Post 1 | Harley Davidson | What do you see when you hear a Harley?

Harley Davidson is not about transportation. It’s not about getting from Point A to Point B. It’s about living life in the way you choose.” Mark-Hans Richter, Harley Davidson CMO.

A brand’s visual and verbal language dictates how it behaves with consumers at every touch point, so as the epitome of an experience brand one can understand the importance Harley Davidson’s visual and verbal language plays in how the brand engages with, and is received by its target consumer audience.

Every point of interaction between Harley Davison and their target audience has the potential to influence the feelings and relationship people have towards the brand (Klopper and North, 2011:81).

It’s therefore understandable that Harley Davidson rather focusses its attention and budget on its brand identity and image, in order to create epic customer experiences and engagement, than promoting the mean motorcycle machines it’s been manufacturing for over a hundred years.

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So let’s take a look at some of the visual and verbal elements that make up the iconic Harley Davidson identity of freedom, rebellion and personal expression.

The Harley Davidson visual language is rugged and unapologetically muscular. Through its big, loud noise it sparks a little rebellion in its owners and enthusiasts, and in an era of decreasing personal freedom, it gives every owner the opportunity to belong – irrespective of their status, income, power or gender – Harley Davidson gives them permission to embrace a common goal of community, personal freedom and passion for riding motorcycles.

The impactful black, orange and white logo is an icon in itself.  And it’s arguably one of the most popular trademarked brand tattoos out there.

As the Harley Davidson logo has almost taken on a life of its own, it’s no surprise that it has various applications (true to its brand essence of individualism) on different motorcycle models and styles. It sometimes also features their brand “mascot”, the eagle or its powerful wings, and is referred to as the “Bar and Shield”.

PicMonkey CollageImage source.

While Harley Davidson motorcycles have distinct visual characteristics, such as their engine sizes and the iconic chopper, cruiser and street bodies, they’re also customizable to allow riders to express their personal identities.

After all, for a brand that promotes freedom at every touch point, they need to allow their owners to express their personality however they see fit.

One thing that remains the same throughout though must be their signature sound, that’s oh so sweet to loyal customers, as you can tell it’s a Harley even before you see it. It’s not quite part of their “visual” language, but it’s a vital part to their brand identity, so much so that they’ve even attempted to trademark it.

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Similarly, the verbal language of Harley Davidson too paints a rugged, and somewhat rebellious, yet reliable picture.

When speaking to its consumers through advertising and marketing campaigns, or when visiting a dealer, Harley Davidson is empowering, as it gives consumers and enthusiasts a sense of power, and the feeling that freedom is just a “rev” away.

It’s undeniable, that from the moment you hear the roar of a Harley down the highway, or see this freedom machine pull up beside you in the parking lot – logo shining and buff – through to promotions and advertisements or visiting a dealership – the Harley Davidson brand identity is visually and verbally clearly communicated at every touch point, and lives up to the brand’s promise and vision of personal freedom and expression.

Other than allowing the brand to resonate with and captivate target consumers through the iconic Harley Davidson lifestyle, its’ powerful visual and verbal language also allows the brand to set itself apart from competitors in a very tough industry, where you can no longer only compete on product and price.

Looking at the huge success of the Harley Owners Group (H.O.G), it’s clear that  Harley Davidson has early on shifted its attention on customer loyalty by forging long-lasting relationships through its relevant and strong brand identity, focusing on the brand’s purpose and how it adds value to the lives of consumers, rather than the benefits of owning the product itself.


Image source.

So the benefit of having a strong verbal and visual language goes beyond simply having a memorable brand experience, but it actually helps to cement the Harley Davidson brand identity and iconic lifestyle in the minds of consumers, which in turn builds the brand’s reputation in the long run, and projects its values and purpose to consumers to make them stand out from the crowd.


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