Here's How Outlaw Bike Gangs Help Harley-Davidson's Marketing Pitch To Professionals

When you think Harley-Davidson you think beards, leather and one per cent patches. Or successful middle-aged men.

“Yes, it has a hard edge; there’s a bit of bad in it. But it’s a double-edge sword. The outlaw movement has given Harley-Davidson an edge of toughness,” said director of Marketing Harley-Davidson Australia & New Zealand Adam Wright.

“We try to appeal to people who do not have much adventure in their lives,” he told Business Insider. “Our mantra is Harley-Davidson fulfills the dream of personal freedom.”

“Doctors, lawyers, accountants, plastic surgeons … we appeal to all of them,” he said.

Within the brand’s core market — “reasonably well-off” males who account for around 70% of sales — there are blue-and-white collar workers; miners and bankers. All are attracted by the brand’s hard edge, and the lure of escapism, Wright said.

But Harley-Davison has tried to change. Connotations to the outlaw life the desk-bound will never live sells bikes to well-off baby boomers with cash to spend. Not so much to women, or a younger generation who think of their parents’ mid-life crises.

“Our brand health has improved; our brand health was poor in 2009 … We’ve been able to get it higher than all other [motorcycle] brands in Australia.”

The “Core” market still makes up the bulk of sales. But Harley-Davidson has taken steps to attract more customers from three other categories: Women, young adults and “sleepers”, mostly through selective public relations initiatives, Wright said.

While the first two need no explanation, the “sleeper” category is potential customers who have a motorcycle license but no bike. “They might want to come back.”

“Harley-Davidson has had an image of the success of the Baby Boomers. We have been trying to re-write that chapter a little bit,” Wright said.

Through the ranks

Wright started working with Harley-Davidson in the service management and sales team at Frasers Motorcycles Sydney, who at the time was the distributor of the brand, before Harley-Davidson Australia took over importation.

We asked him what it was like to deal with the outlaw motorcycle gang customers who, over the years, have played a role in creating the brand’s image.

“Most of them were very good to us. They were there because we had a product they wanted.

“And many of them are actually astute businessmen at the end of the day.

“A tough bike for a tough guy; they do a lot of hard miles.”

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