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Harley-Davidson rides with an older crew

News, 28 October 2015
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ORLANDO, FL: Brands must not neglect the "growth market" of older consumers to focus solely on youthful audiences, a leading executive from Harley-Davidson has warned.

Mark-Hans Richer, Harley-Davidson's chief marketing officer, discussed this topic at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2015 Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Florida.

"I'm going to go heretical on you, and say that youth does not own cool. Youth does not own growth. Youth does not own innovation or disruption," he said. (For more, including further insights into the brand's strategy, read Warc's exclusive report: How Harley-Davidson embraced older buyers.)

"And 'old people' are a growth market, too. We marketers worship at the altar of youth at our peril."

Harley-Davidson has, in fact, aimed to expand its customer base in the last few years, with an emphasis on reaching a more diverse group of consumers.

But this shift has worked hand in hand with a renewed commitment to consumers who are often a lower priority for other brands, despite being a valuable and growing demographic in the US.

"The market potential in front of you today is 111m fifty-plus adults. Ten years from now, it'll be another 17m. And ten years from then, it will be another 32m … and on and on and on," said Richer.

"The growth prospects are rich and I fear that we are ignoring this."

Building on this argument, he cited a recent study which pegged millennial spending power in America at $200bn. "Contrast that," added Richer, "with the buying power of people [aged] 50-plus: $3.2tr."

From Ray-Ban sunglasses to bands like the Rolling Stones, he suggested these cohorts actually share a lot of things it common when it comes to what they buy and enjoy.

And Harley-Davidson experienced this first hand as its tour for Project Livewire, its first electronic motorcycle, attracted attention from older and younger consumers alike.

"We tend to lock ourselves off into these boxes [that assume] one generation has a certain mindset and a different generation has a different mindset," said Richer.

"But they share a lot more mindsets than we typically give them credit for."

Data sourced from Warc

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