Is Harley still missing the point with women?

by on March 17, 2007
in Brands

harley davidson logoI thought that Harley-Davidson was really getting good about engineering their bikes for women… well, not necessarily for women, but doing things to the bikes (lower seat heights, easier-pulling clutches) that made them more appealing to a lot of women. But it’s possible they are still missing a big share of the market. Why? Because they seem stuck on an out-dated notion of “what bikers want.” Business management guru Tom Peters (In Search of Excellence) spoke on Friday 3/16 to the Quinnipiac University Business Leadership Forum. The New Haven Register of Connecticut reported that Peters named a few of the most pressing problems corporations are facing (among them failing to recognize women as one of the single most important markets in the world economy) and stated: “…the solution is to change the corporate mindset from selling raw materials or other goods and services to providing businesses and consumers with comprehensive solutions to problems and offering customers ‘experiences and dreams.'”

As an example, Peters “quoted a Harley-Davidson executive who said the company doesn’t just sell motorcycles: ‘What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.’”

Now the Register did not report the name of the HD exec who said this, and maybe that’s because Peters didn’t name his source outright. But whoever it was, clearly was only delivering part of the picture. Yes, some bikers might want small town-folk to fear them as part of their alter-ego fantasy. But HD needs to be careful in trying to characterize their entire customer base as male 43-year-old accountants. There are a lot more types of people than that buying Harleys, many of them women, and I’m willing to bet that “fear me” is not the statement the majority of them are trying to make – even in jest.

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    2 Responses to “Is Harley still missing the point with women?”
    1. Jon says:

      “What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.’”

      This was not said, nor was it quoted by Tom Peters, to be anything more than a way to break the perception that HD is only for the obvious biker with the biker profile. It is hard, even for me, to think of a 43 year old accountant getting up from behind his desk, after crunching numbers all day, to put on black leather, and then ride for the thrills and the great feeling that the average biker enjoys. Yes, women are targeted but so aren’t these middle aged men who have the money to go out and spend on a great product. So this is not an out-dated notion. This is a repositioning tactic to review who their consumer is and that people don’t only buy Harley Davidsons anymore, they buy an experience.

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