June 8, 2021
WRITTEN BY:
Melinda Head

Diggin' it with Harley Davidson

Does the timeless pursuit of adventure interest you? Read on

It doesn’t matter where you are in America, Harley-Davidson is there. America’s home-grown motorcycle brand, Harley-Davidson took in almost $6 billion in revenue in 2020. Interbrand, a leading company that ranks brand value globally, puts Harley-Davidson in the Top 100 brands worldwide, ahead of Italian luxury fashion house Prada.

Harley owners are highly devoted to their bikes and constitute an elite club within American motorcycle culture. Harley-Davidson riders love their bikes with an obsessive fanaticism that marketers of other products can only dream about.

“(Harley-Davidson gives) riders a sense of freedom, rebellion, identity, a distinctness from all other people.” (Rita McGrath, Columbia Business School)

“If you’re not on a Harley, then you ain’t riding a motorcycle.”

Company Origins

Harley-Davidson was born out of boyhood friendship in a back shed in Milwaukee, WI, where the Company’s headquarters continues to stand. Three Davidson boys (Walter, William, Arthur) and William Harley made up the foursome. Since Harley came up with the idea of building motorcycles, his name was given first position, despite being outnumbered by the Davidson brothers.

Harley Davidson Founders
 It all started with a boyhood foursome, a vision and determination

Enamored with bicycles with a passion that eventually turned to motorcycles, a working prototype was eventually produced in 1904 using rudimentary skills in drafting, machining and mechanics, and a lathe made available to them by a friend’s father.  

Fast forward and along the way, the Company signed-up the USPS, police departments and the military to use Harley-Davidson bikes, and also started a Harley-Davidson service school to train mechanics.  It saw the value in a coalition of industry insiders and riders working toward the common goal of advancing motorcycling. The rest is history.

The Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, WI, has an unrivaled collection of Harley-Davidson motorcycles and memorabilia on a 20-acre campus, and is one of the City’s top tourist destinations for visitors from around the world. Have you visited it yet?

Harley Davidson Museum
The Harley Davidson Museum

The HOG Acronym

Harley-Davidson motorcycles are also known as HOGs. Back in the early 1920’s, Ray Weishaar, a Harley racing team member, had a pet piglet named Johnny that became the team’s mascot. Soon thereafter, the cute little creature was perched on the gas tank for all winning Harley-Davidson victory laps. The stock market ticker for Harley-Davidson is HOG. And HOG is also an acronym for Harley Owners Group, a membership-based community that was established in 1983 to build longer-lasting and stronger relationships with Harley-Davidson customers.

Ray Weishaar
Ray Weishaar and the original piglet racing team mascot, from which the expression “HOG” was born

The Unique Harley-Davidson Sound

Many Harley-Davidson devotees will agree that “you can hear a Harley before you see it”. Those who are not proponents of the machine complain about the excessive noise it produces.  The distinct Harley sound is so important to the Brand that the Company tried to trademark it (but failed).

“A good part of the allure of a Harley is its sound. No other bike comes close. It conveys a raw sense of testosterone.”

The secret to the distinct Harley-Davidson sound comes from its V-shaped engine and a crankshaft that has only one pin, attached to both pistons – which means that both spark plugs fire simultaneously. The popping noise is simply hot gas escaping from the exhaust valve opening when the spark plugs fire.

Harley-Davidson, like other companies, must adhere to EPA noise regulations: straight out of the showroom floor, you’re looking at a noise factor of about 80 dB.  In comparison, most people talk at 60 dB, a lawnmower operates at 90 dB and a military jet engine produces 120 dB. That doesn’t sound so bad, does it? The loud noise that people complain about often comes from after-market customization.

Celebrities, a Genius Marketing Move

Many celebrities have taken to the road on a Harley. In the early days, Marlon Brando and Elvis Presley made their own personal statements driving HOGs -- jump forward to modern HOG owners, who include Brad Pitt and even former US Vice-President Mike Pence.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando in The Wild One, 1953

Elvis Presley on his Harley Davidson, c. 1956
Elvis Presley on his Harley Davidson, c. 1956

Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, 1969
Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider, 1969

Brigitte Bardot
Sex-symbol, actress, model, singer and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot on a Harley Davidson, 1967

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt. This pic tells it all

Ludacris
Rapper/actor Ludacris who has had a long time collaboration with Harley-Davidson

Vice President Mike Pence
Former US Vice-President, Mike Pence on the campaign trail

Harley-Davidson in Films

An important part of the Harley-Davidson cultural marketing mix, HOGs have made their mark in movies. Hands down, Easy Rider (1969) did more for Harley-Davidson than any other movie. In the film, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper cross the US en route to New Orleans on their customized Hydra-Glide Harley-Davidson choppers. The tricked-out star-spangled banner Captain America bike embodies the rebellious spirit that inspired a counter-culture movement and took choppers into the mainstream.

From Roger Moore (James Bond), to Mickey Rourke, Nicholas Cage, John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Harrison Ford, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the list of stars who have ridden a HOG goes on and on.  Here are a few good clips:

The Future

The Glory Days don’t last forever and even Harley-Davidson has had to weather some storms. In February 2020, after leading the organization for 26 years, CEO Matt Levatich was ousted, but life continues and on July 8th a completely new brand, LiveWire, dedicated exclusively to electric motorcycles, will reveal its first bike.

LiveWire will operate out of the Company’s Milwaukee, WI, home base, and in Silicon Valley, CA, at a center called LiveWire Labs. The new brand will work with participating dealers from Harley-Davidson’s dealer network, but will also open its own dedicated LiveWire showrooms; the first will be in Canoga Park, Los Angeles.

Like it or not, you can’t get away from electric. Harley-Davidson and other motorcycle manufacturers have been caught between two demographic trends: young people aren’t widely embracing big cruiser and touring bikes, and long-time riders are aging out of the sport. The environment is driving government, big business, investors and consumers. This is a bold, smart, necessary move and, if anyone can pull it off, Harley-Davidson can.

While you’re waiting for the official July 8th launch and the likely reveal at the Sonoma, CA, Raceway from July 16-18, 2021, here is some other limited-edition eye candy to feast your eyes on:

Now challenge yourself and your friends to our Harley Davidson Quiz of the Day, by downloading Quizefy from the app store if you haven’t already done so, then see how much you know and Strut Your Smart. Our Harley Davidson Quiz is only available today, then it disappears.

We’ll be back again every Tuesday with a special blog posted at www.quizefy.com, along with a new trivia quiz on the same topic as the blog.

Don’t forget to follow Quizefy in social media, so we can remind you of upcoming blog and quiz content.

Coming Up For Quizefy

On Tuesdays we always cover a trending topic in our blog, matched with an accompanying Quiz of the Day, through our Quizefy app.  Every other day, we also have a Quiz of the Day but without a blog to provide hints. Our Quizefy Quiz of the Day line up for the next several days is:
Tuesday, June 22: New Olympic Sports
Wednesday, June 23: Pride Month
Thursday, June 24: Fairy Day
Friday, June 25: Catfish Day
Saturday, June 26: Beauticians Day
Sunday June 27: Week in Review (we cover this topic every Sunday)
Monday, June 28: Alaska Day
Click here Download Quizefy
About the Author

Melinda, a serial entrepreneur, is a sociologist and statistician. She believes there is no currency with greater value than knowledge.

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