Is Harley caught between a rock and a young place?

Why is Harley-Davidson having to dance around the issue of it’s older rider profile?

Apparently Harley’s chief marketing officer, Mark-Hans Richer, discussed the topic of the brands demographic profile at the Association of National Advertisers’ (ANA) 2015 Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida.Harley-Rider

He said “I’m going to go heretical on you, and say that youth does not own cool. Youth does not own growth. Youth does not own innovation or disruption,”

In the full WARC article he argues “From Ray-Ban sunglasses to bands like the Rolling Stones, he suggested these cohorts actually share a lot of things it common when it comes to what they buy and enjoy”.

I call that age-neutral marketing and it is undoubtedly the way of the future.

But it seems Mr. Richer is caught between a rock (it’s boomer loyalists) and a young place.

This Reuters article from 2013, states that Harley-Davidson regularly claims the effort to attract buyers born after 1964 has been a success – and trots out supportive research from RL Polk, a leading provider of auto industry data, which shows Harley has been the market leader among riders ages 18 to 34, as well as women, African-Americans and Hispanics, for five years running.

Why does Harley (and probably more importantly their Wall Street observers) fret so much about the dependence on older customers when, in his own words, Richer cited a recent study which pegged millennial spending power in America at $200bn. “Contrast that,” added Richer, “with the buying power of people [aged] 50-plus: $3.2tr.”

Deliver a Lifetime Customer Experience and you can appeal to all Harley-inclined enthusiasts, regardless of age.

Surely even Wall Street can buy that argument?