Harley Davidson is stepping up with a new marketing plan aimed at increasing brand appeal to women and young adults. The past year has proven disappointing in sales for Harley, consequently the company’s share of the large motorcycle market has slipped.
In the succession of events, Harley’s stock prices have dipped about a third from last year. What is causing all this trouble for a company that has been a leader in the American motorcycle industry? The surge of recalls of defective bikes certainly can’t be helping the matter but word of a plan to increase marketing spending in 2016 sheds light on the lack of appeal to an audience diverse from the core Harley riders. An audience that is quickly growing in the motorcycle community; women and young adults. Marketing strategies which appeal to the millennial generation have gained traction becoming a trend in many of the world’s top companies, making it unsurprising Harley plans on campaigning towards a younger market.
Many Harley Davidson dealers are quickly picking up the campaign, posting youthful images on Instagram, donating bikes and parts to high schools, and hiring younger applicants for marketing positions. Young adults today take well to tradition and craftsmanship which is core to the Harley Davidson brand. The idea seems to be to use this to grab the attention of younger riders with interesting and relevant stories. That is in contrast to their current strategy of primarily relying on the rough and tough advertising that worked so well with the baby boomer men Harley plans to incorporate these strategies to attract women as well. While Harley is said to have sold seven times more than it’s closest competitor to women, the current brand image is pushing some women away from purchasing a Harley even when they truly appreciate the product.
The pictures of young women with a Harley that matches their blue hair isn’t negatively effecting the core riders of Harley Davidson but some dealers argue that Harley does not need to make these changes. The general manager of the Scottsdale Harley Davidson dealership argues that the brand is truly for those who can afford the more expensive premium models, some priced at around $28,000 and up. The Harley showroom floors are filled with the beautiful loud chromed out models on the higher end of the price range pushing the less expensive models designed for a younger rider towards the back, sometimes even in the basement.
The best approach seems to be somewhere in the middle where marketing ads can capture a brand image which incorporates women riders and the youth without drowning out the loyal core of Harley Davidson riders. Without doing anything too risky like hiring hip-hop bands for special events Harley dealerships across the nation are making these changes to diversify their customer population. Of course Harley Davidson riders are known for their deep running loyalty to the brand which is one of the things that makes Harley successful.
What do you think about the proposed changes? Let us know in the comments below!