Mothers; they nurture us and help us grow, and now they’re doing the same for some of our biggest companies. Like so many others, the economic downturn hurt Harley Davidson’s bottom line. Bloomberg Business Week reports that motorcycle registrations had fallen 47% during the GFC, yet this year there’s been a magic turnaround. Both profitability and share price have soared to 5 years highs all on the back of Harley’s successful effort capture a culturally diverse market segment; women.
Harley recognised that women weren’t buying motorcycles and took the brave but logical step of asking ‘why not?’. The response was profoundly simple, women ‘didn’t know how to ride, so why would they buy a motorcycle?’. When this report landed on the desks of Harley’s head office, you can imagine the echo of palms slapping foreheads at the realisation of this rudimentary fact.
So Harley then set the ambitious goal of teaching 100,000 women how to ride. A couple of nights per week, dealerships closed their doors to men and hosted women-only riding clinics complete with female instructors. This was then followed by a fashion show of Harley’s apparel, teaching women what riding gear is required and how to mix and match designs and colours. At the same time, Harley went back to basics and relaunched a smaller and lighter motorcycle called the SuperLow, aimed at women and first-time riders. Finally a series of editorials in Vanity Fair celebrated celebrity riders including that of singer-songwriter Jewel, pictured above.
In one of month over the promotional period, 650 Harley Davidson dealerships attracted 27,000 women, nearly half of whom had never been in a dealership before. Harley sold 3,000 motorcycles that month.
Now fast forward to today, and FoxBusiness reports that Harley sales have surged 20% in the last quarter and share prices surged 6% to their highest point in nearly 5 years.
This concerted effort of marketing to a ‘niche’ cultural segment is no longer a niche activity, but the saving grace in these uncertain economic times.