While Exploring the Harley Owners Group (HOG) in the Brand Asset Management class at school the discussion moved towards the creation of communities around brands,with communities being defined as dynamic socially-structured groups sharing:
- An ethos and set of values
- A moral responsibility and obligation to the group
- Hierarchies of membership with understood advancement processes
- Rules and behavioral norms with sanctions and rewards
- Common language, rites, rituals & symbols
- Agreement about who the group “are not” as well as who they “are”
In the case of Harley Owners Group, the particular use of Posse Rides was being explored. The point being that there is a brand persona associated with Harley which is reinforced by the Posse Rides, creating a group of die-hard influences, free PR and above all a sense of hierarchy in the HOG community where participation in the Posse Ride is the right of passage into the riding elite.
The picture looks just so perfect right now.
The discussion then moved on to the next point: pondering that technology had nothing to do with community creation. Hence all the noise we keep hearing that online social media is not what makes communities. This part didn’t sit well with me.
The HOG community is based one a basic “aspirational promise”: that once you join us you can share the persona of a rebel, an outlaw, the forever-free, macho biker. In order to have that aspiration though, a consumer needs to have been exposed to Harley’s outlaw history inspired by the likes of the Hells Angels. The Posse ride and similar events act as tools for the same. ( edit: as pointed by @brigzay the bikes themselves are the tools/media for community interaction. see comments)
There are a few problems here:
Firstly, the Harley riding macho outlaw persona is not an aspirational persona for the millennial generation.The demographics of current Harley users are blatantly obvious, with a clear trend in the wrong direction. Secondly, the Hell’s Angels are ancient
history. The youth might like the outlaw persona but they probably associate it more with “hackers” who broke into Twitter than with Harley riders.
What can technology and the Social Web do for Harley?
Technology can create new tools for participating in the HOG culture and can introduce a whole new generation to the outlaw culture. One of the many things that Harley could try is to be engaged in MMO games. That is where the youth lives and where they express their rebellion. Why not act as the agent in that safe expression of rebellion? MMO games share characteristics with real-world communities. Just like a Posse ride is a tool for keeping the aspirational outlaws among the baby boomers and Gen X, engaged with the Harley Brand, the MMO game (or any social-network-based rebellious activity) can act as a tool to engage Gen Y or the millennial generation.
MMO games are just one of the many possible places that could happen …
disclaimer: Brand Asset Management is probably the second best marketing class I have attended at Kelley, the best would be Marketing Strategy .