harley steps up, swings deep

In what looks like a particularly insightful move, TMC announced the hiring of their first Chief Marketing Officer with the appointment of 40-year-old Marc-Hans Richer to lead the manufacturer’s quest for a younger market.

Say adios to the iconic beret as the beacon in the marketing lighthouse. According to AdAge Daily News, the former head of Pontiac’s brand effort has his sights set on Milwaukee after several spectacular innovations with the GM brand he’s piloted since 2004. Like what? The most outrageous stunt was the giveaway of 276 G6 models on Oprah.

He’s been instrumental in linking the mature brand to a younger audience with pioneering web efforts, including the Second Life virtual marketing model. Among his challenges at HD: getting by with a $30 million budget instead of the nearly $150 million he directed at Pontiac, despite the legendary rep of Harley’s marketing reach. Other unknowns: a departure on the heels of a continuing Detroit automotive mega slump, including his much heralded Pontiac division, which was down 14% in the first half of ’07.

With this announcement, Harley acknowledges the obvious: concern for the future. Will fresh thinking and a contemporary approach move the meter? Watch Wall Street — and maybe TiVo Oprah — to find out.