As many people are aware, I ride a Harley-Davidson Cross Bones and fall is the perfect time of year to take extended excursions. There are many reasons people ride motorcycles including the fact that bikes such as mine get 45 miles to the gallon, but none more important than the rider’s proximity to scenery and nature.
There are 25 million motorcyclists in the US including 6 million women as of 2008. According to a new study released last month 9.7% of the nation’s adult population use motorcycles to take 244.6 million trips along roadways (not including off-road) solely for outdoor recreation, predominantly scenery.
So why is it that Harley-Davidson’s 635 full-service dealers across the nation are among the most frequent users of roadside billboards that desecrate the very reasons people take these trips? It seems to me that their primarily is just to signal they are available to provide services if needed.
Motorcyclists were among the earliest adopters of navigation systems such as one that is glove-friendly by Garmin that comes pre-loaded with the locations of Harley dealerships. Far more motorcyclists have adopted Smartphone apps for the same purpose (my fav is CoPilot) which make it possible to similarly access directions and business locations via Bluetooth connections and hear them through speakers in the rider’s helmet.
So is this just a rare instance in which the otherwise incredibly disciplined Harley-Davidson has fallen out of step? Statistics show that these roadside monstrosities are now used by just 1 in 12 consumers over the course of an entire year, but even at that the fact remains that deliberate distractions are something no motorcyclist needs.
Or is it just that, like so many other organizations, Harley’s sustainable business strategy, which was so highly touted this spring, or its environmental policy, or perhaps both, have failed to dictate the use of only advertising media that doesn’t harm the planet by destroying trees and vegetation so critical to cleaning the air and storm water along roadsides.
Outdoor cruising by motorcycle is a huge business now. For this purpose alone, riders and passengers spend $14.3 billion on bikes and accessories and another $52.6 billion on trip-related expenditures.
Direct spending alone generates an economic contribution which includes 410,972 jobs, $20.8 billion in personal income and $5.5 billion in tax revenue - $2.6 billion of which funds state and local services.
There have to be far less destructive ways to reap a share of this economic impact. Other motorcycle manufacturers have found a way to do this without bringing harm to their riders who are the life-blood of their business.
Maybe these other manufacturers are aware of polls such as one taken in North Carolina, where I live, which show that 78% of Independent voters, 70% of Democrats and 68% of Republicans hold the view that billboards detract from the appearance of their communities and more than 80% oppose removing more trees so billboards can be seen from even long distances.
Do the math. Isn’t it high time for Harley-Davidson to update its marketing practices?