Harley - Davidson CMO: Crowdsourcing Ads to Engage a New Audience
18 2010 - 5:37 pm
next great ad Harleybe
created by a 22-year-old single mom in Belgrade, Serbia. This woman is a graphic designer who is part of the 3,200-person virtual ³creative department´ of Victors & Spoils, a crowdsourcing agency in Boulder. The agency was named the main creative shop for Harley-Davidson Motor Co. this week. How the heck did this happen? Mark-Hans Richer, the senior vice president and chief marketing officer of Harley-Davidson met John Winsor, head of Victors & Spoils, when Winsor worked in strategy and innovation a year or so back at MDC Partners¶ Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The shop had an assignment for Harley.
When Winsor learned the motorcycle company had ditched its agency of record, Carmichael Lynch, after 31 years, he sent out a brief to his ³creatives´ in early September and wrote about it in a blog post. Richer¶s response? ³Go for it.´ Winsor, whose upstart agency has worked with BrownForman, General Mills, Oakley, Quiznos, and Virgin America, says Victors & Spoils received 600 ideas from 200 people after he posted a brief to his creatives. He presented some 65 of those to Richer on Oct. 22. The Harley marketing chief says the quality and the quantity of those ideas²and those he saw from a follow-up brief Harley ordered up on Nov. 5²´blew us away´ at Harley. The ideas included ad concepts, social media programs and even product ideas. The ad industry is abuzz±that¶s putting it delicately±about Harley¶s selection of Victors & Spoils. (Digital shop Digitas and media company Starcom also picked up business from the motorcycle maker.) Winsor, 51, couldn¶t be more thrilled. ³I¶ve been called a douche bag, a traitor and µthe eloquent destroyer of worlds,¶´ he says. ³I love it. I totally love it.´
Look out Madison Avenue: Winsor says he¶s going to do more of this. He won¶t pitch business. Instead he¶ll say ³our crowd wants to work on this.´ His crowd, by the way, includes a lot of traditional ad agency creatives, he says. His motto: ³Ask forgiveness, not permission.´ It¶s a challenging time for Harley. Retail sales of new Harley motorcycles dropped 7.7 percent worldwide in the third quarter compared with the same period last year. The company is looking for cost savings to help it finesse a turnaround. Today I spoke with Harley¶s Richer about his decision to take a crowdsourcing approach to its advertising. This discussion follows another I had recently with him about Harley¶s business and its changing target audience. Forbes: Tell us about your thinking behind the selection of crowdsourcing agency Victors & Spoils. Richer: It¶s exactly what we¶re looking for. It¶s a powerful way to bring forward in our creativity what we do in other aspects of our business«.We took a look at what they did just blind with their community with a brief they created.
We put our own brief out there. In both cases, the ideas that came back were very powerful and creative. We were mightily impressed with the strength of the work and the ideas. A lightbulb went on: This is a way for us to be true to what our brand is²having people get engaged and be involved in the co-creation of the brand. Forbes: Your choice is a controversial one in the ad world. Richer: I don¶t think Harley has every shied from controversy. My job is to do what¶s right for Harley, our company, and our customers. Forbes: What is the lesson here for people in advertising? Richer: Fortune favors the brave. Forbes: Harley-Davidson had a tough ride during the recession. People weren¶t buying bikes. Your riders are aging. How has that affected your strategy? Richer: The great recession will be proven to have been great for Harley-Davidson. It allowed us to focus on what we were great at and also on who we really wanted to be for. In these kinds of crises you get to make of choices that maybe
you weren¶t as willing to make in the past. That forced a lot of creativity and a lot of energy. «The mission of the company has always been about fulfilling dreams. We don¶t have things and our mission to talk about S&P 500 or stock performance. It¶s about fulfilling dreams for customers. We wanted to get back to that. Forbes: Who are your target customers now? Richer: Our customer strategy is multi-generational and multicultural. That means many different age groups simultaneously, both genders simultaneously, many different regions and nations simultaneously. Yet, at the center of it is what Harley-Davidson stands for, never losing it and getting refocused on it. Forbes: You actually raised prices during the recession. Why and to what effect? Richer: Our lowest priced Harley in 2007 was about $6,600. That¶s a surprise for people who think that all Harleys are $20,000. Now in 2010 our lowest priced Harley is $8,000. We raised our lowest entry level price about $1,400 during the recession. Even as we were doing that,
our share with young adults²a group people assume we don¶t attract very well²went up 9 percentage points. In 2010 we sold more motorcycles to young adults than any of our competition in the U.S., which wasn¶t true in 2006 or 2007. How did that work? Sales went down on volume but«.great brands succeed by gaining share in down economic cycles. If you can gain share during an economic downturn, you come out of it so much stronger. At the end of the day you can¶t control the whole economy, you have to at least hold on to your share and if you can grow share. We could have chosen just to hang on to core customer base²they are great customers² but those customers for the future need to be added to. So we¶ve been focusing on young adults, we¶ve been focusing on women, we¶ve been focusing on AfricanAmericans and we¶ve been focusing on Hispanics. We¶ve opened up in India and China. Forbes: It¶s one thing to grow your audience by pitching your bikes to women and other groups, but what does that do to your long-term, hardcore fans? Maybe they don¶t want ³everyone´ to be part of the franchise?
Richer: Oh, they do. They absolutely do. There is nothing cooler than a woman who wants to ride a Harley to a core guy customer of whatever age. That is a cool expression of someone who says ³Hey, this is for me, too.´ Those people respect one another. That¶s not a weakening of the brand. It¶s a strengthening of the brand. Forbes: Harley-Davidson had a community long before every other marketer²and now ad agency companies² wanted to create them. Is it possible to engineer brand lust? Richer: It¶s a great question. Every brand has a
community«.It¶s how you engage with it, how you act with it, how you enable it. How much of your money is spent on your social network? Everything we spend in marketing really goes as an investment in our social network²our riders. The folks on the road, having fun going places hanging out, and having a good time. Sometimes that is enabled by a social network that might be online but ultimately a social network is how a group of people come together around your brand. That can be any kind of brand. Forbes: Even an ad agency.
Discusses Harley-Davidson's move to crowdsource their ads (with the help of Victors & Spoils in order to get fresh new engaging audience.
With 3,881 views since it's first online publication, Melanie's blog has clearly pointed out Harley-Davidson's decision to crowdsource their ads is something extraordinary. A thumbs up for both Melanie and Harley-Davidson!