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Posts Tagged ‘Defiant Ones’

AACMWith an estimated 310 million people residing in the U.S., marketing to each person is the most arduous processes any company can undertake.  As a result, they slice and dice the population into sub-categories with facts, figures, and statistics which include demographics on ethnicity, age, gender, household characteristics, postal code data, purchasing influences along with many other attributes to develop a target market strategy.

Speaking of target markets… African Americans have a lot of influence on today’s culture and taste — and I’m talking beyond the role of hip-hop music and the issues of social responsibility vs. freedom of expression surrounding misogynistic words.  Harley-Davidson has recognized this influence and applied various perspectives on how the company will market to the African-American consumer.   Last April, H-D assigned John Comissiong to oversee the development of strategic marketing opportunities for the African American customer segment as the director of Market Outreach.

Mr. Comissiong is highly qualified and very well educated, holding multiple degrees including a Bachelor of Science in engineering from Cornell University, a Master of Science in engineering from Stony Brook University and a Master of Business Administration from Duke University.  In addition he is a licensed motorcycle rider and can be often seen on his Night Rod Special!!  In essence his job is to determine how H-D can obtain a disproportionate share of the $744 Billion in income which the 38.3 Million African-American consumers spend annually.  More specific, is the approximately $32B spent each year on Cars, Trucks and Motorcycles — how can H-D get more of those $$?!  It’s always about money.

Maurice Slaughter

Maurice Slaughter

This isn’t new behavior from corporate America.  For example, recently NBC News launched TheGrio.com, an African American ‘video-centric’ Web site devoted to stories and perspectives that appeal to the African American community.  Even the White House/Obama’s are expanding African American family definitions beyond Bill Cosby’s Huxtables with real-world examples and influence. 

So, what’s in it for H-D?  Today African American’s account for only 1.5% of new motorcycle sales. Even worse is that 7.9% of H-D’s total U.S. sales are to African Americans.  There are more less flattering stats.  Seven out of approximately 700 dealerships are owned by African American’s like Maurice Slaughter.  Few people of color sit on the company’s board or are members of the senior management and less than 10% of the employee base is African American.  H-D purchases approx $190M worth of material from minority-owned suppliers.   Representation of African American motorcycle clubs is fairly robust with: Buffalo Soldiers, Defiant Ones, Rare Breed, Magic Wheels, Soul Brothers and East Bay Dragons to name a few.

H-D has focused on the African American consumer market (AACM) with co-sponsorships at the NAACP Image Awards, the Atlantic or Urban Beach Bike Festival (referred to as Black Bike Week) and celebrating heritage “Bikers on the Boulevard” in Daytona.  They work with celeb’s and community leaders for opportunities to interact or obtain endorsements of H-D products in the African American community which in marketing terms is designed to create the perception that H-D understands African American needs and strengthens its credibility with that market segment.

I’ve been somewhat skeptical of H-D’s minority oriented efforts as sales and marketing issues are complex.  They do require creative actions and placing John Comissiong to maximize exposure and convey that H-D is relevant in the African American lifestyle and culture seems sincere and less of a stunt or a photo op.  Whether trend-setting celebs or average Joes, stimulating a dialogue between company representatives and motorcycle enthusiasts of ALL genre’s means H-D gets product feedback and company’s should never turn down a social opportunity with customers!

Photo courtesy Virginian-Pilot and Maurice Slaughter.

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