Harley Davidson: Failed Marketing Strategy

Topic: Marketing
Words: 1653 Pages: 6


Marketing is a process in which a company puts effort into persuading potential customers to invest in their products. As a result, the consumers receive the desired good or service while the organization makes a profit. However, depending on whether the marketing strategy is adequate or inefficient, the products may appear more desirable or less appealing to the target consumer. Even the most influential and potent businesses within certain industries can fail to identify either a segment to aim for a product to offer, or the way it is to be advertised. As a result, consumers are less interested in investing, and the organization suffers from both economic and reputational challenges correlating with low demand. Another negative implication is a lowering rate of consumer loyalty, which most entities are eager to reach due to the beneficial factors correlating with this concept. An example of a failed product from an iconic brand is the Harley Davidson cologne, which was later discontinued due to the backlash received from the followers of the brand’s culture. This paper will exemplify how Harley Davidson’s strategy failed to consider the consumer niche, unsuccessfully aimed for mass marketing, and could not manage to market goods that would better fit the branding of the business.

Company Background and Product Description

In order for the marketing failure to be illustrated in detail, it is vital to provide an overview of the company itself. Harley Davidson is an iconic brand specializing in motorcycles. Instead of focusing on speed, affordable pricing, and following the latest trends, Harley Davidson is known for its traditional chopper-style vehicles and the loyalty of its customers. Researchers point out that owners of motorcycles of this brand value the social status that the company represents (Coutinho et al., 2018). As a result, loyal customers invest in the pricey products not only because of their reliability but also because of the culture behind them. It is essential to pinpoint the importance of the iconic following of Harley Davidson and the cult that the organization has built around it. Having a Harley Davidson is more than acquiring a vehicle as it correlates with a certain lifestyle. The biker theme that is promulgated in every good marketed by the brand creates a vision for the target audience and facilitates the symbolism of the branding. Freedom, underground, nonconformity, and a rebel mindset are the factors that the company illustrated throughout its marketing strategy. As a result, loyal customers adhere to the culture promulgated by Harley-Davidson because of its unique and nuanced characteristics.

Now that the brand itself has been illustrated from an ideological and segmentation perspective, product failure will exemplify where branding can damage the image of a company. Specifically, the product that has been released and, subsequently discontinued is the Harley Davidson cologne. The cologne was first advertised on TV and sold in stores in 1991 (Deng & Messinger, 2021). Needless to say, such an iconic organization was eager to join a more prominent market through the mass production of goods that a larger consumer base would be able to enjoy. The idea was that the cologne is an accessible way of experiencing the culture of the iconic company without having to significantly change the lifestyle, such as the result of purchasing the motorcycle.

Legendary harley-davidson

The cologne was still referring to the biker ideology when it came to the packaging and fragrance names (Fragrantica, 2021). However, it did not appeal to the customers, ultimately leading to its complete disappearance in stores after the backlash.

Problem Statement

Harley Davidson is a brand with a loyal consumer base that is to be satisfied with goods that fit the overall image of the company. However, consumers have noticed the brand’s efforts towards entering a more mainstream market with fragrances, which did not align with the niece target consumers that associated themselves with what the organization represents. Researchers mentioned consumers become a part of the community as soon as they invest in the pricey Harley-Davidson vehicles (Catulli et al., 2016). The community aspect is likely the fundamental reason why the company became iconic, and the loyal customers have an almost physiological attachment to it. When the company decided to stray away from these ideals by producing a mainstream product, the negative reviews illustrated the overall negative overview of the strategy.

The concept that best describes the phenomenon is the consistency theory. Based on this notion, customers are motivated to maintain a level of congruence when it comes to purchasing decisions (Chan et al., 2019). Thus, an individual who has purchased a motorcycle identifies with the biker lifestyle and ideology and, as a part of the underground traveler community, is not tempted to invest in a mainstream product released by a brand that ultimately represents a more rebellious and non-confirmative idea. A counterargument would be that the fact that the same company released the fragrance would fit the narrative of consistency. However, as exemplified prior, Harley Davidson is not a regular brand, and the individualistic approach to marketing and branding has primarily influenced the cult following. Thus, the purchase of the cologne is not consistent with the lifestyle of regular customers.

A cologne released by Harley Davidson is similar to a rock band releasing a pop album to sell more tickets or an arthouse film director releasing a romantic comedy with cliché characters and events. The advertisement has also played a role in the problematic release as it was a glamorous illustration of a young couple, and the ad was in French (Mugnier, 2012). This also suggests how distant the company has become towards its loyal followers, highlighting the negative overview to be justifiable. As a result, the marketing strategy was not effective in terms of being congruent with the company’s image, branding, and overall lifestyle it promoted. The ineffective advertisement of the good, the wrong choice in terms of the target consumer, and the brand’s disregard for its values have caused the colognes to fail.

Marketing Strategy Recommendations

Brands such as Harley Davidson are to be particularly careful when it comes to new releases and market expansion. The need for precise decisions that the management is to make is facilitated by the cult that the company has created around it. The immense consumer loyalty that multiple brands are trying to achieve is not only beneficial but also becomes a great responsibility in terms of maintaining the high satisfaction of the consumers. Based on this premise and the aforementioned consistency theory, the products that Harley Davidson is to release are to satisfy consumer demand based on the lifestyle, culture, and values that the business itself relates to.

Unfortunately, releasing a cologne could not be an efficient expansion strategy due to the correlation between fragrance and the mass market. Fragrance goods are often associated with brands that either produce makeup items and beauty products or designer brands that operate in the fashion industry. On the other hand, Harley-Davidson is linked to a subculture that denies and dismisses such aspirations. Furthermore, Badilla (2021) illustrates the importance of the company’s positioning when it comes to effective marketing that facilitates profit and creates revenue. The organization in question has an established marketing positioning linked to a niece segmentation. As a result, releasing a new cologne and risking a reputation similar to the previous initiative is not an adequate solution to the product failure. Thus, it is certain that instead of reviving Harley Davidson’s aim to market colognes, other products are to be released that are more in line with the branding and the ideas that took decades to build and promote.

Instead of releasing products that consumers may deem unfit for the company, Harley Davidson could market goods that are already related to the brand’s niece. As mentioned prior, the target consumer is a biker who is not only interested in the motorcycles the business offers but also in the lifestyle correlating with the goods. However, there are multiple niece goods that are also linked to the overall ideology, which means that opportunities for effective market expansion and marketing exist. An example is producing leather goods such as jackets, pants, vests, and boots. These items are usually preferred by the niche segment, and having the products wither in the Harley Davidson online and physical stores or specialized locations where the company’s mechanics work exclusively with the vehicles showcased by the company. Such goods are more representative of the brand as a whole and the cultural characteristics implied in the ideology of Harley Davidson.

Another marketing idea that can be more efficient than the failed cologne is opening bars and specialized pubs under the umbrella of the brand. Certain motorbike rallies have well-established routes where the target consumers circulate and socialize. Creating community establishments where bikers could share experiences and meet like-minded individuals passionate about the lifestyle allows the brand to maintain high customer loyalty while facilitating revenue and building an even stronger brand ideology. As a result, the initiative will have the role of market expansion while not deviating from the initial image of the company as a unique one with niece consumers that sells a lifestyle rather than motorcycles.


An example of product failure is represented by Harley Davidson’s lack of success correlating with the release of colognes under the brand’s name. The failure was caused by inefficient marketing, namely, inadequate advertising and a dismissal of the culture and lifestyle promoted by the company. As a result, loyal consumers have linked the company’s aim to enter a more mainstream market as a betrayal of ideals and values initially established by the brand. The iconic business is to maintain the niece market segmentation and create conditions under which the loyalty of product buyers remains one of the primary concerns. Thus, the proposed solution focuses on the promotion of products that align with the lifestyle illustrated in by the brand, namely leather goods, bars, and other attributes correlating with the biker image.


Badilla, M. C. (2021). New approaches to market segmentation, targeting and positioning: The case of Maribojoc, Bohol, Philippines. Palgrave Studies of Marketing in Emerging Economies, 189–210.

Catulli, M., Cook, M., & Potter, S. (2016). Product Service Systems Users and Harley Davidson riders: The importance of consumer identity in the diffusion of Sustainable Consumption Solutions. Journal of Industrial Ecology, 21(5), 1370–1379.

Chan, D. K., Stenling, A., Yusainy, C., Hikmiah, Z., Ivarsson, A., Hagger, M. S., Rhodes, R. E., & Beauchamp, M. R. (2019). Editor’s choice: Consistency tendency and the theory of planned behavior: A randomized controlled crossover trial in a physical activity context. Psychology & Health, 35(6), 665–684.

Coutinho, M. A., Mesquita, J. M., & Muylder, C. F. (2018). Ultimate Loyalty: A case study of Harley-Davidson clients. Revista Pensamento Contemporâneo Em Administração, 12(3), 143.

Deng, Q. (C., & Messinger, P. R. (2021). Dimensions of brand-extension fit. International Journal of Research in Marketing.

Fragrantica. (2021). Legendary Harley-Davidson Hot Road Harley Davidson for men [Photograph]. Fragrantica. Web.

Mugnier, B. (2012). Publicité parfum legendary Harley-Davidson (spot TV) [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Uber: The Marketing Campaign Plan
#LOTR LIVE: Marketing Plan Analysis