The most important challenge brands face is remaining relevant throughout time. This is increasingly difficult today, as the range of choices keeps expanding and new companies penetrate the market everyday.
However, Harley-Davidson is one of those iconic brands that managed to do more than just advertising throughout its history. It provided its members and fans a reason to belong to something, and it still does so today.
Founded in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1903, the motorcycle manufacturer faced some difficult times throughout time, but it always managed to turn the tables and remain relevant to its customers and fans. In case you are wondering how it managed this, then read further.
In order to effectively talk about your product to your customers, you first have to be able to talk about it internally. This means defining and building a strong positioning.
Harley-Davidson used this one – “The only motorcycle manufacturer / That makes big, loud motorcycles / For macho guys (and “macho wannabes”) / Mostly in the United States / Who want to join a gang of cowboys / In an era of decreasing personal freedom.”
This positioning statement places the brand right at the core of the American audience, shaping its tagline as well – “American by birth. Rebel by choice.” Once you have a strong positioning statement, everything stems from that, and Harley-Davidson did it right.
The brand knows exactly what it is and how it’s viewed through the public’s eyes. That’s why the manufacturer has wholly embraced its well-known identity that embodies freedom, individualism, rebellion and the American way.
Besides its loud iconic bikes, the brand has pursued an effective marketing strategy which brought the fans together, giving them a reason to remain loyal to the brand.
In 1983, Harley-Davidson created the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) which allows the company to connect with both its customers and the mainstream population. Although in the beginning it was said that the group takes away from the brand’s character, it proved to be highly successful throughout time.
Through H.O.G., Harley sponsored bike rallies, organized charity events and offered special promotions to its fanbase. Today, the group has more than 1 million members in 25 countries. They share the same passion for riding motorbikes and, more importantly, for riding a Harley.
In a smart move, H.O.G. members are encouraged to provide feedback and give direct input on how the manufacturer creates new models and improves current ones.
The best part for the company’s budget is that the group’s push for greater customer engagement helped maintain Harley-Davidson’s advertising costs lower.
Through its efforts to build the brand community, the company regularly sponsors bike rallies, donation drives and other social events. Although it stands as a symbol of American freedom, Harley-Davidson is also a symbol of effective marketing tactics.