Monday, December 28, 2009

Harley the Hog: Once Harrison the Highbrow

Not many symbols of macho intimidation have their origins in baskets of potpourri, but that's about the case for Harley rrrrraaaahhhuuummbubbbbubblebubble Davidson. Once a dainty scooter on which big brother transported the pharmacist's daughter, Harley Hogs are now firmly planted in our culture as machines on which young rebels risk their lives and sweaty old guys rest their butts.

These vintage ads come from our friend Jay Livingston who copped them from a website called Sociological Images. Yeah! We've got to start hanging out there! Who knows, we might find a rare photo of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano actually doing something to shut down terrorists.

Of course, here's how Harley-Davidson is positioned today. Looks like the target customer is a fuzz-ball cradle-robber. Clearly this brand has come a long way from the time it served as a complement to argyle sweaters and pic-nics.



Jay Livingston said...

But tell us, O Brandmaster, if this was by Harley's design -- a successful campaign to change the brand-- or if it was a case of HD following their own customers. If the latter, are there other examples of the grassroots brand change?

And what's Janet Napolitano doing in this post? Did she ride in (or out) on a Harley?

Thomas said...

I find it interesting how the Harley Davidson name, or brand, has changed so much over the years. From the clean cut average Joe looking for a little freedom and excitment, to the "fuzz-ball cradle-robber" with bad hygiene. I can only guess that the point or origin for this change happened as the battle weary Vietnam soldiers came home to an unwelcoming public. And as they were treated by outcasts by the citizens of the very country they swore to protect, they decided to BE outcasts and band together. Many of whom were the basis for the first motorcycle clubs that still exist to this day.

Perhaps if they photographed Janet Napolitano astride a Harley, along with Janet Reno as the enforcer, the terrorists might have second thoughts...

And on a final note, $225?????? I'll take two!!

Jay Livingston said...

Thomas, I don't know when that ad is from, but it has the feel of the the Honda motorbike ads of the 60s -- "You meet the nicest people on a Honda." On a Harley too, apparently . . . at least back then. Anyway, as for the $225, I remember the line from the Honda song:

Two hundred miles per gallon
On a rugged trail machine,
And Honda prices start
About two-fifteen.

brandsinger said...

Jay and Thomas -
You guys rock. Thanks for the giggle -- I mean, thanks for the hearty, plate-rattling laughter.