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Harley-Davidson The decline of the brand itself is the real story here, as brand has traditionally been Harley’s ultimate strength. Harley’s core customers live, breathe, and die by Harley-Davidson and the lifestyle that surrounds it, which includes a lot more than just motorcycles. Owning a Harley is just the first step into a culture world that, for a large segment of Americans, has always been seen as a sign of freedom, patriotism, and affluence.

Unfortunately, the young people that Harley desperately needs to recruit into its ranks to maintain growth don’t see it the same way. It’s not for lack of effort – Harley-Davidson has been on a company wide push to appeal to Millennials in particular, with new, less expensive bikes and programs tailored at new riders, along with programs aimed at recruiting non-traditional Harley types (i.e. women and minorities.) But they haven’t been effective enough to move the needle.

There are several theories about why this is. One is simple – the fact that Millennials, saddled by debt and struggling with underemployment, just don’t have the money for expensive toys like Harleys and the lifestyle that accompanies them. The bikes other brands have deployed with much success among Millennials have all been based on simplicity and value – something HD isn’t (and doesn’t want to be) known for.

But another more nuanced explanation – and a potetially more menacing one – is that there is simply a rejection among Millennials of what H-D stands for. The company may want to be seen as an all-American, home-grown brand built on tradition and nostalgia. But on the streets, Harleys are often associated with the overly conspicuous consumption and material wealth of previous generations – something that Millennials are not only not fond of, but often, actually resentful toward.

Put plainly, Harley’s just aren’t cool to young people anymore – and for an international mega-brand like Harley-Davidson, that’s a major strategic problem. And as the core Harley customer – for whom Harley Davidson was not just a motorcycle, but a way of life – ages away from the open road and toward the retirement home, H-D will have two choices. Either pivot hard into new markets (a move which will surely upset the aging “Harley faithful,” as such moves have in the past); or, keep doing what they are doing, and age with them. Click Here…

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