While I’ve always appreciated the power of brands, working for Harley-Davidson brought that to a whole new level for me.
In the book Results-based Leadership a Harley-Davidson executive is quoted as saying, “What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns and have people be afraid of him.”
That’s a clever, simple statement but it’s so much more powerful than that. The passion goes beyond tattoos, leather and customized bikes. There is a community around the brand that is incredible as I luckily got to witness at a dozen rallies in the last couple of years. I don’t know of any other product that brings people together like Harley, where an attorney or investment banker can talk bikes with an hourly worker at Home Depot and any differences in class and status and attitude disappear. It’s just two guys talking about what they love, excitedly explaining about new pipes, a custom paint kit, or a great strip of road to ride.
A brand’s essence, the passion people feel about it, is the hook. Car designer Freeman Thomas, who created the Audi TT and the VW Beetle, said, "The Prowler makes you smile. Why? Because it’s focused. It has a plot, a reason for being, a passion."
So in thinking about your brand, ask what the hook is. If a potential customer comes across your brand will she or he start tapping their foot? Is it clear to them what your reason for being is? Are they into it right away? If not, the brand either has no reason for being or it's not (or no longer) being defined in terms they care about. And that can't be resolved with a bunch of ads. You have to dig in there, pull the song apart, rediscover why it was created to begin with, and then lay the track down again. Not easy but it's been done before.