"After Harley-Davidson's successful foray into the rarified air of today's quixotic "skate chic" chopper scene, The Motor Company seeks to leverage its century-old heritage with a new range of accessories and apparel for modern riders. The Harley-Davidson Summer 2010 Leather Collection features all the progressive style, quality construction and innovative design Freedom Riders™ have come to expect from our proud American brand."
If I hadn't personally read the Harley press kit that landed on my desk last month, I wouldn't have believed my eyes. Unfortunately, Willie G. is serious, and the Mothership means business. Harley is rethinking modern biker apparel, and they want ChopCult readers to be onboard when the merch drops this June. Frightening.
Harley's lavish press kit was hand delivered to me by a clean-shaven spokesman in full MoCo regalia: carefully decorated vest, faded denim jeans beneath faux distressed chaps, and a pair of steel-toed jackboots. Kyle Witherspoon from Stanwood Associates was commissioned by H-D to promote their new range of "Industrial-Strength Integrity" across the range of endemic chopper media: print, online and in-field. I was speechless.
Here are some tasty tidbits from Kyle's presentation:
"Willie G.'s vision for this year's line was focused, and his orders were clear: Give the rugged individuals who are Harley's core consumer a line of jackets, hats, and chaps they can be proud to wear."
Donald "Thunder" Clapp, EVP of H-D Licensing
"Harley's new leather jumpsuit is awesome. I've been looking for the right shop gear to wear when I'm stroking Hogs, and this is it."
Travis Reno, Engine tech at St. Louis Harley-Davidson
In a scripted delivery so polished it shined, Kyle answered every hardball I threw at him.
"Who designed this stuff?"
"To be honest, when our designers put hand to mouse, these garments practically design themselves. The 'Harley rider' image is so iconic, none of the regular rules for originality or free thinking apply."
"What makes you think ChopCult readers would wear any of this shit?"
"According to market research and focus groups, motorcycle enthusiasts who spend more than 90 minutes per week online are 77% more likely to follow trends than their offline peers."
Ouch. That last one stung, and it hit mighty close to home. None of the other data in Harley's well-prepared press kit painted things any rosier:
Among ALL motorcycle riders 30 years or younger:
29% used inline skates as a teenager
32% display skateboard banners or posters in their garage
47% live with their parents
69% admit to having "been with a girl" fewer than 5 times in their life
Harley's market research among motorcycle enthusiasts over 30 was equally unflattering:
77% pay a third party to perform regular tune and service maintenance on their motorcycles
61% ride fewer than 100 miles per month
54% own matching "biker-themed" apparel with their spouse
41% know their motorcycle's model year, but not its engine displacement or wheel size
The picture Harley's marketing shill had painted for me was now crystal-clear: according to the MoCo, everyone who rides a Harley is a douchebag. Saddest of all were the data Kyle shared on the subject of online media:
9% of active forum readers own running motorcycles
77% spend more time in online chat rooms and messageboards than they do on their motorcycles
100% follow links in online editorial
"Fair enough, Kyle—you've made your point." There was no use arguing with the marketing hack from Harley; he was loaded with research and he wasn't afraid to use it. With little to show for my own involvement in the motorcycle scene except a CB450 that doesn't run and an Evo project that isn't finished, I accepted defeat. Everyone who talks about motorcycles online truly IS a douchebag.
Thanks for nothing, Willie G.