One of the most enduring infatuations surrounding a company is that of Harley-Davidson. Its fan club, calling itself the Harley Owners Group (or HOG for short) has one million members worldwide. In 2003, a quarter of a million people came to Harley-Davidson’s centennial anniversary celebration at its home base in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They all wanted to be part of this historic milestone. Notice here again that, above all, Harley-Davidson aficionados identify themselves in terms of their association with their motorcycle and related accessories. Their world revolves around Harley to such an extent that they actively cultivate an entire HOG way of being.
And Harley-Davidson feels and stokes this love. In 1987, it made business history by petitioning the International Trade Commission for early termination of the five-year tariff on foreign-made heavyweight motorcycles, which artificially protected its monopoly in the United States. In essence, Harley-Davidson was so confident of its distinctive market position that it did not view foreign manufacturers as real competition, and it wanted the floodgates opened to prove it. Through 2006 the company posted twenty-one consecutive years of revenue growth, indicative of its extended courtship with consumers. Yet even a company with such an enviable lifestyle aura and fan base must continuously strive to stay relevant. Harley-Davidson hit a bump in 2007 and 2008 and must now figure out ways to attract younger generations without upsetting its more mature core followers.
What then is the strategic commonality among these examples of mass infatuations and resulting brand extensions that I have presented over the past several weeks? What do all these companies share? Tune in next week for the answer, or you can dive right into my book, Slingshot: Re-Imagine Your Business, Re-Imagine Your Life and companion website.