Harley-Davidson: A Cult Brand Hit by Demographic Challenges
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"It is a unique brand that is built on personal relationship and deep connections with customers, unmatched riding experiences, and proud history."
-Jim Ziemer, former president and CEO of Harley Davidson, Inc. in 2009.
"Harley has been on an unbelievable roll, phenomenal by any measure. But they have a number of developing issues that they're going to have to pay attention to, the most significant one being the aging of the baby boomers. The results of the demographic shift won’t be a big deal for Harley tomorrow at nine in the morning, but over the next ten years it will be major."
-Don Brown, an independent analyst for DJB Associates, LLC,1 in 2001.
Harley was the world's leading designer and manufacturer of motorcycles which included heavyweight2 , touring3 , cruiser4, custom, and performance motorcycles. Besides motorcycles, the company also offered a line of motorcycle parts & accessories5 and general merchandise6. From the beginning, Harley bikes were known for their distinctive design and heavy customization. Over the years, Harley established an image of raw power which became its unique selling proposition. The brand adopted a focused differentiation strategy wherein it targeted specific products at niche segments in the market. According to experts, Harley was able to carve out a niche for itself in the marketplace due to its powerful brand image which was built on deep personal relationships with customers and matchless riding experiences. The Harley brand achieved a cult status among its loyal customers as it characterized adventure, tradition, and power. The motorcycle maker maintained a loyal brand following by catering to the needs of the customers in the heavyweight motorcycle market. The company's loyal fans and customers used words like "freedom, Americana, adventure, edgy, and cool" to describe the brand. Harley's marketing efforts centered on company-sponsored events, dealer promotions, and advertisements in magazines. The company's core customers were men over the age of 35.
1] DJB Associates, LLC, is a US-based management and research consulting firm.
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