CHICAGO: Indian Motorcycle is giving "old-school" marketing a key role in its strategy as the brand seeks to engage with current and potential riders and, ultimately, drive new purchases.

Pam Kermisch, Senior Director/Integrated Marketing and Customer Experience at Polaris – the parent company of Indian Motorcycle – discussed this topic at the Association of National Advertisers' (ANA) 2017 Brand Activation Conference.

"We do plenty of digital," Kermisch she said, "but old-school is really important." (For more details, read WARC's exclusive report: How to compete against apple pie, motherhood, and Harley-Davidson.)

This approach seems fitting for a brand originally dating back to 1901 – "It was the first American motorcycle," Kermisch said – but also reflects the way people buy these products.

A crucial step on the purchase journey, for example, is when a consumer receives a word-of-mouth recommendation from someone who owns a particular motorcycle.

"They're not paid advocates or paid ambassadors. They're the riders at the gas station. They might not be people they know, but they're other riders," she said.

"People who have already bought your brand are six times more likely to buy again, and six times more likely to drive referrals than a brand-new person coming in the door."

Prospective customers conduct research via a range of online touchpoints. Coupled with enhancing its credentials in the digital space, however, Indian Motorcycle has made sure dealerships are open to letting visitors take test rides.

"How many of you are going to buy a $25,000 [motorcycle] without trying it? No one," Kermisch said. "Our people expect a demo ride."

Alongside potentially leading to a future sale, encouraging consumers to visit dealerships and take bikes out on the road helps build a community around the brand, a key part of bike culture.

"Two-thirds of riders will test ride just for fun," Kermisch said. "They're just kicking tires, looking to build their credibility as a rider and to connect with other riders. They're looking to see what's new ... But visiting a dealership is not just about buying a bike."

And while the purchase cycle for a motorcycle can be a long one, a similar proportion of the target audience are constantly keeping an eye out for their acquisition.

"Two-third of all bike owners are always looking. They'll tell you, 'I just bought a bike. I love my new bike. And I'm already dreaming of my next bike'," said Kermisch.

Data sourced from WARC