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It's difficult to fathom that it's been nearly a year since I purchased my Vision. When I first purchased by bike, before The VOG was even a concept, I started writing a daily blog on one of my websites detailing my experiences as well as contributed some commentary to some other rider websites. I just dug through my archived posts and found a few that related to Victory, Harley and the market conditions at that time.

If you step back and remember, just one year ago, the sub-prime mortgage mess was starting to rear its ugly head, but the rest of the financial markets were holding its own. Since that period, we've experienced a decline in nearly every financial sector. Just last week Harley-Davidson announced they were laying off 1,000 workers and Polaris is shrinking its workforce by 500. We can only hope that the next 12 months start the turn-around process and that things will get better for all of us. With that said, here's some of my "ramblings" from 12 months ago: (NOTE: This is a long read, so I'll apologize in advance). Here goes:

February 2008:

I stopped by a Harley dealership today to look at some gear and while there, I sat on a few bikes (they have a lot of inventory and sales are slow). I sat on a Road King and an Ultra and the first thing I noticed is how close the rider is positioned to the windshield. After riding the Vision for 11 days, I've gotten spoiled and felt cramped on the H-D...and I'm not a big guy. Strange, huh?

While at the dealership I spoke with an apparel sales-girl and when I asked about business, she told me that they were down around 30% (I was surprised she was so forthcoming with that information). I had the impression she was not talking about just motor clothes, but bikes as well. The showroom was packed with new bikes. When I say packed, I mean packed side by side so close it was difficult to sit on them as you had to wedge yourself between bikes. I guess it's not a good time to buy H-D stock.

My local Victory dealer is quite the opposite. A low overhead location and just a few bikes that show a representation of the line were on floor. As a business model in this economic environment, I would rather have fewer bikes in inventory today than too many.

Considering this is the peak of bike season in South Florida, this might not be a good thing and is reflective of the overall economy. I'm wondering how this economy is affecting the Victory dealers and if Polaris will be assisting the dealers so they don't close down on us.

On the other hand, in South Florida there is a waiting list for Bentley's. I can only hope that enough high-end recreational bikers see the Vision and that just the looks will attract them. I can tell you that on my ride to Boca late yesterday, instead of the usual pick-up truck and Corvette drivers giving me the "thumbs-up" I had a Range Rover and a Porsche Turbo Carerra pull up to me to check out the bike. The passenger of the Porsche was a lady in her 40s and she mouthed through the window: Beautiful Bike and gave a thumbs-up.

This alone is a good enough reason to take that silver Victory logo off the rear of the trunk and replace it with a brightly illuminated Victory brake light. With all the R & D that went into this bike, I think this is one place where the Victory designers dropped the ball. An illuminated LED Victory logo/brake light could be considered not just a safety feature but also a rolling advertisement for the Vision.

Remember when Honda used to print the word HONDA on the back of every seat? It was an ad.

In the mid-1990s, when H-D was in the "boom" cycle (pun intended), the showrooms were sparse and usually were filled with used (not new) bikes. Some dealers would place a bike that had been ordered and pre-sold on the showroom for a week or so before giving it to the recipient.

It's amazing, after riding the Vision, just sitting on an H-D seemed antiquated. I also sat on a V-Rod and it's a small bike that designed for tall people. It's a strange riding position. Cute bike, but not for me.

Times have changed and we're riding the wave.

After a few responses about the awareness of Victory Motorcycles to the masses, I made the following post: (Remember, this is from February 2008).

Marketing is about "branding,." Branding is a marketing concept that makes the name of the manufacturer immediately recognizable in a positive light. Budweiser, Coca-Cola, Nike, Sony even Apple are brands. Just the mention of the name gives you a mental image of the product and a positive, desirable future experience.

Think about other brands and the image they bring to mind: Winnebago, although a medium size company has a name that immediately brings to mind leisure travel.

Rolex, high end watches.

Harley-Davidson is immediately recognizable as a maker of motorcycles and a carefree, leisure lifestyle.

Victory, as of yet is unrecognized to the masses and is not yet a "brand." Yes, we know who Victory is, but do others?

As owners, we know that Victory is a manufacturer of quality motorcycles, but do others? No. How many times have you told people about your Victory Vision and had to say the name Polaris to receive an affirmative response?

In colder weather climates the name Polaris is recognizable as a snowmobile manufacturer. In warmer climates people may or may not have heard of Polaris.

I would have to think that part of the motivation of creating the Vision was to bring the name Victory to the forefront of the motorcycle industry in the eyes of the consumer and make the Vision is rolling billboard for Victory that says one word: Innovation. I'm sure that's why the illuminated Victory logo was placed on the sides of the Vision. Why the rear of the bike does not show an illuminated Victory logo (as a brake or running light) was, in my mind, a huge oversight. I'll bet that future models will add some sort of visual recognition to the rear of the Vision.

Remember, when people ask you, "What's that thing," that only proves that Victory has yet to spread its message to the masses. In many case studies it can take a single, innovative product or promotion to bring positive attention to a other products in an established company. A rising tide raises all ships.

Think about how the iPod changed the path and future of Apple and as iPod sales rose so did the sales of the full Apple line. The iPod spawned iTunes and created yet another brand and with it a new stream of income. With it, brought the introduction of the Apple stores that were designed to be minimalist in nature, but provided existing and future customers a positive, exciting experience.

Prior to the iPod, Apple was sinking. Now look at it. One product, if marketed and promoted properly, can make all the difference.

Let's face it, businesses are all about generating profitable income. However, you need to spend money to make money. It will take more than people drooling over the looks of the Vision to make Victory a highly visible brand. It will require a full-blown advertising, marketing and public relations program that shows the Vision and other Victory models in a positive, desirable light to make this happen. Marketing programs such as this are not cheap and will require a major financial commitment from the manufacturer.

Winning customers over one at a time is a good concept, but is a slow process.

It will also require a stronger dealer network for sales and service. These dealers need to be upgraded to the standard that has been set by H-D. This is not an inexpensive overnight task.

To make my point, you may remember, it took only one successful marketing campaign to make the name Honda a household word. In 1962 Honda was selling 40,000 bikes in America. The goal was increased five-fold to 200,000 bikes the following year. It didn't happen until 1964 when Honda took a completely different approach at promoting motorcycles with an advertising/marketing campaign, that by today's standards would be considered "out of the box" forward thinking.

The campaign was centered around print and TV ads themed: "You Meet The Nicest People On A Honda." Remember that one? Depending on your age, I'll bet you do.Honda's goal was to raise the image of those who rode and purchased motorcycles from that of Hell's Angels to average Americans.

The advertising Agency, Grey Advertising, used the new Honda 50 for this campaign. At that point, the Honda 50 was innovative and unique in its style as it presented an opposite image of Hell's Angels and delivered a feeling of white-collar friendliness.

Honda's big marketing push placed this ad during the Academy Awards and immediately captured the hearts of millions. It was one of the most successful campaigns in advertising history. At that time the Academy Awards attracted around 70% of American TV viewers and this 90 second ad ran twice during the show at a cost of $300,000.

To place that price in perspective, it was the equivalent of the profits derived from the sale of 1,200 Honda 50s and was a huge gamble. No guts, no glory.

Also remember that during the 1960s, Japanese products were considered nothing short of "junk." Remember the phrase "cheap Japanese junk?"

This ad was also the first non-American company to advertise on the Academy Awards. This in itself was a bold step. This single marketing/advertising campaign changed Honda's image and won over the hearts and wallets of Americans and launched Honda into a mainstream product and was the first step in creating a recognizable brand name.

Needless to say, this campaign not only brought people into Honda dealerships, they brought in a new breed of investor that clamored to open a new Honda dealership. These dealerships were different than the existing Harley, Triumph and Indian dealerships as they were clean, inviting and innovative and provided a friendly place for the new breed of motorcycle buyer. The sales people were well trained and dressed appropriately.

So, is the Vision Apple's iPod? Will advertising on small (relatively low viewership) cable networks such as The Speed or outdoor-related channels accomplish this task? Probably not...but it's a start. Will getting the Vision on the cover of every bike magazine with positive reviews make it a success? Maybe, but the enthusiasts publications appeal to an audience who is already into motorcycles and the various offerings. So, what will it take?

Don't laugh, the answer is fairly simple. Victory will have to "think out of the box" and appeal to those who may have been into riding in the past and have abandoned it for one reason or another, but who still have the feeling of freedom riding in their blood. Yes, the existing pipeline can be filled with current bike owners, but what happens when that market is tapped?

Think publications such as AARP where an active senior lifestyle is promoted and income for recreational items is not a question. How about the Robb Report, where the readers are those where money is no object? How about CNBC where the demographic of the viewer is upscale in terms of available funds for leisure items and motorcycle ads are not currently appearing.

In marketing, you don't want to be lost in the crowd. Rule #1 in Marketing 101 is Separating Yourself From The Competition. Preaching to the choir in terms of marketing may not cut it in this economic environment. Appealing to new customers who may be thinking of getting back into riding but are not currently considering a Vision will be the key to make the Vision a desirable purchase will most likely be the first step into making Victory a recognizable brand.

I'm looking forward to the responses to this thread...whether positive or negative. I have thick skin and can take the criticism. But remember, I spent my life in the product marketing industry and realize the difficulties Victory is facing at this point. They are nearing the point of being a full-line motorcycle company and the Vision is now its flagship. I think it will also require adding bikes on the entry level to make it a true, full-line motorcycle company. Not everyone can afford a $25K bike and less expensive and innovative models will be required.

Victory is off to a good start and is making strong progress for only having ten years in the motorcycle industry. The JD Powers numbers are a great start. Word of mouth is good. Now Victory has to figure out how to spread the word of its products to the masses.


After a few responses, I posted the following:

I agree with some of the responses, but allow me to state that H-D's lack of immediate availability was one factor that raised the desirability for H-D bikes in the mid 1990s. It's human nature that we all want what we can't have. My first Harley purchase was a Heritage Softail Special in the early 90s. Even as an active press member, I had to wait five months for my bike. (Note: Most manufacturers offer legitimate press members industry discounts and priority services as they encourage the bike writers to purchase its products for personal usage. This was not the case with H-D. Also allow me to note that since I'm basically retired, the thought of contacting Victory for a "press deal" never entered my mind and I paid full price).

H-D created a strong demand by having a limited supply. Buying an H-D in those days was a spectacular event. A common question asked to new H-D owners was, "How long did you have to wait?"

Remember people standing in line for an iPhone? It created an immediate demand for a then untested, un-reviewed product. Having to wait and having a pent-up demand is not necessarily a bad thing. You're absolutely correct that the quality is of the utmost importance as first impressions are lasting impressions. Imagine if all those bike magazine reviews had found too many flaws while putting the Vision through its paces...that would have been a huge setback for the launch of the Vision.

I still feel that Victory needs to add to its lineup of bikes and now needs to focus on an entry-level model that will get new buyers into the showrooms to look at an affordable, desirable and high quality product. This addition of a single entry-level, affordable bike would complete the Victory lineup.

In a perfect world, a buyer would enter a dealership looking at the entry level and could leave with a step-up bike. Like the marketing practices of electronic retailers that lure you in with a low-priced item, they work hard to step you up to a more profitable product.

Bikes are just that...products. When you're the bean counter in the back room of a publicly traded company who is reporting to the Board of Directors, you're not listening to the sound of the exhaust, you're looking at numbers. When you're a board member or stockholder, you're looking at sales and related profit margins. When you're a dealer, forget everything else, you're looking at profitable sales, overhead and the bottom line.

In today's stressed economic environment, selling any luxury items is a tough situation. Due to the sub-prime mortgage fiasco, the potential non-cash paying customer who is looking at financing a new bike may not have the available credit needed for such a purchase. So, maybe Victory needs to advertise to those who can spend the cash without blinking.

Another thought to the road of increased profitability is that Victory has been a bit slow developing a strong after-market product line. Not just bike accessories, but bike related items such as strong line up clothing are sparse at best. These items typically carry the highest margins of profit and are nothing short of walking advertisements that convert a product into a brand. Just walk into one of the newer H-D dealerships and see how much space is dedicated to clothing and accessories. Then walk into your favorite Victory dealer and make the same observation.

Allow me to state, owning a Vision has made me a fan of Victory. If the Vision would not have been introduced, I would have most likely not have even walked into a Victory dealership. Once I did and purchased my bike, the dealer had an opportunity for increased profits by selling me new boots, jackets, helmets, etc. While they have some of these items, the assortment of products was limited at best. These things take time and I'm sure the folks at Victory are looking into these subjects as we speak.

Sorry to be so long winded. But those who've read my ramblings expect nothing less!


So, that was a year ago. What will the future bring for Victory? This week, Polaris will announce its 4th Quarter Sales and I can only guess that we'll know more later this week. Let's cross our fingers and hope that Victory can survive this storm and continue to push the envelope with new and innovative motorcycles. As I've often stated on this site, "We're all in this together."
 

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Nicely Done Andy.
As we all know, Harley Davidson is a great company with a huge following.
Mostly because word of mouth advertising way back when, partially from a few movie nuts, (easy rider) and some crazy notion of being notorious if you owned one,(Hells angels)
Victory is an infant compared to HD , we dont have the "war years" to build troop bikes nor do we have too many "gang type" clubs anymore to promote the bike.
What we do have is a great product that needs us as much as we need it.
We all love the Victory line, whether you ride a hammer, or a decked out Vision with all the trimmings.
The advertising as you most elequently put it is key. This site is a perfect example of what Vic needs. People talking about Victory. And the product being flaunted under everyones nose.
In the 90's that "Yuppie" group got a hold of a Harley and soon it change who was riding.
All of the sudded you didnt see long flowing hair and a tattered leather jacket bombing down the road, you saw 3 piece suits and wingtips. With a breifcase on the luggage rack and not an "ole lady with one"
Time will tell which niche they choose to chase.
Hopefully they will be able to chase in this economy, because it will turn around, and if they can sustain, they WILL catch their prey.
 

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I love the commaradarie we have around here. Kudos to Andy for putting together such a classy site!
May we all have many more years together, hopefully in person as well as via the net.
 
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