Sources of Brand Equity

Harley-Davidson has developed brand equity by emphasizing the company’s storied history as well as the motorcycle riding experience. While many people associate Harley with rebellious outlaws, the company's customer base is primarily made up of older, wealthy, white men. Owning a Harley has become a status symbol because H-D motorcycles are considered to be luxury products. Although the company does not pay celebrities to be spokespeople for the brand, a long list of celebrities own and ride Harleys, including actors, athletes, musicians, and politicians. Harley-Davidson maintains its brand equity by hosting a number of events around the United States, which often have tens of thousands of attendees. Merchandise is another huge source of brand equity for the company; people who don't even own H-D motorcycles often wear clothes featuring the logo.

Brand Name Logo, & Trademark

Despite the fact that it serves a niche market, Harley-Davidson is one of the best known brands in the United States. Harley has an extremely loyal brand community, which it maintains through clubs, events, and even museums. H-D customers are so loyal to the brand that some people have the Harley-Davidson trademark tattooed on their bodies. The company’s past growth and continued success are closely tied to its customers brand loyalty. Harley’s primary value is in its brand, so the company must closely monitor the growth or decline of the Harley-Davidson culture.

Brand Image

For a period of time, Harley-Davidson was renowned for its popularity amongst hardcore guys with big tattoos and bad tempers. Although some still associate the brand with this “outlaw” image, Harley's are actually much more popular with upper class white-collar men. The company has sustained a reputation for building quality, American-made, status-delivering motorcycles. Harley-Davidson does not built better bikes than its Japanese competitors, but it has built a far better brand. However, the “American-made” premium is more nostalgic at this point than anything else. The company experienced quality problems in the 1970’s, and currently imports many components from Japan due to their higher quality. Despite all this, Harley-Davidson is still able to charge premium prices due to its perceived brand image.

Brand Heritage

When a customer buys a Harley, not only are they getting a motorcycle, but they are also attaining the H-D lifestyle. The Harley Owners Group (HOG) has over 600 chapters in the United States, more than 1400 chapters worldwide, and over a million total members. HOG membership benefits include organized group rides, exclusive products and discounts, insurance discounts, and the Hog Tales newsletter. A one year membership is included with the purchase of a new H-D motorcycle. The Harley-Davidson brand has developed a reputation based on its storied past, but it is difficult to know how long this will be sustainable into the future.

Spokespersons & Celebrity Endorsers

Many celebrities are publicly renowned as being Harley riders. The extensive and impressive list includes actors, athletes, musicians, politicians, and famous businessmen. Malcolm Forbes, the founder of Forbes Magazine, began riding Harleys in the 1940’s, and currently has a collection of more than fifty Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Jay Leno, former host of The Tonight Show on NBC, also owns a collection of H-D motorcycles, and also auctioned off several Harleys signed by celebrities for charity on his show. Dennis Hopper and Peter Fonda are arguably the most famous Harley riders of all time. They starred in the 1969 movie Easy Rider, in which they spent much of the movie riding Harleys. Elvis Presley was also a Harley owner during that same era, and there are several photographs circulating of Presley riding a Harley. Other famous Harley riders include Don Johnson, Jackie Brown, Mickey Rourke, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Tina Turner, and Elizabeth Taylor.

Sponsorships & Events

Harley-Davidson holds annual bike rides in every region of the country that attract tens of thousands of Harley enthusiasts, who ride together for several hundred miles during these events. Some diehard H-D fanatics participate in several of these events each year. The four most prominent motorcyles events are Arizona Bike Week, Sturgis Rally, Daytona Bike Week, and Laconia Bike Week, which take place in the West Coast Region, Midwest Region, East Coast Region, and Northeast Region of the United States respectively. Each of these events raises millions of dollars for charity, which helps to raise Harley’s philanthropic image. Harley-Davidson celebrated its 90th anniversary in 1993 with celebratory rides to Milwaukee officially dubbed the “Ride Home", and was unofficially referred to as Harleyfest. This tradition continues every five years all around Wisconsin; the largest of these events took place in 2008, celebrating the company’s 105th anniversary.

Other Sources of Brand Knowledge

Licensing of the Harley-Davidson logo accounts for approximately five percent of the company’s total revenue. The company also sells millions of dollars worth of clothing and other retail merchandise annually, and most all of these products prominently feature the familiar Harley-Davidson trademark.

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