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Posts Tagged ‘Vintage Ads’

Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

The 1970 Harley-Davidson Out-Performers

In the last few years Harley-Davidson has been known to confront stereotypes in their advertising.

Think “E Pluribus Unum” campaign which means “Out of many, one”, and it is promoting the uniqueness of the Harley-Davidson riders.  Or how about the “No Cages” campaign which puts “real” Harley riders in the spotlight, to reinforce the image of what you think about motorcycle riders.

If nothing else the motor company should get credit, it does have a highly developed capacity to adapt their business to change.  In the mid-70’s, A.M.F. went too far when it replaced the Harley name with its own.  Apparently unaware of the magnitude of that marketing decision.

What kept Harley going in those dark days, and what is driving it now, is the fact that the motorcycle it makes is not just a product, but rather the centerpiece of a lifestyle, “Hook”.

So on #TBT (Throwback Thursday) here is a 1970 advert about how Harley-Davidson was Out-performing!

Photo courtesy of H-D and Adbranch.com

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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Harley-Davidson has shown superb marketing prowess in the motorcycling industry with some absolutely brilliant campaigns, but could someone tell me what the exec’s were thinking of with this one on the right?

I thought about calling them to say, “Hey Harley, Scientology telephoned and wanted to let you know the spaceship is on the way…long live Zenu!” after reading it.

Sure the Motor Company is a textbook business school case study for “lifestyle” marketing, but this advertisement at minimum shines a spotlight on age disparity, trophy-wife dysfunction (TWD) and connotes enticement to underage marriage (depending on the state).  It’s a non-rational marketing decision to be sure.  It harkens back to the AMF marketing days where motorcycle rebels cared more for role models than reliability and the bad memories of the “Harley-Davidson Cigarettes” campaign in 1992-1993.  A miserable flop to be sure with several lawsuits leaving a bad taste (pun intended) in consumers mouth.

So, if I have this correct…we have a slightly weathered and bearded 50-something ‘boomer’… proclaiming that as a “quiet gray gentlemen” he would never let his under-18 aged wife ride his motorcycle until she turns of legal age.  In this era of hyper-pedophile-mania there is nothing more classy than old men married to under-18 girls. I find the ad downright creepy to suggest that under-18 girls are looking to ‘hook-up’ with a 50-something boomer. This marketing doesn’t make sense even for boomers let alone as a way to reach-out to the youthful motorcycle riding demographic.  The only thing I could imagine being worse is using it in a branding blitz during Child Abuse Prevention month or to post it on a billboard advertisement in Houston while the polygamy trials run through the court system!  To be fair, this ad/photo has been circling online since ’08 and I’m not exactly sure where it ran in print.  Let me know if you’ve seen it.

Last quarter when Harley-Davidson CEO Keith Wandell stated the company was investing in the brand I first thought this was some kind of ‘code word’ for more layoffs, but little did we know it meant CMO, Mark-Hans Richer was deep in the H-D branding lab, with his sleeves rolled up, hitting the marketing white board to improve the company image.

H-D likely spent hundreds of man hours building out the creative concepts for this advertisement.  What’s next?  I’ll save them some time and $$… I’m visualizing a multi-city billboard campaign with a “cougar” straddling a Dark Custom… a Glee club drop-out on the back holding on with the tag line… “I just added my first aftermarket accessory.  I think his name is Billy.”

Time for a new marketing road Harley.

Photo courtesy of H-D and Flickr.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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