Friday, August 29, 2008

How Will the Harley Brand Rumble on?

Right now in our hometown of Milwaukee, Harley-Davidson is throwing itself a multiday party for its 105th anniversary. Hog lovers from around the world are rumbling into town for a full weekend of, well, let’s just say “fun.”

Good for Harley to put on a show for its loyal customers, even in a slow economy when sales are down. However, those declining numbers are no doubt a concern to Harley’s leadership—as are the numbers regarding its aging customer demographics.

As we look around, it’s easy to see that Harley’s base is dominated by older generations. And that has us wondering aloud about how this iconic brand can re-energize itself in the 21st century. How do you update a brand without forsaking its storied tradition? Here’s a look at some of the ways Harley is trying to strike that balance.

This historic company is far from being history. But while Harley searches for the path forward, let it be a reminder to you—no matter what game you’re in—that the marketplace is always changing. And brands that aren’t advancing with it can quickly find themselves left behind. Now more than ever, brands must continue evolving to survive.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Li Ning Marketing Coup: Classic Brains over Brawn

Via the Olympics, here’s a great case study into how a company with a much smaller marketing budget can upstage a rival.

Li Ning, a former Olympic medalist who owns the sportswear company that bears his name, did so to Adidas in the opening ceremonies last week in Beijing. Maybe you saw it: Li was the guy who “ran” around the top edge of the stadium and lit the torch.

Some are calling it the ultimate ambush marketing. Adidas paid the big money to be the sole sportswear sponsor, and then Li snuck in and grabbed the spotlight basically for free.

The prospect of taking on competitors the world over can seem pretty overwhelming for smaller to midsize companies. You have to work hard to be more creative. More consistent. More cost-effective. More with less.

But the Li story just goes to show that, even if you don’t have the marketing muscle of the competition, brains can beat brawn on the world stage.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Brett’s Brand: Too Favre Gone?

So, Brett Favre caught his Jet out of Green Bay. This chapter of the Favre soap opera is closed. He’ll be back in action next month, albeit in a new town and a new uniform.

Oh, and another thing that’ll never be the same: the Brett Favre brand.

Plenty of professional-sports pundits are speculating about what the move to New York will mean to Favre’s legacy in the game. But as marketers, we’re more interested in how it will affect his reputation off the field.

As good as No. 4’s career numbers have been in some respects, Favre owes as much of his popularity to the public perception (with a big tip of the cap to mainstream media) that he’s a hard-working everyman with a flair for drama. Just not the kind of drama he created by deciding to “unretire” last month.

Significant damage has already been done to his legend, according to this Wisconsin poll. After all, a real regular guy could never get away with the presumptuous behavior he’s exhibited over the past few weeks.

Granted, Favre isn’t likely losing any sleep over his brand’s declining value. But as we counsel our clients, he really should be concerned about his rep. He’s got a brand, whether he wants one or not. If he doesn’t shape it, it’ll be shaped for him. For example, I’m sure there are plenty more (and more critical) blogs about this saga.

Time will tell if the down-home hero persona he worked so many years to establish will still hold water, now that he’s taken his ball and fled east.