Thoughts on Motorcycle Brand Loyalty
It used to be conceivable that if you were happy with buying a new (or even used) motorcycle, you would be more inclined to buy a newer model from the same manufacturer. But after seeing most of my cycling friends not following this trend, I started to question this thought process. This led to the inevitable question: “Is there still such a thing as motorcycle brand loyalty? In fact, I didn’t have to look very far to find an answer, I was a perfect candidate. I have owned many motorcycles over the years and have moved from an older model to a newer model made by the same manufacturer only once (eg a 1987 Kawasaki Ninja 750R to a Kawasaki ZX-7 of 1992).So my answer to the proposed question would be a “no”. Whether it was style, price, technology, or a number of other factors, I chose to buy a competitor’s product from the current brand I was driving at the time. Now, if I said “yes” to that question, I’d probably be on my third or fourth generation Honda by now. But I am not. And I wondered what it would take for a company to build a brand that not only attracts customers, but also retains those customers three, four or five years later? Nowadays, motorcycle manufacturers have to accomplish both of these tasks. (and more) to increase their income and stay financially stable. That said, only a few in today’s market have a well-known and respected brand and have built a substantial relationship with their customers. For example, I would put Ducati on my list of super recognizable brands. The Italian brand understands how to not only market their product, but also the need for their customers to have a connection to the business…a family if you will. Jason Chinnock, CEO of Ducati North America, spoke about it at the launch of Ducati’s XDiavel: “The passion for two wheels, twin engines and beautiful roads is shared by everyone…as riders, we are part of a tribe, but we also embrace our individuality.
Similar to Ducati, Harley-Davidson would absolutely be on the super recognizable list. While they may not be leading the landscape with cutting-edge technology, there’s no denying the fact that Harley-Davidson has built a brand and it’s recognized around the world. As Willie G. Davidson said, “When you look up the word ‘motorcycle’ in the dictionary, there’s a picture of a Harley next to it..“You could draw comparisons to other companies (BMW Motorrad is one that comes to mind), but these embody and embrace customer obsession. To test this view, I conducted an informal and asked poll: “Would you buy another [insert current motorcycle manufacturer here] and why/why not“The results? Ducati and Harley-Davidson riders are more likely to buy another ‘Duke’ or ‘Hog’ than say a rider who is only interested in maximum horsepower. I will point out that almost all the major players were represented (minus the MV Augustas and Benellis of the world. Aprilia, KTM, etc.) held their own despite their reduced marketing budgets I accept that these results may be skewed due to the small number of applicants and obviously does not reflect the shopping habits of the motorcycling community as a whole.What it does do however, is an insight into how important brand recognition is to a business.
Which brings us back to the original question:Is there still such a thing as motorcycle brand loyaltyI guess it depends on how you define loyalty. If you define it by “number of units sold to existing customers” and your numbers are off the charts, then yes, there is (and you have) brand loyalty. If however you define it as “the brand that has the cheapest product a customer would buy”, then no, there is no brand loyalty. operating costs are high and profit margins are slim Whether or not you drink one manufacturer’s Kool-Aid and spend your hard-earned cash on another motorcycle from the same manufacturer that you currently ride totally depends on you. In the meantime, it will be interesting to see which companies adapt their branding and marketing campaigns to an ever-changing atmosphere, in order to produce another model year of motorcycles and grow in the process.