Harley Davidson Motorcycles is an American icon and a brand which is recognized the world over. Sixty years or so ago two things happened to HD which caused HD to almost go out of business. Then something happened to change that. What happened and how has HD used marketing in an effort to regain a large portion of the market that it lost?
Over the last sixty years, Harley Davidson would become an American Icon. As its mystique as well as legend is what everybody wants to participate in and perpetuate. This is because two events occurred that would shake company down to its very foundation to include: the Great Depression and the company's economic meltdown in 1983. In both these different events, the company would wrestle with runaway debt and staggering sales. As they would lose significant amounts of market share to competitors; causing their financial viability to be brought into question. The Great Depression was important, because it would leave only two motorcycle manufacturers. This would help Harley Davidson be able to regain market share, with them receiving large Army -- Navy contracts during World War II and improving the image the company during the 1950's. (Richardson, 2006)
In 1983 the company would face declining marketing market share and staggering amounts of debt, as they would start the Harley Ownership Group (HOG). These were motorcycle enthusiasts who would form a ridding clubs, around their passion for Harley Davidson motorcycles. This is important, because it would help the company to market to a core demographic audience, increasing its exposure and appeal. ("About Harley Davidson Motorcycles," 2010)
These two events would help the company to redefine itself, in an effort to regain market share. Where, Harley Davidson would use a number of different tools to improve it image / reputation to include: close customer relationships and improved customer service / quality. The close customer relationships were brands that Harley Davidson created, to form a web of connections (which sustains and renews itself). This allowed the company to overhaul most aspects of the organization in such a way that it is more community focused. This spawned sizable amounts of community related events on regular basis (through a variety of mediums). As a result, becoming a member of the Harley Owners Group is more than just owning a bike. Instead, it is embracing a subculture: that values freedom, individuality and recreational lifestyle. No other product draws so many enthusiasts to various weakened rallies and events staged around the country. Where, it induces such: identification, pride and kinship in the organization. Ongoing since 1938, the Harley Davidson rallies are estimated to attract more than 4 million riders from around the world. As these are giant outdoor festivities that celebrate: life, freedom, and individuality. At the same time, they feature: live music, food, games and prizes. The vendors' sell everything from: customizing services to branded accessories. Top managers from the company love the events as it is way to: interact with other Harley riders, hear stories, and answer questions. ("Harley Davidson," 2010) This is significant, because it shows how the two events would help Harley Davison to reach out to its core demographic audience, while increasing market share.
Improving customer service / quality meant that the company would have to understand the mind set of customers. To do this, Harley staffed all community outreach events with employees rather than consultants. For staff members, this regular, close contact with the people served as a way of adding meaning to their work. This would increase their enthusiasm, which attracted more volunteers than were needed. At which point, many employees became riders and more enthusiasts were quickly joining the company. As far as executives were concerned, they were required to spend time in the field with customers and bring back their insights to the firm. This strategy was solidified in: Harley Davidson's operating philosophy and reinforced during new employee orientations. As a result, decisions at all levels were: grounded in community perspectives and ensuring that motorcycle enthusiasts are a number one priority (helping to redefine its image). (Lee, 2009)
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