From its initial beginnings in Milwaukee,Wisconsin, Harley-Davidson motorcycles have become a part of Americana. Founded in 1903 by three Davidson brothers and their friend, Bill Harley, the company and its motorcycles, with their unique throaty rumble, have achieved iconic status. Reflecting the passion that its customers have for the company and its products, Harley-Davidson boasts the world’s largest company-sponsored owners’ club, the Harley Owners Group (HOG), which now has more than 900,000 members. The company’s customer base is extremely diverse – men and women, old and young, rebels and conservatives. Part of the appeal is that the Harley-Davidson brand stands for freedom, independence, individuality, and adventure, characteristics that reflect Harley owners’ desire to experience life to the fullest. It all adds up to the “Harley-Davidson mystique.”
The company’s brand transcends national borders; Harley-Davidson has been marketing its motorcycles internationally for more than 80 years. Much of Harley’s success in foreign markets stems from the company’s consistency in presenting its brand and its overall message. Although there is no centralized brand management department at Harley-Davidson, the company’s international subsidiaries are extremely consistent in their marketing approaches. The goal is to protect the brand internationally without creating a marketing dictatorship. Operating with that philosophy, the company has extended its product line over the years. Harley sales managers are taught that one of the company’s greatest marketing vehicles is its customers, who are passionate about the company.