Defining & expressing the brand’s iconic core amidst rapid growth & experience evolution
Staring down unprecedented internal and external growth rates, Harley-Davidson feared the attributes that had defined the iconic brand’s “burning core” would be lost or diluted. In partnership with Brandtrust, they set out to preserve the brand’s rich equity amidst this growth. By first understanding the emotional landscape defining the Harley brand and then creating tools to better track brand health over time, they sought to guarantee the Harley essence that had defined success to date would continue to fuel the brand’s future, reaching new audiences without alienating the core.


Emotional Inquiry research revealed that underlying each Harley purchase is a powerful psychological metamorphosis of the self. The purchase of a brand-new bike signifies transformation: the emergence of a new being and a new beginning. And by association, the Harley brand provides deep personal significance. Once an aspirational dream, becoming part of the Harley “tribe” marks a realization of the authentic self.


Rooted in emergent insights, Brandtrust and Harley revamped the brand’s entire strategic framework to better reflect crucial consumer emotional anchors and iconic brand attributes. Further, Brandtrust created a global customer journey framework summarizing critical moments that matter in the brand metamorphosis experience.


Outcomes from this and subsequent Brandtrust engagements continue to strengthen Harley-Davidson as one of the world’s leading customer-focused, iconic brands by extending its reach beyond core customers & markets. Internally, Brandtrust guided organizational culture-building efforts to internalize and activate the brand strategy. Further, Brandtrust developed a brand dashboard for Harley to quantify critical brand attributes and measure brand health over time. Finally, the customer journey framework remains a guide for all brand development, including serving as the anchor for a revolutionized Harley retail experience. Ultimately, market share growth in the 4-years following the brand strategy work confirms growth without alienating the core Harley customer: Core customer: +8.5%; Young Adults: +12.9%, Women: +6.8%, Hispanic: +10.1%, and African American: +12.3%.

“Brandtrust’s work changed my life and forever changed the Harley-Davidson Motor Company”
– Harley Davidson Director, Demand Planning