Tag Archives: harley-davidson

IronWorks 24-year run ends

Ironworks first last issues

My first issue of IronWorks – April, 1993, left, and the last, March, 2014.

IronWorks Ends 24-Year Print Run

My March, 2014 issue of Ironworks arrived just in time to coincide with the news that publication of the long-running indy v-twin book was ending as of Volume 24, Issue Number 2. Never saw that coming? Actually, a disappointment, not a surprise.

I first came to know the popular culture niche IronWorks 20-plus years earlier. That would be IW Vol. 3, No. 2, April, 1993. Whadyaknow; an even 21 years of familiarity.

I’d just started work as advertising creative director at Easyriders. Truett & Osborn, my first bike client as a freelancer some years before, needed a small (is there any other size?) b&w ad. I was able to accommodate the Wichita aftermarket flywheel manufacturer by forwarding what was referred to then as an ad slick for reproduction to Dennis Stemp Publishing in Versailles, PA.

When my proof copy arrived I was surprised to discover that Dennis and I shared rides: Willie G’s H-D orphan, the XLCR. And while the few hot rod examples I’d seen revolved mostly around Thunder Heads, Dennis saw fit to go flat out by swapping an XR1000 dual carb beastie for the otherwise anemic stock 61-incher the original shipped with.

Several years later we met for the first time in Cordelle, Georgia. Dennis and Marilyn were on their way to Birmingham, I was returning home from Louisiana, and this seemed a logical place to get together.

ironworks sold, invades newstands

By then, Dennis, Marilyn and the kids had made the move to Morganton, NC, and the book was owned by Birmingham trade publisher Hatton-Brown, their only consumer product. He and his wife formed the nucleus of a formidable collection of Harley institutional knowledge, surfing the break of a boomer driven biker wave.

We talked mostly about the various trade and craftwork involved in putting out a publication. Dennis, with an art direction background honed in corporate Pennsylvania, tried mightily to inspire a professional regard for design in a DIY industry that continues to struggle with the concept of appearance as an investment.

He’d hung out briefly in Indian Rocks Beach, so we were both surprised to imagine how we may have crossed paths at a central Pinellas printer he worked for and that I occasionally used. On the eve of first desktop publishing, then the web, Dennis was one of the very few industry talents I’ve known who was as comfortable with an X-Acto blade on the design side as he was a micrometer on the build end.

We’d see each other at Indy, Myrtle Beach, Daytona. We collaborated on a couple of projects: the first serious print review of Confederate’s V-twin anomoly, and one build project that I still consider the most fearsome raw expression of mechanical adaptation I’ve seen, his Flyin’ Fossil dual-carb, mag fired 93-inch Accurate Engineering Knucklehead (IW Vol. 10, No. 2 – March, 2000).

So it came as an ugly shock when Dennis, not known for excess in a culture devoted to lifestyle chance taking, died in 2000 from a particularly brutal form of cancer. (AdFax 15, Vol. 4, No. 3 – July, 2000.)

january 2014 – end of the line

What was it about IronWorks that proved popular? For awhile IW ran with the tagline, “The Thinking Man’s Harley Magazine.” Good luck with that now, but for me it didn’t require parsing – IW was about Harleys, PBR and nothing but.

After I heard IW had reached the end of the line, I dug up my first copy to see what the fuss was all about. What I found on page 34 was the latest on Alan Sputhe’s 95-inch Not A Harley 60-degree V-Twin. And there, just across the gutter on page 35, was the detailed heritage of Nostalgia Cycle’s Super Vee that included a reference to Supercycle publisher Steve Iorio, who I freelanced for several times.

For those who don’t know, the original engine derived from the front two cylinders of a Chevy small block. Boom. If that ain’t hot roddin’, I don’t know what is.

For now, Marilyn Stemp is channeling the original zeitgeist of Dennis’ vision into a new, web-driven venture called Iron Trader News.

harley’s project rushmore touring upgrades

how much did Harley borrow from GM's Corvette dynamics?

corvette’s c-7 out to change marketing dynamics

In an USA Today article titled “Chevrolet Seeks Younger Buyers For New Corvette,” that other iconic manufacturer clearly states how they view the future potential of their aging clientle and how they hope to change course. Object of GM’s desire? Porsche, of course. And Audi, BMW, and (gulp!) Ferrari.

Although still the leading seller of sports cars in North America, those Vettes are driven on the backroads surrounding Indianapolis and Lexington, not L.A. and New York.

“The average age of a buyer of the current Corvette has been climbing each year and now is in the high 50s. It wants more of the upwardly mobile buyers in their 40s and even younger looking to reward themselves.” Hello, Harley.

et tu milwaukee

If that doesn’t sum up The Motor Company’s highly visible problem with a rapidly aging demographic nothing does. Yesterday Cycle World took an online look at Harley’s 2014 Project Rushmore touring lineup. Why it was important to include the developmental code name isn’t really clear, but pieces of the overall marketing puzzle are beginning to take shape.

“Project RUSHMORE (all caps) is a pure expression of our relationship with our customers and a shared passion for riding motorcycles,” according to Harley’s CMO Mark-Hans Richer and senior Vice President. That cryptic comment, coupled with the dual challenge of an invigorated Polaris Victory and a resurgent Polaris Indian as Made In America competitors, means the task of remaining number one in hearts and minds in a lackluster two-wheeled touring category has become more complicated.

papal prayer part of h-d marketing strategy

It appears as though management is tackling the problem with an aggresive marketing strategy that focuses on a combination of social media and what passes as evolved product placement for a global market. Having the Pope bless your top of the line models meant a prime-time mention across the broadcast and cable news spectrum. And it’s a far cry from the loner zeitgeist of that ’70s show “Then Came Bronson”, Milwaukee’s answer to the threat posed then by Honda’s goal of meeting the nicest people on one of their rides.

Meanwhile, salting new model year press releases with language that includes “bold graphics,” “Boom!™ (sic) Box” infotainment system, and a Beatle’s quote, it’s clear that style mostly precedes substance. But that probably works just fine for a hoped for market in the process of discovery, as opposed to the graying elders who’ve heard it, seen it, done it before.

wiring your bike just got easier

free wiring diagram for electric start big twin

When I first started building bikes one of the first things to go was the worn out wiring harness. When it was time to reconstruct, the tech manuals really weren’t that helpful so one of my early experiments with desktop publishing was to create my own made to order schematics, then publish them as a PDF in 1999.

This little booklet, designed for an earlier era of builds without turn signals and digital electronics, can be used as is or adapted as needed. Download your free copy here.

product design hits and misses

Fast Company Cries Foul

since you put it that way, what was erik thinking?

Who says you can’t beat that dead horse? Fast Company compares Ulysses to Barcolounger! Whoop! Buell gets a posthumous dressing down over on Fast Company’s Design channel. Their current pictorial serves up a night and day visual of the role design plays in the consumer acceptance cycle. Message? I guess you know it when you see it. Screw around too much and you’ll pay the price: see iPod vs. (M.C.) Hammer clown pants over on the United States of Design for rock solid proof of usually avoidable consequences based on (bad) taste alone. Which is why the t.v. audience for Boise State home games will never exceed friends and family.

h-d marketing escapes from solitary

harley tries new dance steps, picks 3 to replace carmichael lynch

iconic brand splits ad work three ways

News out this morning from Ad Age has Harley’s media planning/buying to Publicis Groupe’s Starcom (first globally in media buying – new adds include Darden Group, Best Buy) while doing a 180 and casting their creative future with newcomer Victors & Spoils following Carmichael Lynch’s ship jumping last August after 30 years of mostly hidebound (“screw it – lets ride”, jeans over boots) treatment. At the same time, Publicis shop Digitas is greenlighted for digital, a too long neglected portal. Continue reading

the ad harley should have made

jeep would settle for just a little respect

As The Motor Company continues to lurch from marketing pillar to advertising post, this new message for Jeep Chrysler nicely summons the Zeitgeist Harley historically fails to communicate. The 60-second ad from Wieden+Kennedy (Nike) introduces Jeep’s new slogan, “The Things We Make, Make Us.” Wow. Perfect. And perfectly positioned. Continue reading

buell brand warrior bites back

ouch! this buell brand warrior skewers the motor company

This bullseye parody by halfthrottle over on YouTube has garnered nearly 150,00 views since it was posted on May 24th, and though Harley’s flailing marketing isn’t specifically called out, it’s a broad – and accurate – indictment of a brand that can’t decide what it should be.

It isn’t until the final frame that the impetus links back to Harley throwing Buell under the bus in 2009. But regardless of the inspiration, there’s no way to argue with the summary judgement of a powerful brand that’s been drifting on the wind for the past three decades. And that’s now paying what may be the ultimate penalty for a status quo strategy.

hd’s hail, mary? looks like

Harley Davidson’s Rebrand Strategy: Kitchen Sink

HD’s still looking for new directions out of the forest of consumer walk-on-by it’s lost in. Media Post’s industry pub Marketing Daily delivers details of TMC’s latest Maxim-ized efforts aimed at winning back share, on the back (figuratively speaking) of spokesperson/model/rider Marissa Miller.

Sigh… I get it. Dangle eye candy in front of viewers, Pavlovian response goes off, reader imagines she’s showering with him, wife’s ok with that, then he’s lickity split off to the dealer where he rite’s dat check before the steam evaporates.

But – but – it’s the chik riding the bike! By herself! And fem biker-ettes need men like fish need bicycles. Meanwhile, the campaign theme “Start Something” indicates an exhaustive naming session that apparantly sailed right past “Hey, What’s Up?” as an inspired call to action.

The image problem remains the bike line, not the actors. The communications problem remains. Period.

i’m no nostradamus, but…

Looking back (i.e., hindsight) a blind man on a galloping horse could have seen this coming. I’m talking about Jesse James’ walk this way into “rehab”, although exactly how anyone is “treated” for sex addiction escapes me, unless you’re talking eyelids braced open and eyedrops administered frequently ala “Clockwork Orange” therapy. Well, there’s the ultimate sacrifice, but who wants to go there?

Anyway. In 2000, Sandra Bullock, and this is way before West Coast Choppers rolled into living rooms across America, made a little film called “28 Days“, in which she’s an alcoholic journalist whose life collapses around her in a substance abuse haze. She enters rehab for treatment, a role she researched at real life clinic Sierra Tucson in Arizona. The very same clinic where probably soon to be ex Jesse is reportedly receiving therapy right this minute. But that’s not the story. Continue reading

brands head for sxswi – chevy’s out front

chevy's social media blockbuster broke through at sxswBrilliant, Watson!

The sticker on the hood of this back from the grave Chevy isn’t a wasabi Rorschach test. It’s a QR code, which, when you snap a shot of same with your ever-present smart phone, will transport you to a mini-site where you can see the exact same vehicle you’re looking at in 3D, only a lot smaller and in 2D.

Not a good trade you say? Ha! Start swapping out options and accessories to get a brain bolt as to just how you’d set up profiling down the boulevard in a ride of your own. That’s what Chevy cooked up for their social media experiment March 12-15th at SXSWi in Austin, TX. Continue reading