The Harley Brand

When we take our Harley trips, I finally relax.  And I love to study other bikers.  During our recent trip, we saw a little of everything humanity has to offer.  Start with the annoying crotch rockets: youngsters with a death wish, all leathered up with full face helmets and likely, small dicks. Then, the folks on Gold Wings, usually a middle aged, overweight couple with matching jackets and helmets with their little microphones sticking out…they give you the big, cheery wave when you pass them.  So Not Cool.

But then there’s the Harley people. They give you the subtle, hand-low-to-the-ground gesture of acknowledgement…no fucking wave.  It would be So Uncool.  

I’ve got the Harley  people down into two basic groups:  Tough guys and tough girls, tattoos and tramp stamps, adorned with flaming skull t-shirts and doo-rags.  They’re likely welders and waitresses. The second type are suburbanites…likely secretaries and store managers… adopting the Harley persona for weekends only. Mom got a sitter, Dad shined the chrome, and out they come to mingle in their unscuffed boots and pressed T-shirts.

The Harley mystique has an amazing depth…it’s downright intoxicating.  So many different people all wanting to own a piece of the brand promise: Be Rebellious. Independent. Dark. Cool. Renegade. The Experience. The ride of a Lifetime. Not only a superior piece of engineering, they back it all up with every piece of of clothing and accessory you can imagine.  And the web site…well,  go here.  It sucks you right in. Smart as hell.

Harley reminds me so much of Apple’s brilliant marketing. If you want it, you’ll pay for it.  Yeah, you could ride a Yamaha (own a PC).  

But then you’d be a pussy.

imagesIf I have to explain it, you wouldn’t understand.

It’s true.

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8 Responses to “The Harley Brand”

  1. Muonwar Says:

    What I’ve never understood is how Harley has been able to suck in otherwise intelligent people with a “rebel” brand that couldn’t be more corporate… to the extent that those same “cool” folks will spend thousands of dollars to be unpaid spokespeople & shills for the brand.

    Is there anything more entertaining than a group of corporate-type Harley owners dressed in vintage & designer leather sitting around a semi-respectable bar on their $25k pieces of art “slumming” it with rednecks while they talk 401ks and annuity plans?

    http://www.amazon.com/Hells-Angels-Hunter-S-Thompson/dp/0345410084

    Hunter Thompson, a true rebel, rode a BMW while writing Hell’s Angels… a book about the original Harley owners group…

    pshah

  2. Andy Webb Says:

    Hey Adchick,

    Great observations on bike riders.

    For another study, you should come to RI in July when the guys on their 20,000 cc Kawasakis do wheelies on Route 95 on their way to the beach dressed only in shorts, sandals and sunglasses. You just know at some point they’re going to turn on a patch of sand a little to hard and become ground beef minus the shrink wrap. But they don’t seem too concerned.

    So, which group do you fall into?

  3. WindyCityExPat Says:

    hi adchick!

    i literally stumbled upon your blog, and am so glad that i did. my husband and i are bikers — he has a harley road king (and has been a lifelong rider) and i have a triumph bonneville. we just returned from Rolling Thunder, the annual MIA/POW motorcycle rally in DC. i’m a new rider (just 3 years) and i’m truly enjoying the journey. coincidentally, we’re also ad folks — he’s a medical strategist for a healthcare agency, and i’m an account planner for a consumer agency.

    i agree with you on the Harley community. these are some interesting folks. they come from all walks of life, but for one moment, one ride, one weekend, one whatever, we are on common ground. it truly doesn’t matter what your day job is: waitress or rocket scientist (i’ve ridden with both). being an account planning type i can’t help but interview the folks that i meet, and i’m finding that we seem to have a common tread: humble beginnings. most of us stem from blue collar parents.

    anyway, i’m about ready to upgrade from the Bonnie to my own Harley. the Bonnie has been a good training bike, but i’ve got my eye on an incredible Softail. i put it this way for those who don’t ride: women on the back are cool. they’re there. they’re being supportive. women on their own are cooler. but the women on Harleys are the coolest.

    be safe, and keep both wheels to the ground.

  4. adchick Says:

    Munowar:
    BMW’s are for the filthy rich…and they’re too quiet-absolutely zero attitude. And Harley has done a superior job of selling attitude…they have captured the imagination of the suits AND the welders…Harley has positioned themselves as the real ride. Anyway, it’s too late. I drank the Kool-Aid. I also worship Apple and Sony. I drank from their trough, too. Worship……damn, that’s a testimonial to some fucking great branding!

  5. adchick Says:

    WindyCityExPat:
    Nice to connect with you…I heard about the big DC rally. That must have been some experience. Our plan is for my sweetheart to move up to a Road King and I’ll buy his Street Glide. This is (hopefully) the year to do it…being a tom boy at heart, I used to have a dirt bike when I was much younger. Before I’m too old, I need to have my own bike…I see so many women riders out there now…and I want my own! Stay in touch! We’re downstate!

  6. adchick Says:

    Hey Andy…. I dont have a tattoo (although I’m considering it), I’m not a waitress….but I’m not a suburban soccer mom either…I guess I fall somehere in the middle! I’d love to see your Kawasaki boys! Ah, to be young again…invisible and bulletproof! Crazy!

  7. adam Says:

    have you seen the new dark custom sportster? its called the iron 883, i believe. they are gorgeous and affordable. i think i saw that harley is doing free test rides this month . . . i think i should go ride one.

    oh, and i used to ride a crotchrocket. i loved the feeling of control leading head first (rearsets). sitting on a big hog leading with your feet doesnt seem so secure.

    oh, and not every streetbike rider is some douche with a tiny wangdoodle . . .

  8. adchick Says:

    Adam: OK…so you’re not a douche with a tiny wangdoodle. It’s good to know there’s one of you out there!!! 🙂 Thanks for zooming by! I have not seen the Iron 883…maybe this is the weekend.

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