Rebel copywriting

Harley Davidson has long been one of my favorite brands.

It’s not that they make the most reliable bikes (they don’t) and it’s not that they are ‘American made’ (a lot of the parts are foreign, which – ironically – has improved reliability).

A really easy reason to like Harley is because they’re brilliant at branding.

The brilliance comes from the realization that they don’t sell motorcycles – it’s more of a license into a different lifestyle. A rebellious one.

It’s not a cheap license – a basic Harley off the line will cost you around $6,500, while, for example, you could be on the road with a basic Honda cruiser starting at $3,200.

But it’s deeper than all this. Price points and loud mufflers are brand components. But the sum of the brand itself is the lifestyle. That’s the product.

So here’s the genius: Rebels don’t make the brand, the brand makes rebels.

And we’re all invited.

Any geek can buy a Harley – it’s encouraged. But once you do – once you’re in the saddle of the beast, that’s when the brand steps in.

That’s when you feel broken rumble of po-ta-to, po-ta-to. That’s when the gentle twist of the throttle tugs at your gut and makes you instinctively straighten your back and firm your chin.

That’s when you’re no longer allowed to be boring. Not while on a Harley. It’s a self-inflicted awareness.

That’s when the images of the open rode and the lonesome rebel fill your thoughts and you begin to feel what all the fuss was about.

And maybe that’s the secret – Harley is inherently designed to under-promise and over-deliver. Try as we may, it’s largely impossible to genuinely express the experience of riding a motorcycle through words and images.

As consumers, we’re delighted every time.

But that’s not to say creativity doesn’t help. Check out what inspired me to write this post – Harley’s brilliant ad campaign that’s in perfect alignment with their brand and carries a message message that’s a dead-on response to our current times.

The copy alone is awesome:

We don’t do fear.

Over the last 105 years in the saddle, we’ve seen wars, conflicts, depression, recession, resistance and revolutions. We’ve watched a thousand hand-wringing pundits disappear in our rear-view mirror. But every time, this country has come out stronger than before, because chrome and aslphalt put distance between you and whatever the world can throw at you. Freedom and wind outlast hard times. And the rumble of an engine drowns out all the spin on the evening news. If 105 years have proved one thing, it’s that fear sucks and it doesn’t last long.

So screw it, let’s ride.





Filed under Branding, Copywriting

6 responses to “Rebel copywriting

  1. jimthomsen

    That IS pretty damn good, I have to admit.

  2. Ain’t it though?

    As a side note – a motorcycle might be a good way to get back to doing more of your weekend photo tours, given the insanity of gas prices.


  3. It’s also a good way to die, too, unfortunately. Maybe my perspective here is colored by the fact that I listen to the emergency scanner at work all night, every night.

  4. Amber

    Heh heh heh, my baby sister worked on that campaign for Harley. Makes me laugh it was cranked out by a room full of twenty-somethings in oversized sunglasses and carrying Coach bags.

  5. Yeah? Well rock on.

    Somewhere there must be a room full of tattooed, hairy fellas writing copy for Coach.

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