Harley-Davidson is trying to tackle negative stereotypes about Harley riders in a new advertising campaign and by using a new Facebook application called Fan Machine. This app lets Harley-Davidson's 3.3 million Facebook fans submit, review and vote on submission from members.
Quick: when you think of Ferrari or Ducati what mental images do you conjure up? Those images are most likely very different from the mental images that you get when you of think BMW or Honda. No doubt along with the images of these products, you are also visualizing the customers usually associated with them.
An icon like Harley-Davidson is no different and has both enthusiasts and haters. What do you think of when you see the phrase "Harley-Davidson rider...."? What images come to mind? Are they all truly positive? Of course not — if they were, Harley-Davidson wouldn't have started this campaign. Popular culture doesn't help. With all the popularity of a show like Sons of Anarchy, don't you think it does more to reinforce common stereotypes of Harley riders than to dispelthem?
Personally I know a wide variety of Harley Davidson riders and admirers. These riders are men and women, young, old, Black, Asian, Hispanic, with some in shape, not in shape, some have blue collar jobs, and some have white collar careers. However, even though I personally know a diverse group of riders, I have to confess that when I think "Harley rider" the first image that comes to my mind is often someone who is older, white, maybe a bit out of shape, and certainly tattooed.
Harley-Davidson and Brand Modification
So how do you change the public's perception of your brand, product and customers? Oh, and how do you do this without offending your founding customers? This is a tough thing to do because the association between a brand's identity and its products are a strong attraction to its core customers.
By extension, the connection that is drawn between certain products and those who own them is just as strong. These associations can be a highly magnetizing force that appeals to many but at the same time those associations can be exactly what repels others like pepper spray. Harley-Davidson thinks they can thread this needle, dispelling stereotypes without driving away core customers, and they are doing it in a way that probably stands the best chance of success: appealing directly to those customers.
Harley-Davidson's Fan Machine & Ad Campaign
The Harley ad campaign is based around a series of videos featuring Harley-Davidson riders and their corresponding stereotype showcased as a Twitter hashtag ("#StereotypicalHarley [fill in the blank]"). These ads are designed to spark conversations within these social platforms.
Some of the stereotype bustin' riders include an Army Intelligence Specialist, Soccer Mom, Gourmet Chief, Honor Student, 3rd grade Teacher, Electronic Dj, Police Officer and Robotic Engineer. The new E Pluribus Unumi video can be viewed on the Harley-Davidson web site.
Just in case if it did not make an impression, do you typically associate Harley Davidson riders & enthusiasts with Twitter or Facebook? Maybe the mere fact that riders are posting and interacting on these platforms will help dispel some of the common stereotypes which people have of Harley-Davidson and Harley riders.