even the quickest scan of sales statistics is enough to know a rebirth is necessary — it will come from expansion into long-ignored niches, such as youth, women and minorities. We Boomers are quickly approaching our doddering years and will soon be trading up to trikes if we’re lucky or for walking sticks if not.

These days if you meander into any Harley dealer you’ll likely find: a pink-haired twenty-something white woman who could be a student to a bandana-ed Hispanic man that is a police officer and all nondescript types in between who ride. Oh sure there is the occasional tatted up true blue stereotype white male rock star trying to look gritty and the ever present old time long haired grey bearded biker.  But, Harley’s message is simple: They are no longer a niche brand. They are no longer focused on Boomers who hijacked the brand during the last decade. They are for everyone.

The claim is that no stereotypical Harley-Davidson rider exists anymore.  I say welcome to the family and a trusted seat in the inner circle!

Photo courtesy of Flickr

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AACMWith an estimated 310 million people residing in the U.S., marketing to each person is the most arduous processes any company can undertake.  As a result, they slice and dice the population into sub-categories with facts, figures, and statistics which include demographics on ethnicity, age, gender, household characteristics, postal code data, purchasing influences along with many other attributes to develop a target market strategy.

Speaking of target markets… African Americans have a lot of influence on today’s culture and taste — and I’m talking beyond the role of hip-hop music and the issues of social responsibility vs. freedom of expression surrounding misogynistic words.  Harley-Davidson has recognized this influence and applied various perspectives on how the company will market to the African-American consumer.   Last April, H-D assigned John Comissiong to oversee the development of strategic marketing opportunities for the African American customer segment as the director of Market Outreach.

Mr. Comissiong is highly qualified and very well educated, holding multiple degrees including a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Cornell University, a Master of Science in engineering from Stony Brook University and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University.  In addition he is a licensed motorcycle rider and can be often seen on his Night Rod Special!!  In essence his job is to determine how H-D can obtain a disproportionate share of the $744 Billion in income which the 38.3 Million African-American consumers spend annually.  More specific, is the approximately $32B spent each year on Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles — how can H-D get more of those $$?!  It’s always about money.

Maurice Slaughter

Maurice Slaughter

This isn’t new behavior from corporate America.  For example, recently NBC News launched TheGrio.com, an African American ‘video-centric’ Web site devoted to stories and perspectives that appeal to the African American community.  Even the White House/Obama’s are expanding African American family definitions beyond Bill Cosby’s Huxtables with real-world examples and influence. 

So, what’s in it for H-D?  Today African American’s account for only 1.5% of new motorcycle sales. Even worse is that 7.9% of H-D’s total U.S. sales are to African Americans.  There are more less flattering stats.  Seven out of approximately 700 dealerships are owned by African American’s like Maurice Slaughter.  Few people of color sit on the company’s board or are members of the senior management and less than 10% of the employee base is African American.  H-D purchases approx $190M worth of material from minority-owned suppliers.   Representation of African American motorcycle clubs is fairly robust with: Buffalo Soldiers, Defiant Ones, Rare Breed, Magic Wheels, Soul Brothers and East Bay Dragons to name a few.

H-D has focused on the African American consumer market (AACM) with co-sponsorships at the NAACP Image Awards, the Atlantic or Urban Beach Bike Festival (referred to as Black Bike Week) and celebrating heritage “Bikers on the Boulevard” in Daytona.  They work with celeb’s and community leaders for opportunities to interact or obtain endorsements of H-D products in the African American community which in marketing terms is designed to create the perception that H-D understands African American needs and strengthens its credibility with that market segment.

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of H-D’s minority oriented efforts as sales and marketing issues are complex.  They do require creative actions and placing John Comissiong to maximize exposure and convey that H-D is relevant in the African American lifestyle and culture seems sincere and less of a stunt or a photo op.  Whether trend-setting celebs or average Joes, stimulating a dialogue between company representatives and motorcycle enthusiasts of ALL genre’s means H-D gets product feedback and company’s should never turn down a social opportunity with customers!

Photo courtesy Virginian-Pilot and Maurice Slaughter.

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