~Since 2004~
A site about memories, thoughts, photos, and unrepentant opinions about motorcycles and motorcycling after four decades of twisting the throttle.

Friday, October 13, 2006

You Are What You Eat?

Whether for leather jackets or food or yard ornaments, cows can be expensive.

I've commented more than once now on the whole Harley-Davidson shtick and after I wrote my last blog entry about their silly video, I promised myself I would not write any more about H-D for awhile. But I couldn't resist.

I have to be honest right up front here and say that I actually like their bikes. Harley's have a visceral feel to them that is unique and enticing to their riders, I imagine, not unlike the way an old center-steer John Deere tractor appeals to old farmers or wannabe farmers. I was reminded of this sometime back when I test rode a new RoadGlide and the shifting brought back memories of youthful summers on my uncle's farm and the fun I had driving his faded green tractor.

Harleys are unique enough in their feel and image now that "the Motor Company," as H-D likes to call itself, has managed to market the whole Harley experience in every imaginable way to increase their profits and grow their stock price. They have succeeded beyond what anyone believed and I wish I had been smart enough to buy a thousand shares back then but I'd spent all my money and then some on a new Softtail Custom. In the early '80s when H-D first went public with their stock I knew guys that bought just one share and ordered the actual paper stock certificate as a memento because everyone knew for sure Harley was going to finally go belly up and join Indian, Crocker and a pantheon of other great names in motorcycle heaven.

It didn't happen; H-D is still with us and they are everywhere.

The revival of H-D is one of the great turn-around stories in American business. Brilliant marketing, clever ads, an understanding of aging Baby Boomers, in addition to actually improving the basic quality of the product, worked just as it should. But Harley did not stop there. They branded their own clothes, chrome accessories, Monopoly game sets, Ford trucks, kid's bicycles and more. Any product with a blank spot for the Harley logo has become fair game in the pursuit of profit. I expect eventually at Sturgis or Daytona you'll be able to buy H-D branded fake vomit in case you're not man enough yourself to drink until you puke.

So when I was browsing the PetSmart web site the other day and saw "Harley-Davidson® Breakaway Safety Cat Collars" I knew there was no limit...or bottom...to what Harley would brand in order to make a buck.

Or so I thought.

I got an e-mail the other day from Ed over at Motohistory.net and he mentioned that H-D and ConAgra Foods, Inc. have just announced that soon, coming to a shabby convenience store or multi-million dollar Harley boutique near you, will be Harley-Davidson beef jerky. ConAgra, Inc., the folks who make "Slim Jim" beef jerky and "Wesson Oil" (amongst other things) will be stamping the Harley logo on presumably orange-and-black packages of beef jerky and calling it "Road Food" just for you. Soon, not only will you be able to find your personal identity in what you ride and what you wear but you can eat what you ride too! Ah, capitalism! To quote one of the parties in the jerkyfest speaking about H-D "...nothing fit with the brand and its image like jerky." No kidding...

Now H-D bikes and H-D branded stuff have never been inexpensive but it did seem to me that $5.99 for 3.25 ounces of sticks of dried up dead cow was a bit pricey even if they did have the Motor Company logo on their package. Being me, I did some math and found that at $5.99 for 3.25oz of H-D beef jerky, and considering that the typical Harley is about $20,000 and weighs about 700lbs, the jerky is $29.48 per pound while the Harley is only $28.57 per pound.

Guess what, it's cheaper to eat their motorcycles than their beef jerky.

Notice: The names Harely-Davidson, Sportster, RoadKing, ElectraGlide, and Softail are copyright H-D.
The names Slim Jim and Wesson Oil are copyright ConAgra, Inc.
Cows are copyright God. At least for now.

1 comment:

Steve Williams said...

There is something repugnant about the depth of Harley Davidson's branding and marketing but I do agree the machines are wonderful. It seems though that there is no way to have one without being tainted by the consumer culture they have nurtured. I suppose one could have one, ride alone, keep it muddy and pretend not to realize that there are things on the market as you describe. And it is everywhere. I saw a man and woman walking at the park this morning while I was walking my dog and they both had on Harley windbreakers.

Being a Vespa owner I have to admit that Vespa is trying mightily to do the same thing as Harley to establish some sort of culture. They are running up against a lot of resistance from the vintage owners who already have a culture, and a lot of other things. My riding style and habits in a rural area just are not part of Vespa's branding goals. I guess when I see the Vespa beef jerky (or maybe red wine) I'll have to start looking for something else to ride...


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