Millennial Consumers Determine the Fate of Harley Davidson

Harley Davidson

*Firstly, I want to start of by clarifying that I am by no means a fortune-teller/ marketing expert. The contents of my article today are merely based on my own opinions and research I have conducted around the company and do not reflect or indicate in any way with absolute certainty the fate of the organization being discussed. it’s a wild world and anything can happen :). COOL…

As I settled onto my bed to prepare for one of my Business School lectures, I had already prepared my mind for a half an hour of critical thinking and active reading.

This time around the business case I had to go through was based on Harley Davidson-The history, the journey and “the future”.

What I soon realized on the first page of the 12 pages of information, was a very dangerous situation. You know when a company starts sinking and they can see it but they don’t know what to do? Something like Nokia… Blackberry… HTC….MySpace….MXIT…The crux of the case focussed on the concert the leadership team had around their aging client base and felt that over the years they had neglected their existing millennial fan base who would prove to be crucial in taking the brand to the next level; as opposed to relying so heavily on its former glory days where the fans in the 80s lived and breathed the brand due to influences from pop culture.

Hells Angels

Decades later, having neglected the marketing aspect of their business and not staying in touch with the evolving client base, the leadership in the company which was responsible for Harley Davidison’s strategic direction woke up to realize that their base was growing older and thinner by the year, their competition was eating their lunch (despite their local government assisting them with foreign tax implementation) and in regions where they had chosen to expand with their “more relatable” Buell, no previous research was done of competitors or of target audience preferences. The company had made the very big mistake on relying solely on their powerful and established American brand, not realizing that there was a possibility of customers all the way in Asia/ Africa/ Europe, who needed a customized story and message fit for their context. The HD brand and philosophy was just not landing with my fellow global millennials.

Read more posts related to consumer trends: Why is butter so expensive?

As I read on, thinking that there would be some kind of comeback strategy, to my disappointment, the case ended by subtly suggesting two brand revamp strategies which I don’t think have been implemented at all to date and quite honestly I believe, if done correctly and effectively, could win back the grace and image of the brand in diverse international regions.

Although this case is a bit dated. Having left the reformation to so late, I think it’s going to take more than a brilliant marketing strategy to reform the brand (effective execution is key) and the WSJ seems to agree, with projections of the company’s profits taking a downward spiral as can be read here .

Sometimes it’s better to bend. With new developments, the brand needs to take the millennial voice into account during product proposition design and execution (and it will take more than just paintng the whole motocycle black to win back the client base) or else I’m sad to say, will become obsolete and irrelevant for the future.

See the new Harley Davidson commercial which aims to target their younger client base, while still remaining relevant to their existing base. Do you think it will be enough?


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