Harley Davidson’s Strategy in the New Normal and What We Can Take Away From it
“I can’t hear you over the rumble of my freedom.” — Harley Davidson of Atlanta
I’m a boomer… and I’ve always loved Harley Davidson — especially due to the consistency of their brand approach. To this day — anytime I teach my branding class I either wear my Marvel gear (hey, you know I love comic books) or I put on my Harley gear to showcase brands that I truly believe exemplify “the best of the best” integrated brand “look and feel.” Yeah, I know I’m outdated and all…but, it’s the best way I know to showcase the branding genius of Marvel & Harley.
Let me tell you a few other facts about Harley…
Prior to first quarter 2021 — Harley had a 30% increase in sales after 12 consecutive quarters of financial losses. Say what? Yup, the ole boomer gas guzzling brand seems to be back… Was it sheer dumb luck or COVID-related? Turns out Harley was ideally positioned to capture untapped market demand due to the self-imposed restrictions on travel and consumer fears about public transit. Yep, that’s right… an honest to goodness boon due to COVID.
Consistent with other outdoor pursuits brands, Harley-Davidson benefitted from “lockdown” fever. Getting out and about in a socially distanced manner became big business. I mean what a better way to escape the stresses of a global pandemic than hitting the open road and enjoying the great American dream? But Harley was not the only company that saw this increase — all industry players (Honda, Polaris, & Triumph Motor) experienced up to an 85% increase in sales. Of course, there’s more…for the first time in forever — motorcycles are now being hailed as the ideal transportation for recovery & post-recovery mode as well.
But with increased demand and resulting year-over-year growth rate of 7% for total sales of $468b by 2028 there comes decreased supply…so, not surprisingly, today there is a 6–12 month lag time from receipt of any new motorcycle across the board.
Ah the HOG life…
Besides being incredibly fortunate — for the last 3 years Harley has actively begun a rebrand effort specifically for the younger generations. Prior to this time — Harley focused almost exclusively on its traditional target market (55+ year old white males). In this day and age of BLM and focus on inclusion it’s a good thing this lumbering giant listened and understood the demand and trends for sustainability, affordability and younger adult markets with the introduction of Iron-E (Electric Balance Bike for kids 3–5, 5–7) HD Pedelecs Series 1 (E-bikes for kids of all ages) and LiveWire (e-motorcycle for the <40 crowd). Plus, to create/maintain brand enthusiasts Harley will continue its focus on event activation, mobile apps and social media campaigns for the younger cohorts as well.
But, the HOG life isn’t for me…
Now you may be thinking… “But I’m totally in a different industry and I’m a small business, I can’t serve up a marketing and branding strategy, the way Harley Davidson does.” No, I suppose not. But you can take a page from its business strategy playbook. Realize that it truly is about the customer, not about you, and begin to do more, in whatever form, that engages your consumer… something relevant, authentic, and captures their interest.
It has never been clearer that the old ways don’t work anymore. Opportunities abound and so are challenges. For help with navigating your business amidst the new normal, email us or visit our website. And for more marketing tips, check out my other blogs on Medium.