Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Harley cages its brand

It's official, Harley is Harley no more.

It's clear that Harley SVP and CMO Marc-Hans Richer, the man who presided over marketing for GM as it slid from the global automotive sales leader to number two behind Toyota, has no idea what the brand stands for. That's painfully obvious in this first effort from Harley's new agency, Victors & Spoils, a shop that uses 'crowd sourcing' to generate advertising ideas from both professional and amateurs.

In this particular instance the spot was conceived by an amateur, and it shows.

Yes, freedom is an important part of the Harley brand essence and the promise here is that if you ride a Harley you'll be freed from your cage. Get it? (Added bonus: bikers refer to cars as 'cages.' How clever.)

The spot, however, misses the differentiating essential element of the Harley brand, rebellion. You don't ride a Harley because it sets you free, every motorcycle does that.

You ride a Harley because it feeds that little voice inside you that says, "Go to hell."

It doesn't matter that you have to clean the kitty litter, take out the garbage or coach girls soccer, because when all that's done you can straddle 1200 cc's of rumbling iron, twist the throttle and ride away giving a great big middle finger to everyday life.

Harley has always brought a little Easy Rider and Hell's Angel to their riders' otherwise predictable lives. But now they are giving that up in an effort to broaden their market. They're softening the edges to attract more women and suburbanites, to give it universal appeal. It's an effort that may produce some short term results, but will ultimately kill the brand.

If Harleys aren't bad, if they aren't taboo, if they don't make me feel just a little bit dangerous, I might as well ride a Yamaha.


  1. Well said Harvey. Beyond your comments, this spot is tedious to watch because you know what's coming after the first three seconds.

  2. Well done Harvey. Harley, like VW is going to chase volume at the expense of its brand and suffer the consequences. Hopefully Harley will fall short of dumbing down their product the way VW is:

  3. Harvey I coudn't agree more...this dude will ride "cool shit" into the abyss just as he did at Pontiac. Carmichael Lynch couldn't take it anymore and we all know why.