Love riding a motorcycle? Ever fancied taking a trip to the mountains (Imagine Leh-Ladakh) in one of those? I made one trip as a pillion and still loved every bit of it. There was a feeling of pleasure, relaxation, fear, and elation, all at once.

A friend once said, “Riding is a solitary experience, but you are closer and more involved with the road, the outdoors, and the other people there.” Are you wondering about my sudden interest in motorcycles, rides, and trips to the mountains? Ride along to know more (please wear your helmets!).

It was 1901 when William S. Harley, age 21, created a blueprint of an engine designed to fit into a bicycle (way ahead of its time). In 1903, William S. Harley and Arthur Davidson introduced the first Harley-Davidson® motorcycle under Harley-Davidson Motor Company. From then to now, this motorcycle brand has re-defined brand loyalty and achieved a cult brand status. All credit goes to the super-cool brand marketing strategy of Harley Davidson.

Harley is not automotive. It might have an engine, it might have wheels, and it might run on roads, but that’s where the similarities stop.

-Mark Hans Richer, Former CMO Harley-Davidson Motor Company

What brand marketing strategies make Harley Davidson so unique?

Harley Davidson is Different

A cult brand is different. People want to be different; they want things that represent their individualism. Harley has always positioned itself as a quintessence of ‘freedom’ and ‘individualism.’ It gives its owners a blank canvas to explore who they are.

Harley Davidson is a symbol of Courage

A cult brand shows courage. Harley and Davidson created racing motorcycles when there were not even proper roads or racing tracks. They dared to innovate and bring something way ahead of its time, showing a lot of grit and courage.

Harley Davidson Focused on creating a tribe/ community

A cult brand creates a tribe/ community. Harley Owner Group (HOG) is a sponsored community marketing club operated by Harley Davidson for enthusiasts of that brand’s motorcycles. A real first social network, The HOG is “the granddaddy of all community-building efforts,” serving to promote not just a consumer product but a lifestyle.

Though Harley Davidson is looked as a Bad Boy but its also Fun & Expression

A cult brand personifies fun & expression. Remember the memorable chase scene from “Terminator 2: Judgement Day”. It includes a 1990 Harley Fat Boy. Ever watched the HOG take over the highway, all dressed in their Harley gears. There are only a few brands that are so exciting that people tattoo the logo on their bodies. That is exactly what Harley-Davidson has achieved by building a fantastic aura around the brand.

Haley Davidson has focused on Listening its customers

A cult brand listens and makes amends. The company collects customer data through sponsored events and organized conventions, filled with Harley fanatics. A former CEO, Rich Teerlink, calls this “real-time market research,” as it gives them unique insight into customer behaviour and opinion. They listen to improve on their products and experiences.

Harley focused on Openness/ Inclusiveness

A cult brand is open and inclusive. When someone owns a Harley they realize that they are born into a community of equals where it doesn’t matter the status, job, income, power of the motorcycle rider next to them, it gives them permission to focus on a common goal of community and a common passion of riding motorcycles.” – Jonathan Cooper, Research Now

Harley means Freedom

A cult brand embodies freedom. The dominant personality trait of the Harley-Davidson brand is freedom, not necessarily a Rebel. Freedom from both mainstream values and freedom to travel anywhere you want, whenever you want. The logo of the eagle and biker clothing and saddlebags reminiscent of the Wild West folk supports the trait. Harley gives people the freedom to experience an open world.

Harley-Davidson today is one of the most iconic in both America and the world. But it has struggled to achieve sustainable success over the years. They have been through periods of low returns (Introduction of cheap Japanese motorcycles like Yamaha, Honda, and Kawasaki) and damaged brand reputation (association of Harley bikes with outlaw gangs). Still, they’ve always found a way to get themselves back on track, stronger than ever before.

Harley-Davidson’s brand is built on customer loyalty, innovation, and emotions. Companies today can use the Harley-Davidson brand marketing strategy and story as an incredible example of a built and sustained company with one of the most recognizable identities in the world. And of course, it has also survived 2 World Wars, The Great Depression, and the Global financial crisis.

See you next time with another powerful Brand Strategy…

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Swati is a Chartered Accountant with 6 years of experience working with some of the biggest global brands. While her profession demands number-crunching, she is a story-teller at heart. She loves travelling and meeting new people. Connect with her on LinkedIn for stories and more!

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