Harley-Davidson – The Original Social Marketing Brand

September 7, 2013 — Leave a comment

Harley-Davidson is a classic American icon. This past weekend Harley-Davidson celebrated its 110th anniversary with event in Milwaukee.  Nearly 7,000 Harley-Davidson customers, dealers and employees from around the world rolled through downtown Milwaukee to celebrate the anniversary. Harley-Davidson has a good job staying true to its roots and to its consumer base. Harley Davidson has built a strong emotional connection with consumers especially baby boomers. This connection is based on freedom and personal expression. The brand’s purpose is “we fulfill dreams of personal freedom”.

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Harley-Davidson has a rich history. Harley-Davidson was founded in 1903 out of a small shed in Milwaukee by William Harley and Arthur Davidson. The first production Harley-Davidson motorcycle contained an engine that was designed to fit into a bicycle. Harley Davidson incorporated in 1907. The Bar and Shield logo was trademarked a few years later. The company grew quickly over the next decade. In 1918, almost half of all Harley-Davidson motorcycles produced are sold for use by the U.S. Military in World War 1. In 1914, the brand formally entered motorcycle racing which it continues today. In the 1990’s, the brand experienced rapid growth as its focused its efforts on attracting aging baby boomers. In many ways, the Harley-Davidson Brand has been defined by the emergence and aging of baby boomers.

Harley-Davidson was a social brand long before there was a name for it. In 1983, the brand created the Harley Owners Group. There are an estimated 1 million members around the world. This group keeps active through clubs, live events and gatherings. The Harley Community is a unique world of people who like to ride motorcycles and have a good time. Harley-Davidson is the original social marketing brand.

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Harley-Davidson’s challenge going forward is to attract a younger more diverse customer base as baby boomers age out of the motorcycle market. The brand has long relied on a white middle-aged consumer base. The brand has implemented product and marketing efforts to reach women and a more diverse audience.

Harley-Davidson has been a leader in using non-traditional approaches to reach consumers. Harley-Davidson spends about 15% of its marketing budget on traditional media. Most of their marketing investment is spent trying to create unique experience for customers. The company believes that the best marketing are customer experiences spread by word of mouth. The 110th Anniversary celebration attracted tens of thousands of people to Milwaukee over Labor Day Weekend and had a positive impact on the local economy.

Harley-Davidson’s challenge going forward is to attract a younger customer base as baby boomers age out of the motorcycle market. The brand has long relied on a white middle-aged consumer base. The brand has implemented product and marketing efforts to reach women and a more diverse audience.

I have alway been impressed with how Harley-Davidson used social, content and experiential marketing to build their brand.

Have you ever owned a Harley-Davidson Motorcycle?

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