In May 2015, Matt Levatich, a 20-year veteran of Harley-Davidson, assumed leadership of the 112-year-old motorcycle brand. With a new CEO in place, the company seems all the more ready to expand beyond its core demographic and attract more riders. By focusing on accessibility and innovation, Harley-Davidson is tapping into the young adult marketplace on a global scale and the results are telling: Harley-Davidson’s brand value rose 14 percent this year.
Many of Harley-Davidson’s leaders and employees operate with the brand’s core tenet in mind: Anyone can fulfill the desire for personal freedom on a Harley. This fundamental belief has proven to be true as ridership continues to surge across various demographics—women, young adults, African-Americans, and international riders. Harley-Davidson’s recent “Roll Your Own” campaign actively breaks down motorcycle stereotypes even further by showcasing the ways in which all kinds of riders enjoy their Harleys.
Social initiatives, strategic partnerships, and smart product placement are driving awareness across new and existing audiences. A longtime champion of freedom, Harley-Davidson launched Mission Open Road in 2015, providing free rider training to active U.S. Military and veterans. It also aligned itself with more youthful, sporty brands like Under Armour and the NFL in support of the Wounded Warriors Project (WWP). As well, the brand is responding to emerging eco-consciousness with its “Renew the Ride” initiative. The goal? To plant 50 million trees by 2025 in partnership with The Nature Conservancy.
By carefully selecting which products are placed in the spotlight (and where), Harley-Davidson has been able to showcase its bikes from the past and present—and even bikes of the future. For example, in this year’s summer blockbuster Avengers 2, Chris Evans, playing Captain America, rode a Street 750. The bike is part of Harley’s Dark Custom lineup, inspired by dirt bikes and drag racers and marketed to modern, budget-savvy consumers. Scarlett Johansson, meanwhile, represented the brand’s rising female ridership in Captain America—as the Black Widow, she rode Project Livewire: the company’s first electric prototype.
Harley-Davidson’s internal mantra, “We ride with you,” not only signifies a commitment to its customers, but also suggests that Harley-Davidson considers them fellow riders. The fact that Harley-Davidson still possesses such a consumer-centric philosophy is perhaps what continues to inspire deep loyalty among consumers worldwide.