About the Series: The series, “From Across the Borders” is designed to bring out some of the most remarkable international campaigns, with an objective to give the reader a better understanding of the differences in advertising styles of India and other countries, highlighting how the stage of development of the society and economy might affect the communication styles.
Harley Davidson’s campaign, launched a few years back, ‘Living by it‘ is the ultimate example of a cult-marketing ad, if ever there was one. Among the few ads which can raise hackles and send goosebumps down your spine, this ad served many purposes from the company’s perspective. Watch the ad first before we take up the analysis
Lets list down what all was successfully conveyed directly/indirectly through this 150-odd second clip:
1. It elevated Harley Davidson from a bike (expensive yes, but still a bike) to an experience. It gave a whole new meaning to ‘Harley Davidson experience‘, putting it above and beyond other bikes
2. It added a lot of symbolism to the aura of the bike. From an expensive accessory/transport means, it was now projected as a symbol, something which could make a statement on the rider’s behalf. It was suddenly a very important part of the rider himself, in a way saying that bike is making a statement of its own. The concise message was: you ride a Harley, the world automatically knows some things about you. And these ‘some things’ were the ‘good’ qualities, such as – standing out, sticking to one’s beliefs, being strong and unaffected by societal pressures etc.
3. It also covered a wide span of American demographic structure, pulling in people representing different races, cultures, communities, and even gender, indicating that a Harley suits everyone, doing anything and everything as long as they embody the Harley spirit.
The above three factors, coupled with the excellently shot video (gray-toned scenes, addictive background music and the brilliant voiceover), made Harley Davidson into a cult of its own, with huge followings across the society strata.
A prime case of Cult Marketing, Harley Davidson established itself as a luxury/premium product not by virtue of its high prices, but more by the value of association that it created for the customers. They did not talk about supreme quality of mechanics as their offering in return to high-priced bikes. Their offering was always the statement that a Harley Owner could make. They built on this association-advantage further with HOG (Harley Owners Group), designing it into an all the more exclusive club which everyone wanted to join.
From the Author: Honestly, this was among the first ads which really inspired me and is responsible for planting the seeds of interest in marketing in me. So, when I thought about initiating the Across the Border series, no other ad stood a chance of being the first one to be picked up. So here it is, an ode to the inspiration itself.