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Monday, April 06, 2009

Let's Ride: H-D's Brand Message Goes Beyond the Brand

Let's Ride. That's from the Sunday 3/29/09 full page Harley-Davidson ad in the New York Times. To me, it goes way beyond the Harley-Davidson brand to embrace every American, regardess of ridership. It reads - in case you didn't see it - as follows:

"You can file our obituary where the sun don't shine. It's times like these that raise the important questions. Do you cower, or do you live free. Do you succumb to fear and doubt, or do you seize the throttle and give it a fearless twist forward. From where we sit in the saddle, we see American companies and good old American ingenuity wrenching the life back into this economy of ours. The people rolling up their sleeves and getting it done are the same ones that ride our motorcycles, and you'll find them wearing blue collars, white collars, pink collars or no collars at all. We're proud to count ourselves along them. Maybe you're ready to feel the same way. Screw it. Let's Ride."

[Also, read US News & World Report John A. Farrell's Harley-Davidson to America: Let's Ride.]

By the way, note that the link www.H-D.com/letsride takes you to a Facebook page, where you can further connect with the company, rather than to the Harley-Davidson website. Interesting.

A few days later, I came upon Market Research Must Get Real, Not Ideal, Social Scientists Say by Karl Greenberg which had me thinking about Harley-Davidson again. Now, I really appreciate the points that the article makes about choices and 'satisficing.' But, here's what I found really intriguing:
  • The notion of brand is more primal than we think. Brand "is attachment, a metaphoric merging between a person's 'self story' and a person's story of you, the product, the company."

  • Branding "is a spasm of sentiment that needs no basis in logical fact, and realized when it is familiar ("it's like me"), participatory ("does it like me") and powerful, ("Is it more than me.")"

  • "Brand loyalty is self-loyalty." And further, "there is no such thing as product loyalty; that's commodity-based. Attachment leads to self-loyalty. It looks like product loyalty, but it's not; it's 'through you I become more of me."'

Think back to what Harley-Davidson does with the full-page ad above. Doesn't it seem an awful lot like the familiar, participatory and powerful referred to in the second bullet?

As I was thinking on all of this, I remembered back to Harley-Davidson's very powerful "Live by it" campaign from 2006. In fact, I found the 10/9/2006 Images of the Week page from AdAge featuring 4 different black & white print ads from the campaign, and a blogpost printout referring to it. More specifically, Laurent Flores' Customer Listening Blog post Listening & Pulling to Engage: The Harley Davidson way.

Do you remember the "Creed?" Definitely powerful. I had goosebumps the first time I watched it. What's sad, though, is that other than the YouTube video, Harley-Davidson has taken down all other signs of the "Live by it" campaign. Does anyone know why all of that glorious fan-based content is gone?

Perhaps that's why they're rallying via Facebook? To keep all of that passion alive and available to share with all of us as we get onboard and decide to Let's Ride?

Although I don't 'ride,' it makes me wish I did and I definitely consider myself part of Let's Ride.

What about you?

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