Harley-Davidson does not sell MCs: Antibodies, Part 4 of 6.

No matter where you are, you will probably agree that the world has changed quite a bit since 1903. That was the year when Americans William Harley and his friend Arthur Davidson joined forces to strap a massive automobile engine onto a bicycle and the Harley-Davidson company was born. Since then, they have manufactured big, loud, terrifying motorcycles, and the company has survived many ups and downs along with countless variations in society’s values.

One period during the 1980s came the closest to wiping them out completely. A tidal wave of cheaper, faster, more colorful motorcycles from Japan crashed onto American shores. Harley-Davidson kept themselves afloat and roared back to life by discovering that they don’t sell motorcycles after all. What they actually sell is a set of dreams, and on those dreams they built a community of riders who felt emotionally connected with to the company’s DNA. John Russell, managing director of Harley-Davidson Europe, said: “Harley-Davidson sells to 43-year-old accountants the ability to dress in leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of them.”This is the DNA of Harley-Davidson and it has served them very well over the decades as tastes and technologies changed. In 2019, they are facing difficulties in adapting to a world of electric motorcycles but the dreams that energize their customer base are still valid. Only the future will tell what’s coming next for the dream factory, but it is entirely possible that what they build in the future won’t even be motorcycles.


Here at last we come to the second lesson in this blog series, which deserves writing down so you don’t lose it. When you are able to fully grasp what is inside your business DNA, you will constrict the parameters of possible actions that could take to improve your performance, internally and externally.


From there, it’s not hard to conduct a litmus test of who your ideal customers are and what the actually want from you. That’s how you discover what you actually are selling to your best customers and then use that knowledge to stay relevant. Don’t be surprised if your DNA is not in line with what you thought it was, or what you offer the market currently.


Read all parts 1-6

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