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Killer Question #27

It all started with an idea and a passion. In 1901, William S. Harley, age 21, took an idea and created a blueprint drawing of an engine designed to fit into a bicycle. Over the next few years, its the passion and determination of William Harley and Arthur Davidson that turn the blueprint into a wor

Phil McKinney
Phil McKinney
2 min read
Killer Question #27
Killer Question #27: Who is passionate about your product or something it relates to? Why or why not?

It all started with an idea and a passion.  In 1901, William Harley, age 21, took an idea and created a blueprint drawing of an engine designed to fit into a bicycle.  Over the next few years, its the passion and determination of William Harley and Arthur Davidson that turn that blueprint into a working engine.

In 1903, William and Arthur make available to the public the first production Harley-Davidson® motorcycle. The bike was built to be a racer, with a 3-1/8 inch bore and 3-1/2 inch stroke. The factory in which they worked was a 10 x 15-foot wooden shed with the words “Harley-Davidson Motor Company” crudely scrawled on the door.   Henry Meyer of Milwaukee, a schoolyard pal of William and Arthur , buys one of the 1903 models directly from the founders.

In 1903, the first Harley-Davidson Dealer, C.H. Lang of Chicago, IL, opens for business and sells one of the first three production Harley-Davidson motorcycles ever made.  A humble beginning to what would become one of the leading brands in the world.  The customer loyalty and passion for the product grew to such levels that in 1983, Harley-Davidson's establishes the Harley Owners Group®. Fondly referred to as H.O.G.®, the Group immediately becomes the largest factory-sponsored motorcycle club in the world. Within six years, H.O.G. membership soars to more than 90,000. By the year 2000, it exceeds 500,000 members.

To help celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Harley-Davidson, more than 250,000 fans came to Milwaukee for the final stop of the Open Road Tour.

Many credit the passion for Harley-Davidson's products that allowed it to survive the grueling competition from the Japanese motorcycle manufactures (1980's) , enabled the company executives to buy back the company from AMF (1981) and eventually going public on the NYSE (1987).

What is the source of this passion?

When a person buys a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, they receive a free 1-year membership to the Harley Owners Group (HOG).  This keeps the company close to its customer. HOG's 900 local chapters conduct four US national rallies, two touring rallies and 44 state rallies. These rallies encourage people to use their motorcycles and to share in the excitement of riding. The people are given demonstration rides, have the opportunity to ask questions, register their bikes and buy merchandise. According to Michael Keefe, director of HOG, these rallies are considered “more like customer bonding. If people use the motorcycle, they'll stay involved”.  What the Harley management crew, who are masters of marketing, do well is listen to their customers. The result is that Harley cannot keep up with demand at current production levels. Company executives learn from their customers by maintaining a database to track consumer desires and by spending almost every weekend from April through October at motorcycle events and dealerships listening to customers.

How many of your customers are willing to tattoo your logo on their bodies?

How can you ignite the passion for your products?

Source: Harley-Davdison website
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Phil McKinney is an innovator, podcaster, author, and speaker. He is the retired CTO of HP. Phil's book, Beyond The Obvious, shares his expertise and lessons learned on innovation and creativity.


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