As a marketing professional I realize that I am more aware of branding than the average person on the street is. Yes… I am “that” guy who takes special interest in TV commercials, print advertisements, billboards, etc as well as other little positioning tactics like logo and product placement in TV shows and movies. The whole concept of successfully telling people what they like (blatantly or on the sly) and why they like it fascinates me to the point of obsession.

Well, after years of study and observation I’ve come to the conclusion that the masters at the game are the marketing geniuses behind the Bar and Shield at Harley-Davidson. Think about it. The Motorcompany has been selling essentially the same product for years now and people worldwide are standing in line to snatch them up. How do they do it you ask? Simple… they understand that they are not selling motorcycles but rather a “lifestyle”.

People don’t buy Harley-Davidson motorcycles because they are the best engineered 2-wheelers out there. They buy them because they want to own a Harley-Davidson! It’s big, it’s bad, it’s cool… and the company is not afraid to tell you as much!

And now, with a market bordering on over-saturation and an economy in the USA that is not cooperating with desired 30% per year growth spurts… the experts are at it again. What can they do to bolster slumping sales? How about targeting a wide-open group of new customers… the female motorcyclist. About a year ago, women only events started happening at H-D shops across the country and just recently a new ad campaign called “Inspire to Ride” was launched and in typical H-D fashion… it is top-notch!


They got 4 high profile women (Jillian Michaels of The Biggest Loser, recording artist Jewel, actress Tricia Helfer and successful businesswoman Deborah, Dimiceli) to pose for ads on Harleys in Vanity Fair… and tell their story of why they ride while simultaneously launching their self proclaimed campaign to “encourage 100,000 women to ride” in the month of May.

The materials include the ads (in Vanity Fair and others to come I’m sure), in store POP 6-page foldout flyers (as pictured here) and a killer video that is popping up all over the Internet. Now I know that some of my favorite female motorcycle bloggers don’t like targeted female marketing in the motorcycle industry but I have to say that I think this is another brilliant marketing move by H-D that will likely pay off big and allow them to expand their reach. I mean come on… check out the video below for yourself and tell me ladies… how can you walk away and not be inspired to ride?

8 responses

  1. How could I possibly walk away? These gals aren’t real to me. I’m not impressed when they use someone I can’t get close to. Someone who isn’t touchable, or who is not even close to my “class” and demographic. It’s easy to see, they aren’t targeting me or women my age. I’m mid 50’s, not fit and tone, don’t have a face lift, collagen injections, a wardworbe to flatter rather than hide my figure, fact is, I could easily be mistaken for your next door neighbor in her frumpy house dress and unbrushed hair, rolling her own trash out to the curb at 5.30 in the morning.

    I can’t relate….show me a real woman, from a real life….

    May 16, 2009 at 3:47 AM

  2. Your right about the marketing genius. The thing they did right with this, is the women they chose ACTUALLY ride. That goes along way with this chickie!

    I know a beautiful model is more attractive to look at in advertising, but if your just a prop… well it doesn’t impress me. If you ride, I’ll listen.

    May 16, 2009 at 5:32 AM

  3. Hey Chessie… it’s not just the gals… have you seen the guys in their (and other company’s) ads? I don’t know all that many male riders at my local dealership that look like that either. Still, I have to respect the well calculated overall marketing plans they follow. That was my point.

    May 16, 2009 at 8:29 AM

  4. rubenandjoann

    Nice post Swag, well written and informative. I appreciate your expertise!

    May 16, 2009 at 8:48 AM

  5. Swag, I know your right…it just…arrgghhh you already know and understand my point…no need to make it again.

    Yeah, I know these gals “ride”. I know there will be plenty of women who will look at the Barbies and say “If she can do it and still look glamorous then so can I…” I get it….I’m just getting older and I’m seeing the writing on the wall. Guess one could say I’m being dragged kicking and screaming into the second half of my century mark…knowing I’m gonna be lucky to see past my 60’s to mid 70’s….and fighting the fact the world is trying to ignore me in my aged condition…

    So there, I’ve said it…

    May 16, 2009 at 1:08 PM

  6. You’re right on the mark when it comes to HD advertising. There are geniuses in that shop for sure, and one of the best (aside from this campaign, which I also like) is the Iron 883 video commercial in my opinion. It’s not my demographic, but if I was 20-something again and single, that ad would have me running to the local dealer.

    Good post.

    May 17, 2009 at 9:29 PM

  7. I actually liked the ad but, only because I love the HD ads. Im sure the guys that are drooling over this one will agree!!
    The other day I was changing the fluids in my Road King and having a blast doing it. I have never changed the oil in ANYTHING that I didnt make a mess. With a puddle under the bike and oil up to my elbows, I decided that it was probably the reason my hands are so soft. No high priced lotions for this girl! I’m pretty sure the girls in the ad wouldnt agree with me.
    We girls decided to ride long before HD, or anyone else decided to encourage us to. Statistics say that 12.4% of all riders are women with that calculating out to 1/2 a million of us. But, out of that number, I doubt we care if they are the “pretty girls” or just we “normal girls”. If we are to take the ads seriously, though, try using a girl like my friend…60ish, side car for the grandchild shes raising, and sporting the size 12 HD clothing that we “normal girls” wear. Thats a taste of the 1/2 million we know and love. Some of the ads I have seen do that and I think thats the way to REALLY target women. Just a little food for thought.

    May 19, 2009 at 4:51 PM

  8. Rat

    You’re right! Say what you will about their bikes, HD marketing is top notch.

    May 31, 2009 at 7:24 AM

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