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Archive for March, 2009

hd_flagAppropriate or not many of the news outlets capture footage of corporate moguls emerging from private jets and images of lavish hotels, expensive gifts being showered on senior executives and clients at corporate events and then they turn right around as a “muckraker” and help fuel the fiery populist rage whipping across this country.  We’ve seen politicians do it as they prophesize evidence of corporate abuses to an outraged public all the while describing the discrepancies of “our” American dream.

Now Harley-Davidson marketing decided to throw their own tea-party and jump aboard the “outrage train” with a NY Times and online ad at Facebook.

Clearly an attempt to help the collapsing newspaper industry and draw in like-minded customers, who feel the muckrakers have predicted an early demise of American companies including H-D?  People are hurting. It seems self-serving, intellectually dishonest and a bit risky to try and capitalized on the anger and resentment of the masses to:

 “Wrench the life back into our economy.” 

More and more today’s motorcycle market reminds me of the movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai.” In that classic, Alec Guinness commanded a group of British POWs in Southeast Asia during WWII tasked to build a bridge for a Japanese railway. But in his zeal to build the bridge, Guinness’ character, Colonel Nicholson, lost sight of its true purpose and only saw it as means to an end, whereas it was really an end in and of itself.  As a blogger I’m always interested in the transformative power of advertising.  In this case — H-D’s thread of hopeful narrative in the midst of America’s demise — there sparkles Harley-Davidson as a flashy gem of advertising hope.

Shine on you crazy diamond, Harley.

Photo courtesy of H-D.

All Rights Reserved (c) Northwest Harley Blog

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Crispin Porter & Bogusky

Crispin Porter & Bogusky

Way back in ’05 the boyz of OCC (not to be confused with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) showed us what they do best with a Microsoft operating system crash while designing the custom choppers for America’s corporations.  Microsoft hired OCC to build their own name inspiring Microsoft SQL Bike.

Now Microsoft has been caught in out-right deceit!  Latest example? 

Microsoft’s new “Laptop Hunters” TV campaign, in which an attractive girl professes she’s not cool enough to buy an Apple laptop and goes for a cheaper Windows machine.  Within moments, it was revealed that “Lauren” (Lauren De Long) who is a little funky, a little folksy was not an average person, but a member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) recruited from Craigslist.  Then, it became public that the $699 computer she purchased was an old AMD-based PC with super bad reviews.  Then a Mac user offered to GIVE her his own Apple PowerBook so she could see what she was missing.

In other words, if Microsoft and the ad agency think they can pull the wool over the public’s eyes, with lame excuses denying the truth, they’re wrong.  This “twitter-first-century” is about transparency.  Most important is that the Microsoft ad totally misses the point. The ad doesn’t even advertise Microsoft’s operating system (almost as if they know that they can’t compete in this arena), but oddly the ad promotes other PC hardware over Apple’s computers by talking about a price advantage.  This $300M ad campaign created by ad agency of the year, Crispin Porter + Boguksy was designed to boost the Windows brand following the downward spiral of user outrage over Vista.

Hey Microsoft.  1999 called.  It wants its motherboard back.

Photo courtesy of Creativity.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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connectionI love Costco and I hate Costco.

My displeasure is often traced to other people who shop there?  They say membership has its privileges and I’ve seen the people who flaunt it to no end. A person is lucky to not get run over by a Range Rover or Lexus SUV in the parking lot.  You know the type… these people are “entitled.” Their lives are more important. Their jobs are more important. Their kids are more important. They’ll cut you off in a heartbeat in the candy aisle with their overloaded carriage to grab a lifetime supply of Juicy Juice. They are not to be denied!

But I digress.

Costco is not cheap. They are not about immediate dollars and cents, but about the long haul relationship.  They specialize in getting you to spend money on stuff — much of which you didn’t know you needed or wanted until you went on a “walk-a-bout” in the store. What they do leave you with is a good feeling that whatever you spent or bought – you got real value for your money.  And I’m not just talking about the Hebrew National hot dog for $1.69!  The benefits go much deeper. Did you know that they have a nearly unlimited, no-questions-asked return policy?  They sell movie tickets at discount? They offer great prices on optical products and testing?  They have cheap, high quality gas. They sell tires for less than most tire shops and offer warranties on them beyond the manufacturer’s warranty, at no extra charge?  They have buyers in retail, screening products for quality and meeting (sometimes even anticipating) consumer demand, perfectly in most every product category.

costco_autoSo here’s the question.  Why doesn’t Harley-Davidson partner with Costco to sell motorcycles?

They could leverage the existing Costco Auto Program which saves consumers money, time and hassle on new vehicle purchases or leases. In addition the Costco field staff selects participating dealers that offer up competitive pricing and superior customer service.  I’m thinking how great is that?  Consumers do not trust advertising, they don’t want to view advertising and they don’t need advertising.  H-D could save all that money on slick ads that try to entice customers who don’t care – it’s a complete waste.  Why do you need advertising when you’ve got Costco?  Dedicated Costco shoppers salivate when they speak of their store of choice.  They bring it up unsolicited, as a topic of conversation, akin to computer-users testifying about their Macs.  The everlasting love makes you want to avoid Costco and Apple at first, but then you have an experience and you’re converted.

So instead of H-D beating us over the head telling us how great their motorcycles are, why not go the non-traditional route and appeal to the populace on sheer quality.  Costco cares about its customers.  It knows their needs.  And it wants to deliver the very best for the very cheapest price.  We’re all willing to pay the most for something great especially if you believe it’s a fair business proposition.  Are you listening Harley?

And to the lady who picked up pain relievers in the ten-gallon jar and placed them in the cart with the only other item — a pile of condoms, which came in a box the size of a cinder block…I’m sorry for staring, but the dichotomy was funny!

Photo courtesy of Costco

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H-D Clothing Bundle

H-D Clothing Bundle

There are many who think the new Harley-Davidson Iron 883 (Dark Custom) is the most beautiful bike sans clothing, with U.S. press fawning all over the “back-to-basic” motorcycle.

Enjoying my Friday morning cup of “bucks” I thought how H-D marketing should offer limited editions of the machine with new clothing bundles to increase motorcycle sales.  H-D and fashion go hand-in-hand.  There isn’t much the motor company can do to improve the no frills design of the Iron 883, but having a few extra choices when it comes to what clothing gets draped over the bike is surely a good thing, right?

Call it the “Fashion Victim” series.  Offer up a complete pre-bundled look with the motorbike.  This turn-key and new way of expressing your individuality might appeal to the younger generation which the company desperately solicits.  Motorcycle clothing can be found in the most prestigious boutiques around the world, but think of the time you’ll save when H-D does the heavy lifting traveling the world of fashion and pulls together leading brand names in motorcycle wear and pre-packages them for your exclusive fashion statement.

There is precedence for this.  A couple of years ago MV Augusta designed a limited edition motorcycle (Hydrogen) specifically for Hydrogen Jeans.  Customers could order designer jeans or the motorcycle to match right online!

So, in keeping with this Iron and new clothing bundle theme it would include:

  1. Jacket: Levi’s blanket lined, Big E. Extra cost for lining worn out at right hip due to knife rubbing.
  2. Pants: Vintage Lee work pants via Ballyhoo Vintage.
  3. Shoes: Chippewa moc toe (very Irish!). Cordovan polish then mink oil make them look well worn.
  4. Gloves: Marmot
  5. Shirt: JCrew. If you don’t like a fake cowboy shirt from JCrew then it’s Sears Western.
  6. Belt: Billykirk Mechanic’s. Very cool hidden buckle avoids tanks scratches.
  7. Knife: Leatherman Flair. The only one offering a corkscrew. Dude don’t look silly carting around tools but can’t even open a bottle…essential.
  8. Glasses: JPeterman. Captures that Aermachi Club look.
  9. Dew Rag: don’t be caught naked without a snot-rag/potholder/coaster bandana. Or wearing instructions!
  10. Reading material: Snowboard Magazine (A fave to maintain “dude” speak)

Cost?  Of course undertaking a ‘Bianchi‘ like journey from Amsterdam to Chicago isn’t cheap, but I’ll let H-D determine the expressive value of the package and price accordingly.

Maybe I’ll go decaf tomorrow?!

Photo courtesy of 10engines.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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hog-vs-spxHarley-Davidson is scheduled to report its first-quarter 2009 financial results April 16.

Even if you’ve been leveraging “guru” Cramer (Mad Money) to help make a fortune — who in my view has no more idea of what is going to happen tomorrow than the average chimp. Pessimism runs high especially after the motorcycle manufacture took the unusual action of reporting mid-quarter sales numbers earlier this quarter. With sales down 13 percent worldwide in January and February the chance of a sunny quarter and forecast is unlikely.

Clearly HOG deserves a great deal of skepticism. Over the past year, the stock’s decline of 66% has outpaced the 40% slide endured by the broader S&P 500 Index (SPX). As a stock underperforms you’ll naturally see an uptick in investor pessimism.  There are a number of indicators which suggest traders are looking for a sharp decline out of the stock prior to April expiration.  One of the better article’s deconstructing the HOG situation can be found HERE.

Chart courtesy of Schaeffers

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rc_250The Rose City 250 is an annual charity benefit and one of the premier runs each Spring.   The 19th Rose City Oregon 250 will be held on Sunday, April 5, 2009.  

The charity event has been a major success and this year the 250 will raise money for 2 different organizations: the Providence Brain Institute, and the Vernonia Food Bank. Since the event started the 250 has donated over $50,000 to the National Kidney Foundation and 10 tons of food for Vernonia Food Bank.  This year they announced support of a new charity “Providence Brain Institute“.

Sign-in will be between 5am to 8am at Beaverton Honda-Yamaha-Suzuki on 10380 SW Cascade Blvd., Tigard OR.  For more information on the run or to sign-up see the web site HERE

Let’s hope for nice sunny weather!

Poster courtesy of RCMC.

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authority1Imagine for a moment you purchase a new Harley Iron 883.  Before pulling away from the dealer to enjoy a nice spring day ride you slip on a black leather riding vest with a large Harley-Davidson embroidered logo.  Near the bottom of the logo there is a Milwaukee, WI rocker.  Your buddies have similar vest’s and all head out.  Your pleased with the “patch” because it’s public evidence that you’re wearing colors of allegiance to the motorcycle company and it represents a new wind in the face lifestyle.  As your group rolls north up the I-5 corridor you take notice of WSP signaling you to pull over. 

The officer states that your biker “clothing” is a dress code affiliation typical of outlaw motorcycle “gangs” and as part of their early gang identification tactics your name, license number/plate is entered into a new gang watch-list database.

Impossible?  Think again.  Washington state legislators are set to pass an “anti-gang bill” that includes funds for police anti-gang taskforces, increased penalties for gang-related crimes and increased recruitment penalties.  The bill defines a gang as “an association of three or more individuals who share a symbol or name either formally or informally and who’s members participate in a crime.”   Basically a police officer can accuse you of belonging to a gang.  There is no burden of proof and if your name is put into the database you have no due process and there is no judicial overview.  There is no method to appeal – nothing!

What about abuse?  It’s likely.  For example here is a video of WSP taking license plate information from motorcyclists who visited the state capital.  And on a day specifically pre-arranged as the annual motorcycle rights lobbying day (see previous posts at: Giving Bikers A Voice and Expect The Unexpected).  It’s fair to say there is a crucial difference between motorcyclists participating in the democratic process to support motorcycle rights vs. being painted as criminal operatives engaged in a range of criminal activities only because they ride a motorcycle. Imagine the public outcry or media scrutiny if gay-marriage advocates rallied at the capital and WSP “stalked” around attendee vehicles for the purpose of entering licenses into a tracking database?!

Of course there is nothing funny about any of this.  The hard core criminally-committed motorcycle gangs, like street gangs, are primary conduits for the illicit drugs being pumped in the U.S. by the Mexican drug trafficking organizations (DTO).  The consequences of the smuggling can strike anywhere in America.  Undercover work is not a game.  It is an essential part of our national defense against this wave of plunder, violence and corruption. But, have WSP and state legislators reached a point of hysteria with regard to criminal street gangs to allow unchecked power to condemn any three motorcycle riders or riding club affiliation?  Is LE basically executing “color coded” profiling? 

I’m not sure, but I don’t approve of the Black Thursday tactics, I don’t like the potential for anti-gang abuse and I’m not resigned to this riding club suppression law.

Illustration courtesy Australian artist Eamo Donnelly.

All Rights Reserved © Northwest Harley Blog

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