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On Bigger Is Better and Less Is More

I have to give credit to the Harley-Davidson marketing department for being a bunch of truly resourceful fellows. The ease of switching lanes, so to speak, is absolutely stunning and is also good for business, I presume.
It's the new Street 750 and Street 500 bikes I'm thinking about, and the way they're being marketed. Now, first of all, there's nothing exactly wrong with either the new bikes, or the way they are being advertised.

Harley finally understood that even an old company must change and make technological advances. And acknowledging that the world markets are changing was an even more glorious step the MoCo took.

From a marketer's point of view, the move is a very good one, and despite that I am no sales expert, even I can say that the smaller Harleys have been a very good move. It uses the immense momentum the brand has, it is somewhat consistent with the actual image of the brand, and will surely draw many customers. But it's funny.

Product placement for the Street 750 in the next Marvel Captain America action movie grants Harley solid exposure, and I'm positive that the price for adding the bike in it was a costly business.

However, with the huge audience the new Captain America movie will have, Harley hopes to set a new trend. One that is completely new for the brand. And one which could prove to be a very successful move, too, if done correctly. And with an under 40 hp H-D cruiser new riders can legally ride in Europe... so many possibilities open!

Now, without any intention of hurting the Harley-Davidson enthusiasts’ and owners’ feelings, it is obvious that the MoCo is selling more old-school lifestyle than bikes.

I won't question the unquestionable adherence to the brand of their long-time customers. Most of these fellows have worked hard to buy their H-Ds, and they have my utmost respect.

Now, it's only a fraction of posers who bought a Harley just because it represented something which looked good. They hoped their own lives would become better just because they were wearing some branded clothing and ride on Sundays around the town to be seen on lab-clean bikes and with carefully ironed shirts.

These chaps are a negligible quantity in my reasoning. They are not making a motorcycle choice, they are making an ego choice, and it is vain. The fact that it happened to be a Harley is pure coincidence.

It's the future customers I'm interested in, because it's them who are targeted by the new would-be trend-setting Street bikes. After almost a hundred years of "bigger and heavier is better", it's time for the "less is more" thing. Of course, also shrouded in the almost mystical "heritage" veil.

The perspective is truly seductive for a guy in search of his first Harley-Davidson bike and who is not exactly rich enough to get a brand new Night Rod Special or a Street Glide. The new bikes are all Harley and come with enough "Milwaukee looks" to make a new rider feel good.

They are also a new thing, in fact THE new thing, and this cannot be anything but cool and good. And this looks like enough to want one. Bulls eye!

Young riders know little, if anything at all, about the brand, and all that matters is the fact that placing the H-D badge magically bestows instant mojo on the machine.

Are these machines bikes like no others? Definitely not, as middleweight Japanese cruisers have been around since forever. Oh, wait, but they're not Harley, right? So back to square one.

Does it matter for anyone that, after all the power and the freedom and anything which went with the flow all these years, a 35hp-ish 480 lbs (217 kg) cruiser is not exactly as awesome as advertised? Probably not, it's a Harley anyway; so it's cool, no matter what.

Advertising a locking fuel tank cap as a feature for a modern, 2014 bike is pure crap. It's like selling bottled water and saying that being able to drink it is a true feature and benefit.

The same goes for the passenger pegs and the dark attire. Seriously, is the all-black color one of the big selling points in a modern, all-new bike? Many of the decent, true-to-themselves riders will smile, I just know. Because this is the truth. Still, the way these bikes are marketed can make them sell very well, especially with the right price tag.

All they need is Harley-Davidson keeping to play the same tune, which pleases the ears: heritage, freedom, be who you decide to be (and buy H-D). These bikes can outsell many of the old models which have made it into the history books.

They might even grin at the Sportster 883, which is a truly sweet middleweight machine. And that's not because these bikes are newer, or better in any way, other than price. They are the iPhone 5C of motorcycles, and they are marketed in an extremely clever way.

You can't afford to buy the real thing, we'll find a way for you to feel good with the next best thing and make you believe you're still king of the world, because that's what a good advertising/marketing department does.

Now, all the above may sound like an anti-Harley rant, but it's not. It's a way to show my respect for some fellows who manage to sell “the real thing” even though we all know it's not the real thing. Peace!

 
 
 
 
 

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