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Introduction History Creation of the ‘Harley-Davidson’ brand Factors responsible for the success of the brand Culture of Harley-Davidson Lessons learnt Bibliography

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With the growing global economy, companies are looking for ways to improve their market share. Many excellent firms have learned how to beat their competitors through the implementation of new management, marketing, and/or manufacturing techniques. Harley-Davidson is one of those excellent companies who have challenged traditional ideas. Introduction: “It’s a journey, not a destination” Harley-Davidson’s mantra clearly suggests the image and the story built around this legendary machine. For long the HarleyDavidson’s fans have been able to build a relationship and associate with the brand by linking it to words like adventure, Americana, freedom, edgy and cool, all the qualities which appropriately describe the Harley-Davidson. HarleyDavidson enthusiasts are one of the most distinct subcultures in America. To outsiders, they are rough looking individuals who are fiercely patriotic and proud Americans. Their motto is “Live to ride. Ride to live,” and they love nothing more than to jump on their “hog” and cruise freely along the nation’s highways The company identified the need for escape and adventure and thus they realized that it was necessary to convert individuality to customization. While the company believed that everybody is its customer, there are 3 distinct consumer target demographics for the consumer products sector- the real rider and the enthusiast, who rides and looks to Harley-Davidson for functional gear like helmets, gloves, boots etc., those customers who do not ride, but the brand lifestyle appeals to them and the aspirational customer who hopes to own a Harley-Davidson someday, but in the mean time wants merchandise related to the brand. HarleyDavidson also focuses a lot on relationship building and maintaining. In this way they maintain the integrity of the brand because they have well established and loyal customers as well as their licensing program has helped develop a strong relationship with their licensees. History : Harley-Davidson Motorcycle Company was established in 1903 by William Harley and Arthur Davidson, who built the first three motorcycles in a shed in Milwaukee. In 1909, the company introduced its trademark bike; a 2 cylinders, V-Twin engine, able to reach speeds of 60 mph. During World War I, the demand for United States motorcycles overseas grew tremendously. As a result, Harley-Davidson became a leader in innovative 3

engineering in the 1920s. It was then that Harley-Davidson introduced the front brake and “teardrop” gas tanks. The industry, which was thriving after World War I, was diminishing quickly as a result of the Great Depression. Harley-Davidson survived because of exports and sales to the police and military. Representative of the World War I motorcycle market, Harley-Davidson prospered from military purchasing during World War II. After the war, Harley-Davidson went from producing military to recreational bikes. Harley-Davidson developed and introduced the K-model (1952) Sportster (“Superbike” 1957), and Duo Glide (1958) motorcycles. By 1953, Harley-Davidson was the last remaining major motorcycle manufacturer in the US.

Sporster Duo Glide (1958) Trying times and the way out:



By the mid-1960’s, Harley was the last of more than 200 American motorcycle makers to survive. But poor family management, a decline in quality and the sudden onslaught of Japanese motorcycles were all pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy. A rescue came in 1969, when the American Machine and Foundry Company purchased Harley for $21 million. But A.M.F. saved Harley only to run it back into the ground. To its credit, A.M.F. started by pouring millions into the company. By 1973, Harley was turning out 37,000 motorcycles a year and pulling in $122 million in sales. A.M.F. forced the company into overproduction, however, further compromising quality. In the mid-70’s, A.M.F. went too far when it replaced the Harley name with its own. Apparently unaware of the magnitude of that marketing blunder, which sent sales plummeting, A.M.F. soon began looking to unload the troubled company. In 1981, Vaughn Beals, Harley’s chief executive at the time, pulled together a dozen other company officers who found outside financing and became the new owners. Thirteen members of the Harley-Davidson management team purchased the company from AMF in a leveraged buy-out. But, within the first year, overall demand for motorcycles dropped and Harley-Davidson’s share of this market also continued to drop. This even greater reduction in sales for Harley-Davidson resulted in a large inventory of unsold products. Harley-Davidson was aware they would no longer be able to continue their business at their current production level and operating cost. Therefore, production was cut off drastically, and more than 1,800 of the 4,000 employees were let go. Saddled with $70 million in debt from the buyout amid a terrible recession and a continued push by Japanese competitors, 4

Harley-Davidson was a company on life support for several years. It lost more than $50 million in 1981 and 1982 and by 1983 was facing bankruptcy again. In desperation, management publicly railed against the Japanese for allegedly “dumping” their bikes on the American market below cost in a bid to capture a bigger slice of the business. Harley made a loud enough noise to persuade President Ronald Reagan to impose a stiff tariff on the Japanese imports, gaining the American company some breathing room. However, at the same time, Harley executives were touring Japan and bringing back such vaunted production methods as just-in-time inventory control and quality circles. With a complete make-over of its manufacturing processes focused on quality, Harley commenced its rebirth. Desperately needing cash to finance the revival, the company went public in 1986 and quickly became a darling on Wall Street. Mr. Beals was clear with investors from the outset that the company’s main asset was its brand, which had managed somehow to survive all the corporate miscues. The company certainly was in need of a jump-start in the marketplace, they conceded. But, they quickly added, once it got moving again, Harley knew where it wanted to go. Harley studied their Japanese competitors and realized that they would be going further in terms of technology. Talking to customers Harley realized that people were longing for old age choppers. Harley decided to stick to its roots. . It made a clear choice to stay with its traditional styling, a classic 1940’s and 50’s design that aficionados believe motorcycles were meant to have. Harley had heritage, tradition and mystique. This was Harley’s greatest strength The company further tried to reinforce the brand by taking several measures like: • Establishing the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G) Sponsoring rallies to reignite the riding culture including massive gatherings in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Sturgis. The ‘Ride Home’ rally in Milwaukee is called the ‘Harleyfest’. Through brand extensions and licensing the company has associated the brand with upper class merchandise.

Creation of the ‘Harley-Davidson’ brand: Many of the powerful and well known brands in the world have reached this pedestal over a long period of high-visibility campaigns. They have been able to achieve this on account of their huge advertising promotions and relentless promotions. Occasionally, however, a brand emerges without the excessive advertising and in-your-face marketing. Instead, recognition comes from the effort to sell a product on its merits, in its own time and in its own way. And the brand’s adventurous path to success becomes a rich heritage for marketing gurus to mine, offering lessons not only for other offbeat efforts but also for those seeking to better the odds of mainstream campaigns. Perhaps no brand exemplifies this nontraditional route to brand excellence more than Harley-Davidson. Over the years Harley-Davidson has undergone a stunning metamorphosis fueling a level of demand that is the goal of brands the world over. During the onslaught of the 5

Japanese bikes in the American markets Harley-Davidson managed to hold on to its rich tradition. With its feet firmly planted in both the present and the past, Harley offers traditional styles and the best, most-refined 1940’s technology around. This has allured Harley-Davidson to far beyond its original customer segment. HarleyDavidson has reinvented itself both as a company and a brand. There have been various events in Harley-Davidson’s 108 year history that have lead to it becoming the iconic symbol it is today. The factors that have lead to the creation of brand ‘Harley –Davidson’ are:

1. Efforts in Army Expeditions The association of Harley-Davidson with famous military expeditions first bought its name on a global stage. Many civilians started taking notice of the machines used by the Army in the legendary expeditions and Harleys were an integral part of these.

Harley-Davidsons with machine guns mounted on the side car were first used in military service in the Pancho Villa Expedition in 1916 by the US army to stop the infiltration of famed Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa.

Harley-Davidsons used in the Pancho Villa Expedition

The company motorcycles World War I. In Copl. Roy enter Germany

dispatched 15000 towards the war efforts in fact, in the adjacent picture Holtz the first American to was riding a Harley-Davidson.

Davidson to enter Germany 11/12/18”

“The first yank & Harley-

During World War II Harley-Davidson produced 90000 custom made bikes for the US and Canadian army. Harley-Davidson received four Army-Navy ‘E’ Awards for Excellence in Production.


2. Harley-Davidson Racing Motorcycle racing has been an important part of the Harley-Davidson tradition. Since its inception HarleyDavidson has been responsible for breaking many records. The legend of the Harley-Davidson grew further with the Wrecking Crew the unofficial name for the Harley-Davidson racing team. As the popularity of Harleys grew on the sports track people wanted to own their own machines and be in the same elite league as their racing heroes. • In 1921, a Harley-Davidson, ridden by Otto Walker, was the first motorcycle ever to win a race at an average speed of over 100 mph (160 km/h). • Harley racer Carroll Resweber won the National Championship four years running, from 1958 to 1961. • In a six-year stretch between 1931 and 1936, Joe Petrali amassed the most National points five times while racing his Harley. 3. Outlaw Image Over the years several associations have been made with Harley-Davidson and the outlaw image. This is further fuelled by Hollywood that perpetuated the stereotypical image of bad boy riders. Associations like the Hells Angels an organized crime syndicate whose members are known for riding Harleys have added to the legend. However now the negative connotation that is associated with biker gangs has diluted and is looked in the light of a sense of camaraderie. 4. Harley Owners Group (H.O.G) In 1983, the H.O.G company-sponsored club for Harley riders was established. The Harley Owners Group, or H.O.G., was started as an organization that would sponsor rallies, offer special promotions and keep Harley owners in close contact with the company and each other. Under the club’s banner, groups would ride for charity. Today, H.O.G. members constitute the fourth-largest contributing group to the Jerry Lewis Telethon each September. Also, working in the company’s favour is the fact that H.O.G members typically spend 30% more than other Harley owners, on such items as clothing and Harley-Davidson-sponsored events. Other motorcycle brands, and other and consumer brands outside motorcycling, have tried to imitate the Harley7

Davidson’s success in this endeavor by creating factory-sponsored community marketing clubs of their own. However emulating Harley’s success will be very difficult. At the first H.O.G. rally in 1984 in California, 28 people showed up today however, H.O.G. has 365,000 members in 940 chapters throughout the world. 5. Brand Extension

1986 Harley-Davidson launched ‘Motorclothes’, which offered shirts with collars, denim blue jeans, baby clothes and bright-colored fashion items for women. At the same time, Harley began to license its popular shield-and-bars logo for hundreds of products. Harley insists that the merchandise has to be durable and high quality. This has led to the logo being licensed to top brands like L’Oreal and Zippo. Realizing that most of its dealers were ill-equipped to sell fashion items, Harley began to require them to remodel their stores to showcase the merchandise. Meanwhile, the Harley-licensed restaurant in Manhattan will soon be joined by another, in Las Vegas. The licensing and apparel business contributes more than 6% to Harley-Davidson’s annual revenue. Factors responsible for Harley-Davidson’s success:


Management Although Harley-Davidson enjoyed huge profits during World War I and World War II, their success was shortlived. In 1970 after the leveraged buy-out, HarleyDavidson’s new owners realized that in order to make the necessary improvements, they had to identify the shortcomings. After careful analysis, the management team developed possible reasons for the problems they faced: 1. Corporate management focused mostly on short term returns. 2. Management did not listen to its employees or give them responsibility for the quality of what they made. 3. High inventories of parts gobbled up cash and reduced productivity. 4. Belief in quick fixes for problems, such as throwing in computers and state-ofthe-art machinery to improve productivity. 5. High break-even point that left the company vulnerable to unpredictable market fluctuations. 6. Management that woke up too late to the threat of foreign competition because of the “it can’t happen here” syndrome. 7. The development of methods for improvements and gaining company-wide support for implementation was the key. Relationship Building: The first accomplishment was for management to learn the importance of relationships. Harley-Davidson’s new management realized to survive they needed to become a perpetual learning and improving organization. Open communication between all levels of employees was essential. Everyone needed to understand their roles and implement them and also be responsible for their actions towards the company. Harley-Davidson realized that individuals need to have a shared vision of the company values: tell the truth, keep your promises, respect the individual, and encourage intellectual curiosity. Management needed to earn the respect and trust of their employees. Incorporating all of these moral values into the entire company structure and expecting nothing less from employees, at all levels, helped emphasize Harley-Davidson’s commitment to its team of workers. Co-operation and unity The problem which could arise was that Harley-Davidson’s workers were unionized and thus they would not be able to adapt to the policy. But, because the unions stuck to Harley-Davidson when times were tough, they remained loyal to HarleyDavidson. This commitment allowed for Harley-Davidson to switch to “selfmanaged” teams. The plan was to create semi-autonomous work-groups, who were 9

cross-trained and could set their own work schedules. Therefore, Harley-Davidson created the Harley-Davidson Learning Center. This is a facility dedicated to life-long learning. Its primary role is to serve employees who want to keep improving their skills. Continuous Improvement and continuous growth Harley-Davidson is driven by a constant vision of what an excellent company should be: one that is never satisfied with the status quo but is always searching for ways to go do things better. Continuous improvement demands involvement from employees. In HarleyDavidson’s case, all employees take part in a gain-sharing program and are paid cash incentives for attaining and maintaining quality, profitability, and produced delivery goals. In 1995, more than 2,000 of Harley-Davidson’s 4,694 employees took training and education programs from the Harley-Davidson Learning Center. These courses helped the company to be more competitive and to foster employees’ personal growth and development. Open communication, at all levels, and was used as a major key to achieving teamwork and employee participation. Harley-Davidson has a history of in-sourcing; it tries to bring as much work as possible into the plant to forestall any lay-offs. The union has considerable control over what kind of work is outsourced to other companies. So the union is able to create a “job security” by choosing the work that is done in-house. MARKETING Harley-Davidson enjoyed a monopoly in the motorcycle industry for many decades. In the 1970s, Japanese manufacturers flooded the market with high quality, low priced bikes. From 1973 to 1983, Harley-Davidson’s market share went from 77.5% to 23.3%, with Honda having 44% of the market by 1983. Harley-Davidson could not compete on price against the Japanese motorcycle producers, so it had to establish other market values to improve quality. Simultaneously, the United States consumer base was undergoing a revolution which mandated consumer driven products. Harley-Davidson had to change from a company which dictated what its customers could have to strategies based on direct input from customers. A marketing philosophy was developed based on the customers’ desires, gathered through surveys, interviews and focus groups. Image “The real power of Harley-Davidson is the power to market to consumers who love the product”. Brand loyalty for Harley-Davidson is emotional. They are considered more than motorcycles – they are legends. It is an American icon brand. The Harley-Davidson symbol is based on a pattern of associations that include the 10

American flag and the eagle; reflective of the passion and freedom Americans enjoy. It is difficult to define an average Harley-Davidson buyer. The demographics include a wide range of bike lovers. While their competitors base their advertising on product technology and features, Harley-Davidson promotes: a mystique appearance, individualism, the feeling of riding free, and the pride of owning a legend. With Harley-Davidson, you can live out your fantasies, as well as experience camaraderie with fellow bikers. Customer Relations (People) When a person buys a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, they receive a free 1-year membership to the Harley-Davidson Owners Group (HOG), which was developed in 1983 as a program to keep people active with their Harley-Davidsons. Simultaneously, it keeps the company close to the customer. HOG has 295,000 (over 500,000 now) worldwide members, 900 local chapters and is the largest company-sponsored motorcycle enthusiast group. They conduct four US national rallies, two touring rallies and 44 state rallies. These rallies encourage people to use their motorcycles and to share in the excitement of riding. The people are given demonstration rides, have the opportunity to ask questions, register their bikes and buy merchandise. Promotion The primary promotional tool for Harley-Davidson motorcycles are the HOG activities. Not only does it serve as a customer relations device, but as a way to showcase and demonstrate new products. In 1983, the company developed a trademark licensing program which provides income for dealers and the factory while expanding the total Harley-Davidson experience. Harley-Davidson has capitalized on the fact its product/image is chic. . The company is starting to advertise in magazines geared to the general public. Twice a year, a Fashions and Collectibles catalog is produced with various Harley-Davidson merchandise. Another marketing strategy, Harley-Davidson cafes have been opened in or near many dealerships to lure people into the showroom. Product Harley-Davidson found its strength was in the heavyweight division. They are also identified and exploited mini niches, such as customized, touring, sport/touring and sport/street motorcycles, in the heavyweight end of the market. When Harley-Davidson was formed, it only offered one color of motorcycle-gray and three basic styles. The company 11

learned it needed to give the customers a choice and now offers a variety of models, including Sportsters, Super Glides, Low Riders, Softails, Sport Glides, Tour Glides and Electra Glides, in numerous vivid colors. When a style is changed or developed, Harley-Davidson always develops it around their signature image to make sure that the product is not only a high quality piece of equipment but also charismatic. Price Harley-Davidson quickly learned it could not compete with the foreign manufacturers on cost. Not only did Honda have a low priced product, it was able to defeat Harley-Davidson in advertising. Therefore, HarleyDavidson developed a strategy of value over price. This was created through the development of mini-niches and the heavy construction of the parts. Japanese manufacturers used plastic while Harley-Davidson used steel, which is able to be rebuilt and re-bored. HarleyDavidson was careful not to exceed demand in production or their motorcycles. Currently, people must wait six to eighteen months for a news motorcycle and the price for a year-old Harley-Davidson is 25% to 30% higher than a new one. MANUFACTURING Initially, Harley-Davidson’s manufacturing plants were designed to use a batch process in the flow of material on its plant floor and the frequency of products made. The batch format had neither inflow nor outflow of materials while the process is running, and had the disadvantage of high labor costs per unit production and was difficult with large-scale production. Harley-Davidson’s batch operation was illustrated by its grouping of machinery. There was no straight flow process; therefore, setup times were high and output rates were very low causing financial concerns for AMF. With Harley-Davidson’s transition from a privately financed company into a public company, they were forced to seek an alternative method of production to achieve quality and productivity. The first step was to determine the specific areas which needed improvements. An improved process was determined and implemented, successfully, only after the synergy of what is known as the productivity triad (just-in-time inventory (JIT), employee involvement (EI), and statistical operator control (SOC) are the attributes of the productivity triad) was conceived. Thus good relationships, continuous improvement, employee and management involvement, team building or employee training and empowerment have contributed to making Harley-Davidson a world renowned brand. Only by adopting those management techniques and building a solid base between the management 12

and the Unions/employees, made it possible for Harley-Davidson to improve its management process. While management’s responsibility is to build relationships with the employees, marketing’s responsibility to build relationship with the potential and existing customers. The realization of the importance of customer feedback led Harley-Davidson to develop new marketing techniques. The culture of Harley: What is a history of a machine without talking about the people whose lives it has affected? In the case of Harley-Davidson, this question could take many books to answer. The Harley-Davidson has spawned an entire biker culture and style, with its motorcycles providing the roots, and has very literally changed the course of American history. Motorcycle culture has its traditional roots in outlaw culture. The biker’s self-image is that of a lone rider, windblown, cut free from the society whose rules are boxing him in. But the term “outlaw” in motorcycling is a paradox. The expression was not originally associated with anything sinister. It simply meant was that you raced motorcycles but were not sanctioned by the AMA. Life Magazine potrayed the biker as an “outlaw” with its famous picture of a burly, drunken biker on his hog surrounded by dozens of empty beer bottles strewn in the streets of Hollywood then spoon-fed this image to the public. Think Harley-Davidson and singer, songwriter Jim Steinman’s lines come to mind. “You can feel the pulse of the pavement racing like a runaway horse. The subways are sizzling and the skin of the streets is gleaming with sweat. It is the experience of camaraderie, of cruising on open roads, of expressing individuality, of passion. The Harley-Davidson culture is as much about its unique style as the motorcycles themselves, and that includes everything from music, riding gear, parts and accessories, leisure riding. The Harley lifestyle is in sync with these attributes. More than anything, it involves the thinking, the personality. The Harley lifestyle is about long rides and whatever you can carry with yourself to take you there. One will always see people wearing a lot of Harley gear; be it jackets, gloves or helmets. It is what you want to be and what you want to achieve. The rides, the gear, the music—all add to the experience that is Harley-Davidson and this lifestyle has become a way of life itself. The Harley-Davidson was there for every major war of the past 100 years and received four Navy “E” awards for excellence in wartime production. Some believe 13

that it was the war veterans who started the Harley biker culture. Veterans came home from war and went out and bought Harleys because they fell in love with the bike and the company when they were at war. These bikers would ride their Harleys with strong American pride and to some it would be a remembrance of their fellow soldiers whom they fought side by side with but who perished for our freedom. From these bikers evolved the rough and tough breed of bikers with their leather jackets, tattoos, and long hair. Harley-Davidson as a brand arouses such fierce loyalty that many enthusiasts get tattoos of the corporate logo which is accepted as part of the culture. These bikers may look hard as nails, but they are always there to help others in need. When was the last time that you saw a stranded biker on the side of the road? There aren’t many. When a fellow biker is in need, other bikers passing by know that this person is a friend and are almost always willing to help out. Take for example the famous Harley Owners Group (HOG) which is a sponsored community marketing club, operated by Harley-Davidson for enthusiasts of that brand’s motorcycles. The HOG is “the granddaddy of all community-building efforts,” serving to promote not just a consumer product, but a lifestyle. The HOG has also served to open new revenue streams for the company, with the production of tie-in merchandise offered to club members, numbering over one million strong, making it the largest factory-sponsored riding club in the world. The Harley Owners Group was created in 1983 as way to build longer-lasting and stronger relationships with Harley-Davidson’s customers, by making ties between the company, its employees, and consumers. HOG members typically spend 30% more than other Harley owners, on such items as clothing and Harley-Davidson-sponsored events. Much of the intent of this branding effort is presenting Harley-Davidson as an American icon, with the focus on authenticity and pride in being American-made. All of this is credited with turning flagging sales around, and allowing the Harley-Davidson company to grow again. Other functions associated with the biker culture are mass gatherings at organized events (such as those that are organized by H.O.G. and the Harley-Davidson Company itself), partaking in Harley cruises and just hanging out with fellow Harley riders. The fashions, fixations and culture of the working folk who helped make HarleyDavidson one of the most recognized corporate logos in the world have been culturally appropriated by the rich urban bikers. Aside from the typical image of a biker, there are many other varying types of people who enjoy the allure of a Harley-Davidson. Musicians, artists, businessman, politicians, students, women, 14

men, senior citizens, teenagers, Americans, Asians, Europeans, anyone who answers the ‘call’, are all examples of the types of Harley riders you will see. The Harley does not discriminate, and that fact alone is what makes the Harley culture so widespread and legendary. Women and Harley: One of the things documented in the very earliest of Harley-Davidson company records and the personal collections of riders is the enthusiasm that women have had for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Early advertising photos show women in genteel clothing posing with the latest models. Even more abundant are accounts and photos from personal collections. Women riders as early as the 1910s did everything men did, ranging from long-distance riding to enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon with friends. As the decades progressed, individual women would stand out as great enthusiasts. Vivian Bales of Albany, Ga., drew attention for her 5,000-mile round trip journey from her home through the upper Midwest and back, including a visit to the Harley-Davidson factory on Juneau Avenue in Milwaukee. Dorothy “Dot” Robinson, wife of dealer Earl Robinson, competed in endurance races through the Depression alongside men. Among Robinson’s accomplishments were a 1940 victory in the punishing Jack Pine Enduro in Michigan and several high-placing finishes in other years. The 1930s gave way to the founding of the Motor Maids, the world’s first women’s motorcycle club. Founded by Wellesley College graduate Linda Dugeau, the Motor Maids have been a club home to Dot Robinson and countless others into the present day. More modern times have witnessed the creation of the clubs Ladies of Harley, Women in the Wind, as well as Women on Wheels, all of which boasted many members with local chapters across North America. And the say the rest is history. Learnings gained through the HARLEY-DAVIDSON brand: Harley-Davidson has been able to build a community of enthusiasts around its brand that includes members from very diverse groups, and with almost no advertising. How does the king of heavyweight motorcycling keep its fans so loyal? It gives them a reason to “belong.” In the pantheon of powerful American brands, most, like Coca-Cola, Tide, McDonald’s, Levi’s and Nike, have reached icon status through long-term, high-visibility campaigns marked by a consistent trumpeting of a simple message. Theirs is a story of deep pockets 15

and relentless promotion. Occasionally, however, a brand emerges without the panoply of wall-to-wall advertising and in-your-face marketing. Instead, recognition comes from a quiet, behind-the-scenes effort to sell a product more directly on its merits, in its own time and in its own way. And the brand’s idiosyncratic path to success becomes a rich field for marketing gurus and academics to mine, offering lessons not only for other offbeat efforts but also for those seeking to better the odds of mainstream campaigns. Perhaps no product exemplifies this non-traditional route to brand excellence more than America’s freewheeling symbol of the road, the Harley-Davidson motorcycle. Twice at the brink of bankruptcy since the 1960’s, the Harley-Davidson Motor Company and its parent, Harley-Davidson Inc., have undergone a stunning metamorphosis, fueling a level of demand that is the goal of corporate chieftains everywhere. The change has not only enhanced Harley’s standing in the highly competitive and lucrative market for big motorcycles, where it had been pummeled for years by waves of aggressive Japanese imports, but it has also extended the brand’s reach to previously untapped businesses. Having largely reinvented itself, as both a company and a brand, the Milwaukee-based motorcycle maker is now reaping the benefits of a hip, with-it image. What kept Harley going in its darkest days, and what is driving it now in high gear, is the plain fact that the motorcycle it makes is not just a product but rather the centerpiece of lifestyle. The Harley management team, in fact, has a visceral connection to the brand and to its customers that is difficult to match in most corporate boardrooms. The senior executives own the motorcycles and ride with their customers. Indeed, they are customers, journeying to Harley rallies and taking their places on the same waiting lists to get new bikes. As an American icon, Harley has come to symbolize freedom, rugged individualism, excitement and a sense of “bad boy rebellion.” That kind of passion explains how Harley has been able to cross so many socioeconomic boundaries. Its owners are buying much more than a mode of transportation. What bonds them to the bikes and ultimately to each other, at rallies and other events is a mutual appreciation of the look, feel and sound of the machines.



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Article and books: • “Why and how Harley-Davidson has maintained consumer brand loyalty” – Joyce Ann Cooney Harley-Davidson: The Good, The Bad and The Legendary- Michael Dregni Harley-Davidson Memories: The Golden Age of Motorcycling- Bob Tyson

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