The logo of a two-wheeled motorbike is almost as iconic as Coca Cola’s. But how much do you really know about it? Here, we’re explaining everything you need to know…
In 1903, William Harley (above) and Arthur Davidson built their first motorbike in the basement of their Milwaukee shop. The company was started with just three parts – a motor, frame and wheels – and began manufacturing these motorcycles on a small scale. This is when they adopted the name ‘Harley-Davidson Motor Company’. They sold 30 bikes that year which were called ‘Winchesters’ because they had been given this name by one of their customers who thought that their bikes would be able to go faster than those made by a popular rifle.
By 1905, the motorbike had been proved to be popular and Harley-Davidson expanded their business into larger premises in Milwaukee which enabled them to produce hundreds of bikes every year. This was when they began producing complete frames themselves. In 1907, the company’s first test rider, Carl Hildebrand , wrote a letter to his father saying: ‘The sport of kings is making its way into the land of paupers.’
This was because only wealthy people could afford to buy a motorbike at this time and the price alone made it an inaccessible form of transportation for most people. The company continued to design new models throughout the 1910s and 1920s. At one stage, William Harley experimented with 90 V-Twin engines at the Milwaukee shop but he didn’t like them.
In 1929, Harley-Davidson became one of the first motorcycle companies to have a management committee and they hired their first advertising agency in New York to promote their bikes . This agency came up with the idea of using an image of a bison as it was considered to be wild and free – two associations which Harley-Davidson wanted people to associate with their motorcycles. The company also used a slogan ‘Take the road less travelled’ which is still used today.
The original logo had been designed in 1911 by Arthur Davidson’s nephew Richard Teague who worked as a stylist for Milwaukee Journal newspaper . He drew it from his imagination because there were no existing symbols that could be used for a logo. The bison was eventually replaced by the more modern-looking Sportster in 1998, but there have been many other designs throughout the years. In 1935 and 1936, for example, an image of two interlocking gears was used on some bikes . This was even before Harley Davidson had started producing motor scooters!
In 1940s, Harley-Davidson sold its one millionth bike which helped them to become a household name across America. They also produced over thirty models with names like Servi Car , WL (Worker’s Limited), U and UL (Ultra Light). One of these bikes is now owned by US President Donald Trump who bought it for just $12K in 2012 from Florida businessman Robert ‘Bobby’ Shapira. He had the bike transported to the White House and displayed it in his Trump Towers garage.
In 1952, Harley Davidson began to produce an 88 cubic-inch V-Rocker engine – one of their most famous models which was later used for producing drag bikes. They also released a series of lightweight motorcycles between 1962 and 1980 with names like XA , XLCH , FXB (Black Bomber) and FXS Low Rider . In 1966, they began manufacturing a sporty 350cc version of this which could reach 101 mph. In 1971, they made another breakthrough when American rider Ken Kavanagh broke the world record by riding his bike at speeds in excess of 176mph!
The company became involved in sponsoring other sports and in 1988 started to work with the American football team Washington Redskins. Harley-Davidson also created a bike specifically for this purpose called ‘Redskins’ which was used by the team members when they were on their way to and from practice, or during training sessions. They initially sponsored only the football team but later became involved with other teams too including those in ice hockey, basketball and baseball .
By 1993, over one million people had been hired by Harley-Davidson at some point in their careers – including Willie G Davidson who started working there as an apprentice at just 15 years of age! That year also saw the release of a 500cc version of Road King Classic which could reach 130 mph. A smaller 250cc version was released the following year. In 1996, the company sold its ten millionth bike and in 2003 released a limited edition Road King Classic called ‘Evo’. This was designed to compete with sport bikes and featured an 88 cubic-inch engine. Harley Davidson also introduced bigger versions of Sportster 1200X Forty Eight and Softail Custom in 2004 that could reach over 150 mph .
Today, most Harley-Davidson bikes have V-twin engines which are suitable for motorcycling on any terrain. They are known to be fast, reliable and very comfortable , particularly at high speeds. Their designs haven’t changed much over their 100+ year history but they continue to use modern technology to improve the quality of their models – while still retaining the traditional style that has made them world famous.
The company has a tradition of rewarding its employees every five years from the day they join, and this was called ‘Five for Five’. So in 2015, Harley Davidson employees can look forward to the same!
Harley-Davidson have sponsored a few bands over the years too including The Aquabats and The Swellers . They’ve also worked with a number of artists on creating designs for specific bikes, such as Vincent Gallo who came up with an all-black version of Fat Boy in 1999. In return, the company helped him create his first film Buffalo 66 , offering assistance with transportation costs and even appearing in it as themselves! That same year saw another collaboration between them: ‘Fatboy Slim’, a special edition motorcycle that was commissioned as part of the company’s 100th anniversary celebrations.
The company has also been involved with writing and publishing books over the years, releasing titles like Harley-Davidson: The Complete Illustrated History in 1994 which featured everything from early racing days to the modern era. In 2006, they released Looking Back on time : A Century of Change in Harley Davidson Motorcycles , featuring their then brand new bike V-Rod which had just gone into production. The book is illustrated with photographs spanning over seventy years of motorcycling history and shows how harley harley harley harley harley harley harley harleyharley harleys harleys harleys harleys harleysharleys h ar le y harleys harley harley harley harley harley harleys harleys harleys harleys har le ys have evolved over that period.
Reviews of the book were very positive, with one user saying: ‘ I love it. The pictures are very nice and clear. It’s a great look into Harley history.’ Another said: ‘The first edition had black-and-white photos; this new version has lots of color side-by -side comparisons printed on heavy stock paper for durability . It has 592 pages plus an introduction in the hardcover edition.’
A subsequent review from five years ago gave the book a five star rating, providing insight into how the legendary company began and how the Harley-Davidson’s have evolved throughout time.
The company’s headquarters (also known as the International Motorcycle Museum) is situated in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and features a range of exhibits including motorcycles, advertising posters and photographs from the late 1800s . It also houses many historically significant pieces such as Willie G Davidson’s Harley -Davidson ‘X’ racing bike which he rode to win the Daytona 200 race three times in five years. In 2009, it was announced that this museum would be expanding with a new facility being built near the original museum at one of their other nearby facilities. This expansion will include a section on famous people who owned Harleys, like actor Steve McQueen , who owned a Harley Black Bomber with a sidecar for following the completion of his racing career.
The ‘Harley-Davidson Historical Collection’ was established in 1999 and offers users an opportunity to get up close and personal with rare models such as the WWII era WL model or the Flathead V-twin JH26C which goes back to 1932. Perhaps one of their rarest bikes on display is called The One Of A Kind Project 96 which took fifteen years to complete! It’s made entirely from metal reclaimed from scrapped Harleys dating back between 1962 – 1971, including parts that were over twenty years old at the time!
This collection is available for motorcycle enthusiasts all around the world, and is open from 9-5 Monday to Friday with admission costing $12.50 per adult.
Harley Davidson ‘s corporate headquarters are located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin but the manufacturing side of things is located at a different location called Menomonee Falls which is also in Wisconsin . The company’s very first production run took place there on June 26, 1903 : a date that’s celebrated by the company every year held as part of their annual employee picnic day!
The Menomonee factory has been constantly expanding over the years , with many new buildings being erected since it was built. One extension which saw the addition of a new paint shop and another assembly line was completed back in 2008 and cost approximately $300 million to construct. In 2011, it was announced that the company had invested a further $100 million in their latest venture which was to build an automated motorcycle drivetrain plant (a play on words for AM – Automated Machine [the name of the facility]). Said plant will take care of powertrains used in Harley Davidson motorcycles , replacing several previous plants around the world and helping them become more efficient.
This new facility is said to be able to produce up to two million engine units per year, with each single engine being built at a rate of just thirty per minute! This means that it can assemble an entire bike every three minutes. Now what would happen if we applied Amdahl’s law to this scenario? If such efficiency were turned into a business model, the Menomonee factory would never need to close! That’s a bold statement given that the company has declared their intention to be present in over eighty countries, but I believe it is one which is more than achievable for such a large-scale manufacturer.
Once a year, Harley Davidson hold a major press conference at the Milwaukee headquarters and announce the latest innovations they have been working on. This event is called ‘Project LiveWire’ and in 2014 featured details about an electric motorcycle prototype . CEO Keith Wandell arrived on stage with this new bike and gave people listening live access through telephone lines or by watching online via YouTube. When talking about his expectations for this idea and its future he said: “Harley -Davidson is building a whole new kind of motorcycle. It is the future that we see, and it is coming your way!”
Online viewers were given details about what they were hearing – such as how the bike was silent at idle but also how it featured unique Harley Davidson DNA styling . The company announced in 2015 that this prototype would be being released to market within the next five years with a price tag of $25,000 . To sum up their plans for Project LiveWire and other plans in place, the company said: “These projects will help us define what lots of people are thinking: whether you believe motorcycles should evolve or if you think they should stay just like they are.” The focus shifted from electric drivetrains to conventional powerplants later on in 2015, with an announcement regarding the 2017 touring range being made.
What does all of this mean? For me (and many others), it means that Harley Davidson are a company willing to adapt to changing markets and remain relevant through innovation : something which other companies should bear in mind if they wish to avoid their own downfall. I personally have bought one of their motorcycles before: a Street 750 which had a ground clearance lower than some sports cars! But despite its loud, yet smooth engine sound and the fact that it can hold its own against vehicles much faster than itself – I sold it after just six months because of how disjointed the brand felt from what I was buying into. The bike is fun when ridden hard but not very practical when ridden within city limits. It didn’t (and doesn’t) provide me the same experience that it provided to others and I didn’t feel like I was part of a club . This is one of my largest criticisms – not just with Harley Davidson, but also with other motorcycle manufacturers .
It’s true what they say: you don’t buy style and quality , you pay for them. These are both things which are marketed heavily by companies across many industries – yet these two things (along with price ) do not make a company or product successful in any way! What a customer buys into when purchasing something has very little to do with the fact that their payment card has been charged, but strategy is determined by how effective their experience is from start to finish . If certain groups of people are being excluded from the experience then they won’t feel like they’ve been sold into something.
The strategy a company should follow if they wish to be successful is very simple: look after your customers for life , not just during their lifetime. Harley Davidson haven’t provided me with that feeling, and yet I’m still spending money on them because my love affair with biking draws me in – but does this make me an inconsistent consumer? Does this mean that I am internally inconsistent ?
No, it doesn’t – which is why the term ‘internal consistency’ has no place in marketing! Instead we need to understand how a customer makes purchase decisions and whether or not these processes fit into each stage of our buying cycle. The Harley Davidson brand is marketing itself to be about so much more than just the product, but are they overcomplicating things by doing this? And who might benefit from their strategy and experience of buying a motorcycle?
Poorly defined objectives within any company’s strategy which results in internal inconsistency can often have negative effects such as: * Customers feeling marketed at, rather than marketed to * Employees feeling that their decision-making ability is being undermined if they have given opinions or ideas only for them to be ignored (or if they aren’t received well) * Internal staff members feeling that the company they work for does not value their input – creating an atmosphere where staff feel less motivated . These scenarios above all prove how one thing can very quickly lead to another, and that change is good for business – but if a company wants to avoid all of this then they need to take care in how they go about implementing change.
One major factor which can be massively improved by Harley Davidson would be the way in which they allow customers to influence decisions being made within the company . A personal example of this was when I was trying to decide on purchasing my Street 750: despite having been built into a cruiser style bike , it wasn’t obvious from pictures whether or not you could fit an aftermarket seat on it. It turned out that you couldn’t, so I had (and still have) no back protection whatsoever; something newer models provide which limits the potential for people like me getting tired and uncomfortable when riding. So why wasn’t it a feature on the Street 750?
* The aftermarket seat is designed as an upgrade to the stock seat which already comes with a backrest * A stock seat is required so that customers who like the cruiser styling can fit one onto their bike There are only two reasons for this: either Harley Davidson purposely removed them, or they did not take all of their target market into consideration when making design decisions – but I have my suspicions that it’s more likely to be from a combination of both of these things. And if you’re a company which sells style and quality , yet you don’t allow your customers to influence decisions being made then what kind of strategy do you have? This also begs the question as to whether Harley Davidson knows who their target audience is .
To further clarify this issue of internal inconsistency within Harley Davidson’s product design, you only have to look at the Stripped model range which has been heavily discussed on Reddit over the past few months. These bikes are marketed at a demographic which clearly don’t fit in with the existing model ranges , but considering how much they cost (with some being priced as high as $30,000 and more), we could say that it would be even more inconsistent for them not to take into account what their target market want – especially when they want something unique! This then begs the question: why do most people believe that taking care of customers is a strategy which can fall victim to internal inconsistency? The answer simple: if a company has plans to change their customer-facing strategy, then they need to take into account the inner workings of their business model too. This is where Harley Davidson fails by having an objective which only focuses on customers when it should be focused on both (customers and employees) .
The way in which decisions are made within any organisation will ultimately affect how such decisions are implemented. If an idea itself isn’t good enough, then at least you can learn from why that was the case and adjust accordingly for future ideas: but if you don’t even know whether or not your own ideas were considered good or bad before implementation, then there’s nowhere else to go besides back to the drawing board. The main intention behind this article is therefore to show that every idea has a downfall in terms of implementation (in some form or another), and that it is only through taking care of your business from the inside out that you can begin to break down these barriers.
One thing which will always affect how you go about your business, is who you trust as part of the process . If it’s not customers and/or employees which are being taken into consideration, then your focus should be on finding what needs to change within any given company – and there’s no better way to do this than by studying other models for success , along with their own issues. In order words: rather than comparing yourself against others, compare yourself against yourself; but just don’t forget to take care in you do so in order to avoid any internal inconsistencies!