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Harley-Davidson Aims to “Build” Riders to Expand Brand Loyalty

Passion has always been equated with Harley-Davidson and that drives the iconic company’s legendary brand loyalty.

During the company’s fiscal second quarter, it experienced some distinct challenges.

“While we expected the U.S. industry to be challenged, we were disappointed by the unexpected magnitude of the industry softening in the quarter,” Harley-Davidson CEO Matthew Levatich said during the company’s recent earnings call.

In February, company officials announced a 10-year objectives and strategies plan.

“We’re firmly committed to our long-term strategy focused on building the next generation of Harley-Davidson riders globally,” Levatich said. “This is our true north. Our new product investment is one pillar of our strategy to build riders. We’re very pleased with the global response to the Road King Special and Street Rod which launched this spring and were energized by the strength of our model year 2018 lineup coming later this summer. We’ve now sharpened our customer-led approach to include a deeper understanding of consumer life stages, cultural shifts, and where people are on their riding journeys. These insights are driving a richer, more targeted approach to creating increased relevance for Harley-Davidson on our way to building two million riders in the U.S. by 2027.”

Levatich discussed the company’s pivotal change in mindset moving forward.

“We’ve moved from thinking in terms of we build bikes to thinking in terms of we build riders,” he explained. “This is a big mindset shift in a big part of achieving our long-term objective. We’ve demonstrated our ability to attract younger, more diverse customers through our outreach efforts. As we got that engine running, we grew our mix of sales to outreach customers in the U.S. six percentage points to 40 percent from 2010 to 2016.”

The Harley-Davidson Riding Academy is one important piece of that new strategy, Levatich noted, to build
riders in the U.S.

“We know there are plenty of people in the U.S. who are interested in riding and more importantly, who are interested in Harley-Davidson,” he said. “Rider training is a key step in someone’s path to riding, but it’s only part of the journey. We’re piloting enhancements to improve the impact of Riding Academy while at the same time increasing the number of dealerships offering the program. So far, this year, we’ve trained nearly 32,000 riders and we have nine more dealers onboard to offer Riding Academy for the next-generation of riders.”

What’s more, Harley-Davidson is ridership through its partnership with EagleRider, the leading experts in the motorcycle rental space who provide riders from around the world an enhanced rental, travel, and tour experience in the U.S.

“In May we announced EagleRider will be renting new Harley-Davidson motorcycles through an expanded number of locations, including select Harley-Davidson dealerships,” Levatich added. “The EagleRider partnership also enhances the way a newly trained or returning rider can seek out their perfect bike through extended trials. While we’re dialing-in and accelerating our efforts in the U.S., we’re also driving our international opportunities. We also continue to do more to accelerate brand awareness and reach internationally. During the quarter, we expanded our international reach with 13 new dealerships in countries like China, Thailand, Korea, Switzerland, Italy, U.A.E., and Russia. We know that our biggest opportunity for growth is outside the U.S.”

Harley-Davidson also entered a partnership with a leading global apparel expert with integrated operations from supply through to retail for numerous world-class brands.

“The aim is to use authentic Harley-Davidson apparel to accelerate brand awareness in Asia-Pacific,” Levatich said. “We have an incredible opportunity to reach more people in the region, particularly young adults, and create awareness and interest in our brand through our apparel. We’re aiming to create more relevance for our brand and for our style of riding. We aren’t waiting for these potential new Harley riders to find us. We’re going to them using clothing as a way for them to start their journey with Harley-Davidson.”

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