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CII Brand Conclave: Clyde Fessler shares the Harley Davidson experience

18-June-2005
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CII Brand Conclave: Clyde Fessler shares the Harley Davidson experience

Building of a strong brand has more to with the process than with the product. It was the essence of Clyde Fessler’s presentation on the second day of the CII Brand Conclave in Kolkata.

This, he naturally, sought to exemplify through references to his experiences at Harley Davidson, where he was at the helm of marketing and communications for two decades -from early 1980s to 2002 - when the American bike-maker successfully overcame stiff competition from more modern and cheaper Japanese bikes. This period saw the emergence of the Harley Davidson cult in America, and resulted in a complete turnaround in the fortunes of the beleaguered company.

The starting point of Harley Davidson’s counter strategy was a value proposition that was arrived at by answering three simple but fundamental questions: who are we, who are our customers and what do they expect from us?

This value proposition for the Harley Davidson, drawing from its intrinsic strengths, was defined as: ‘We build big, beautiful motorcycles for motor enthusiasts, who want their product and services to be symbols of strength, freedom, individuality, Americana, and want to share participate in the Harley Davidson heritage, tradition and mystique.’

Once adopted this proposition was aggressively driven through all the four Ps of the brand’s marketing mix. Thus whether it was ‘Just in Time Inventories’ on the product front or equating price to resale value or, for that matter, a hyped-up cross-country consumer meet in Milwauki the Harley Davidson personality remained consistent.

The same values above all extended to the fifth and most important P, its People as well. This was effectively done by reorienting the entire business process to the company’s values and constant training programmes for its people. It was their passion that often made the difference in the Harley Davidson experience, he contended.

Again underlining the criticality of a process, Fessler argued that building a brand takes commitment, focus and three to five years of complimentary programmes; its not just an advertising campaign but a well thought out process that requires a company-wide effort unifying everyone’s energies towards the same common objective.

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