Harley-Davidson Looks to Customers of the Future: Women, Blacks, Hispanics
By Monique Madara, Project Director, New American Dimensions (www.newamericandimensions.com)
Marketers across the country have felt the unprecedented effect of the maturing Boomer generation, for better and for worse. One such company is Harley-Davidson. While Boomers single-handedly transformed Harley’s rumbling, lumbering bikes from countercultural totems into American icons, we have to ask: how much longer can Harley rely on a customer base that is rapidly approaching 60?
Changing demographics are forcing the Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based company to
seek new customers among women, blacks and Hispanics. Joanne Bischmann, vice
president of marketing at Harley, admits, “The demographics are changing” though
she insists the change isn’t as dramatic as some have suggested. “But that doesn’t
mean there aren’t other populations we don’t want to tap into.”
To reach out to the black community, Harley has begun sponsoring Tom Joyner,
an African American radio host whose program is heard by as many as 8 million
U.S. listeners. Harley is also advertising during this years March Madness
and is sponsoring the Roundup, an African American version of the annual gathering
of bikers in Sturgis, South Dakota.
To reach younger Hispanic men, the company is participating in low-rider shows and advertising in Hombre and Fuego — two Latino men’s magazines. To reach women, it’s putting a four-page insert into Jane, Allure, Glamour and two other Conde Nast magazines, featuring what Bischmann says are “real women riders.” It’s also hosting garage parties for women – much like the get-togethers that Tupperware, Avon, Mary Kay and other U.S. direct marketers have used to target women successfully for decades.
Moderator’s Comment: How are brands, which are inextricably linked to specific markets (ethnicities, generations) transformed to appeal to non-traditional
audiences without alienating existing customers and destroying the brand? Frankly, is this cast the fishing net strategy appropriate or should marketers first target,
then market? If so, how do Harley and other marketers facing the retirement of the Boomer generation identify and reach out to their next wave of loyalists? –
George Anderson – Moderator