Rev. Nov. 18, 2009
HARLEY-DAVIDSON: BUILDING A BRAND THROUGH CONSUMER ENGAGEMENT
The company was one of the most recognizable in the world. Its brand was everywhere: motorcycles, T-shirts, even tattoos on the arms of its admiring customers. Even when auto companies struggled, Harley-Davidson reported great results in 2002: A net income of $0.5 billion, up 33% from the previous year A $57 million media budget (versus $2 million in 1995) A brand valued at $7 billion
Who bought a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? In 2002, the average Harley owner was a 45-year-old man with an annual income of more than $80,000. But it was difficult to characterize the “average” owner given that owners differed dramatically from one another in many ways. In fact, often, the only thing that Harley rally attendees had in common was loyalty to HarleyDavidson, making the marketing communication task a challenging one for executives. As the brand’s popularity increased, “typical” Harley owners were coming from more and more diverse backgrounds, so it was increasingly difficult to maintain a single brand identity. By nurturing and directing consumer dialogue, Harley-Davidson was able to strengthen the bond between users of its brand to try to offset the fundamental differences present within its user group. Instead of focusing on users’ differences, the company attempted to utilize the one thing they had in common (i.e., a love for motorcycles and Harley-Davidson) to build and manage the consumer dialogue surrounding the brand. It seemed to be working: 46% of Harleys were purchased by people who had previously owned a Harley. Customers were often willing to wait for up to a year for a new bike order. 90% of current Harley owners said they would buy the brand again.
This note was prepared by Eric A. Gregg under the supervision of Paul W. Farris, Landmark Communications