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Harley-Davidson Company’s Marketing Improvement


Marketing plays an essential role in every business, irrespective of its size, specialty, and others. An adequate marketing strategy allows companies to reach targeted customers to achieve prosperity and economic benefits. That is why every firm should take significant efforts to implement an effective marketing strategy to achieve these results. Harley-Davidson ( is an example of a company that utilized an efficient marketing plan. This motorcycle manufacturer impresses with a rich history, background, and successful previous records. However, this fact does not mean that the business does not need improvement in terms of marketing, and relevant economic indicators support this claim. Thus, this paper will identify Harley-Davidson’s current market positioning and offer some recommendations, including widening a product mix, targeting more market segments, introducing innovations, and others, and how to improve it in the future.

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Current Marketing Strategy

As has been mentioned above, Harley-Davidson is the selected firm, and there is significant reasoning behind this choice. It refers to the fact that the company is an internationally acclaimed brand that offers its products to millions of customers. That is why one could suppose that Harley-Davidson’s marketing strategy is free from essential drawbacks. However, a closer analysis reveals that the company had started experiencing an economic downturn even before the COVID-19 pandemic began. According to the official information, international sales were reduced by 3.3%, while US indicators were down 4.2% (Harley-Davidson, 2019, para. 4). It is possible to suppose that the crisis consequences have made these indicators worse. In particular, the MCD Team (2020, para. 5) reports that the company has lost its positions in many significant markets, including the United States, Germany, and Japan, earlier this year. These data mean that the firm under consideration requires marketing improvement to overcome the adverse impact of the existing environment.

Market Segments

Before one starts offering useful pieces of advice, it is reasonable to define Harley-Davidson’s current marketing strategy, and it is rational to begin with identifying the company’s market segments. According to Parker (2016, para. 8), men of 35 years old and older form the primary market segment for Harley-Davidson. The firm tries to reach wealthy and substantial clients who are willing to become a part of Harley-Davidson’s culture. Furthermore, the company attempts to reach a group of so-called macho men, who “want to join a gang of cowboys” (Smith, 2018, para. 7). Consequently, this market segment includes individuals who are interested in bikes and biker’s lifestyle, including vehicles, clothes, behavior, and others.

It is evident that the market segment above is limited and cannot provide Harley-Davidson with constant development by itself. In addition to that, such a specified focus can result in criticism and the brand’s negative image in society (Grau and Zotos, 2016). It is not productive for a marketing strategy if a company has a vision of discriminating against its customers based on their gender. Thus, the company understands this issue and its official website offers women’s apparel and accessories (Harley-Davidson, no date). In addition to that, Saharudin (2020, para. 29) admits that Harley-Davidson markets its products to the US military. This choice is justified by the fact that the motorcycle producer has an aggressive image, connecting it to the military. Thus, one can conclude that Harley-Davidson’s market segments include certain groups of women and men who are over the age of 35 years.

Current Market Positioning

The following step is to describe Harley-Davidson’s current market positioning. To begin with, one should emphasize that this phenomenon is of significance. According to SMstudy (2016, para. 1), positioning “creates an image of the company’s products in the mind of consumers, highlighting the most important benefits that differentiate the product from similar products in the market.” As a result, it is necessary to draw specific attention to market positioning to understand what customers think of the brand. This information is essential because it allows making some marketing improvements when it is required.

The company’s products also play a crucial role in determining its market positioning. As for Harley-Davidson, it portrays itself as the manufacturer of big and loud motorcycles, mostly for American customers (Smith, 2018, para. 7). This positioning statement evokes the images of solidity, masculinity, and authority among customers. Furthermore, Harley-Davidson claims that it is a producer of high-quality choppers and custom motorcycles. This fact inevitably leads to increased prices, which supports the idea of high quality among potential buyers. That is why numerous customers often consider the company an overpriced and overrated brand (Saharudin, 2020, para. 3). Even though this claim is an exaggeration, Harley-Davidson indeed offers some services that lead to the brand’s higher positioning, and they will be described below.

Many phenomena result in the fact that the firm under analysis is in an upper market area. Firstly, Parker (2016, para. 4) explains that many clients value Harley-Davidson customization options. People appreciate it when they receive an individualized attitude and when producers meet their desires. Secondly, an extensive dealership network that comprised 1,435 shops in 2016 is another significant feature (Parker, 2016, para. 5). Thirdly, the company attracts thousands of loyal customers with the help of cultural and entertainment events organized for Harley owners (Parker, 2016, para. 9). Finally, Sheth (2017, p. 8) argues that Harley Davidson relies on the use of social media to reach customers and maintain its positioning. This step is necessary to run a business in the 21st century.

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Simultaneously, it is worth mentioning that competition also impacts the brand positioning. As for Harley-Davidson, the main rivals include Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, Ducati, Honda, and BMW (Greenspan, 2020, para. 1). That is why the firm under analysis should take significant efforts to gain an advantage in this aggressive market. However, Harley-Davidson’s state is difficult because its rivals offer low prices, which is attractive to customers. In addition to that, it is challenging for Harley-Davidson to gain a competitive advantage because of the imitation of motorcycle designs (Greenspan, 2020, para. 10). This situation results in the fact that the company under analysis loses its uniqueness. Finally, the given firm offers a narrow mix of products, which is another disadvantage compared to competitors’ offerings.

To summarize, one should mention that micro environmental factors determine Harley-Davidson’s market positioning. A relatively wide range of products, customization options, extensive dealership network, and specialized events for customers lead to the fact that the company is in the upper market area. The high quality of products and increased prices support this claim. However, it is not possible to mention that Harley-Davidson’s market positioning is ideal. Harsh competition in this market undermines the brand’s perception by its customers. Consequently, the information above has demonstrated that the micro environmental factors determine Harley-Davidson’s current market positioning.

Critical Evaluation

Since it has already been mentioned that the company can experience some economic issues, it is possible to state that something is wrong with its marketing strategy. Consequently, it is necessary to evaluate the data above, including the firm’s market segments and current market positioning, to identify whether it is possible to offer some recommendations. That is why the given sections will critically analyze these phenomena to identify any room for improvement in terms of marketing.

On the one hand, it is necessary to note that Harley-Davidson focuses on a limited market segment. Even though it targets both men and women, multiple factors reduce the number of potential clients. Firstly, the company offers products of a specific range, meaning that an average customer will be unlikely to buy a motorcycle or chopper by Harley-Davidson. Highly interested or even possessed individuals can only become loyal customers to this firm. Secondly, the MCD Team (2020, para. 7) stipulates that the firm primarily targets the needs and desires of a particular group of American customers, which refers to Milwaukee citizens. This fact demonstrates that fewer people from all over the world understand and share the values that are distributed by Harley Davidson.

Thirdly, it is worth mentioning that the company’s focus on people of 35 years old and older are not justified. The MCD Team (2020, para. 17) admits that Harley-Davidson is losing many customers because of their aging. It is evident that when people become older, their interests and preferences develop and change. In addition to that, it has been described that Harley-Davidson offers a relatively aggressive image, denoting that older individuals cannot meet their criteria. As a result, such individuals leave the group of the firm’s potential customers. It is a worldwide trend, and it implies adverse economic consequences for the brand.

On the other hand, one should state that Harley-Davidson’s current market positioning also receives some criticism. The focus on high-quality and, consequently, high-priced products allows the company to attract wealthy and loyal customers. However, this situation also leads to the fact that the company’s economic indicators are fragile because they depend on a relatively small number of clients. As a result, if few customers leave the Harley-Davidson’s client base, the company will immediately feel adverse consequences of this state of affairs.

In addition to that, one should explain that Harley-Davidson’s positioning is not productive regarding its competitors. As has already been mentioned, the company has to compete with many rivals that are also famous throughout the world. These motorcycle manufacturers, including Yamaha, Kawasaki, and others, have a significant market share. Consequently, Harley-Davidson’s current positioning is weak because of a few reasons. Firstly, the competitors offer lower prices, which creates the feeling that Harley-Davidson is an overpriced brand. Secondly, these firms imitate Harley-Davidson’s designs, meaning that the company does not offer a unique experience anymore. In addition to a narrow product mix, the brand under analysis finds it challenging to get a competitive advantage, which undermines its marketing positioning.

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At the same time, it would be wrong to state that Harley-Davidson’s market positioning is free from positive issues. Many options that the company offers to its customer are considered attractive by people. It refers to the customization opportunity, specialized events, and the ability to become a Harley-Davidson’s customer for people from any world continent. These options are useful because they allow Harley-Davidson to mitigate the competitors’ advantages that have been presented above.

At this point, it is reasonable to summarize the critical evaluation of the market segments and positioning. Market segments are of a narrow focus, meaning that the company’s economic indicators are subject to adverse consequences from even subtle changes to the market. As for market positioning, it implies both positive and negative features, and adverse ones are more significant because they seem to have a greater impact on the company’s performance. In addition to that, one should note that the firm’s current market positioning only addresses the micro environmental factors by focusing on internal issues. However, it is also rational to meet the macro environmental issues to ensure that the company meets the needs of the whole society or even the world. Consequently, the following section will offer some recommendations on how Harley-Davidson should revitalize its targeting approach and market positioning.

Proposed Recommendations

Harley-Davidson understands that the company is in a challenging situation that requires substantial improvements. That is why the firm has announced its 5-year Rewire program that should result in significant benefits for the business. According to the official website, this strategic plan implies concentrating on fewer markets, following a new approach to supply and inventory management, implementing innovations, and others (Harley-Davidson, no date, para. 6). This 5-year strategic plan should make Harley-Davidson the most desirable and famous motorcycle brand throughout the world. However, the issues above are generalizable, and more specific recommendations are required. The information below will explain what particular steps, addressing both micro and macro environments, are necessary to improve Harley-Davidson marketing activities.

Firstly, it has been mentioned that the company decreases the number of its target markets to achieve higher efficiency, and India is a suitable example. Even though this country represents an extended market, it is not beneficial for the business because of “marginal sales for premium brands” (MCD Team, 2020, para. 11). A reduced number of sales makes Harley-Davidson suffer essential losses regarding the Indian market. Thus, a recommendation for the company is to focus on large and profitable markets, including Europe, North America, and some parts of Asia Pacific. It is so because these markets provide the company with the highest sales rates. For example, the United States alone accounts for more than half of global sales (MCD Team, 2020, para. 5). In conclusion, this advice stipulates that it is necessary to narrow the micro environment to reckon on potentially higher benefits.

Secondly, the lower number of markets should be accompanied by a higher number of market segments. It has already been described that Harley-Davidson mainly focuses on a relatively small group of American citizens. It is so because the company offers a narrow product mix, including chopper-type motorbikes and aggressive clothes. Consequently, a marketing improvement will occur if the firm manages to reach and attract more market segments, which can be achieved by broadening its product mix. Greenspan (2020, para. 8) stipulates that a useful option is to design and develop other types of vehicles, including lightweight and racing motorcycles. Furthermore, it will be possible to reach a younger audience by offering bright models. Since this fact conflicts with the company’s positioning statement because so-called macho men do not prefer bright-colored vehicles and clothes, a suitable variant is to offer a limited collection.

Thirdly, it is reasonable for Harley-Davidson to lower its prices and reflect this fact in its positioning statement. According to the information above, the high cost is the leading disadvantage of the given business compared to its rivals. When customers can buy products of decent quality cheaper, they will typically take this opportunity. It is not easy to achieve this task, but a few possible solutions exist. On the one hand, Greenspan (2020, para. 8) explains that Harley-Davidson can form alliances or partnerships with complementary businesses in the industry. This fact will help achieve lower prices, increase market share, and reduce the number of competitors. On the other hand, Harley-Davidson should place a greater focus on innovations (Greenspan, 2020, para. 11). New technologies are a suitable way to reduce costs while preserving the products’ high quality.

Finally, since the previous recommendations addressed the micro environment, it is also reasonable to offer advice to impact the macro environment. It refers to the increasing preference for electric vehicles in the world. Today, many companies address ecological issues and offer electric cars or motorcycles to reduce the negative impact on the environment. Harley-Davidson is disadvantaged here because its motorcycles typically use internal combustion engines (Greenspan, 2020, para. 10). Consequently, the company will witness significant benefits if it manages to provide its customers with an opportunity to buy electric motorcycles. This information denotes that Harley-Davidson should address the environmental and technological challenges that are acute in the modern world.

Concluding Thoughts

Harley-Davidson is a famous producer of motorcycles and specialized clothing. Even though the company has an image of a successful brand, economic indicators show that it is experiencing some challenges. It refers to reduced rates of sales both before and after the COVID-19 pandemic. Irrespective of the coronavirus adverse impact, it is possible to state that Harley-Davidson’s issues denote that the firm needs improvement in terms of its marketing. It is so because the company targets a limited market segment that is represented by men and women of 35 and older who are interested in a biker’s theme. Furthermore, the firm’s current market positioning also deserves attention because Harley-Davidson has many competitors, and it is necessary to overcome them and find its place in the market. That is why the brand offers high-quality products that result in increased prices.

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According to this information, it is evident that Harley-Davidson needs specific recommendations that address both micro and macro environments to improve its marketing activities. Firstly, the company should focus on a smaller number of more efficient markets, including North America, Europe, and some regions of Asia Pacific. Secondly, it is reasonable to target more segments in these fewer markets. Harley-Davidson can offer a broader product mix and brighter designs to attract younger customers throughout the world. Thirdly, the firm should provide its customers with lowers prices and advertise it. It is possible to achieve this result with the help of innovations and alliances. Finally, it is reasonable for the business to focus on the production of electric motorcycles. The preference for this type of vehicle is acute in the modern world because many people and organizations are concerned with environmental and technological issues. Consequently, these recommendations have the potential to provide Harley-Davidson with essential marketing and economic benefits in the future.

Reference List

Grau, S. L. and Zotos, Y. C. (2016) ‘Gender stereotypes in advertising: a review of current research’, International Journal of Advertising, 35(5), pp. 761-770.

Greenspan, R. (2020) Harley-Davidson SWOT analysis. Web.

Harley-Davidson. Harley-Davidson announces first quarter 2019 results. Web.

Harley-Davidson (no date) About Harley-Davidson. Web.

MCD Team (2020) Harley-Davidson. Ready to close India operations after the H1 22.1% fall in global sales. Web.

Parker, J. (2016) What is Harley-Davidson’s marketing strategy? Web.

Saharudin, H. (2020) How Harley-Davidson marketing strategy built a cult following. Web.

Sheth, J. (2017) ‘Revitalizing relationship marketing’, Journal of Services Marketing, 31(1), pp. 6-10.

Smith, K. (2018) Creating a clear brand positioning statement. Web.

SMstudy (2016) The importance of product positioning to the marketing strategic planning. Web.

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