Harley-Davidson Turns to Crowdsourcing

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Motorcycle Marketing

Harley-Davidson Motor Company has begun a new chapter of marketing communications for the iconic brand, becoming the first major marketer to use crowdsourcing as the source of its main marketing creative development, and creating a new agency support structure – what it calls a “Creativity Model.”

“We don’t lead with agencies, we lead with customers,” said Harley-Davidson Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Mark-Hans Richer.

“That’s why we’ve created a new approach for how we engage our customers through the Harley-Davidson brand. In the U.S. we’re number one in on-road market share with every customer segment, including with young adults and women, but we know we can do even better to reach them.”

Harley-Davidson recently split with ad agency-of-record Carmichael Lynch after a 31-year relationship. “The split marked an official end to the typical ‘one-size-fits-all’ agency of record model for us and this new model enables Harley-Davidson to unlock the creativity of our passionate customers and other fans,” Richer said.

“We’ve always listened to our customers,” added Richer. “It only makes sense for us to tap into their passion, as well as the ideas they openly share with us to bolster our brand, rather than keeping our creativity bottled in the creative department of an agency of record.”

Harley-Davidson’s new Creativity Model starts with Victors & Spoils, a new type of agency based on the principles of crowdsourcing. Through Victors & Spoils, Harley-Davidson will draw on the ideas of thousands of passionate brand fans around the world to help guide the direction of the brand’s creativity.

As longtime enthusiasts of Harley-Davidson themselves, the principals of the Boulder, Co.-based agency took matters into their own hands to help instigate this new direction, and on their own prepared an open brief on the shop’s proprietary work-creation platform, The Squirrel Fight (victorsandspoils.com/squirrelfight) on September 1st.

Approximately 2,000 creatives and strategists from around the world received the brief and 650 ideas were submitted by 160 Squirrel Fight participants – the largest outpouring of creativity Victors & Spoils has ever received for any project.

“We saw more great ideas in a one hour meeting than we might see in an entire year under a conventional agency model,” said Richer.

“It was immediately obvious that we had a new approach, one that’s a reflection of the brand’s long history of cultivating fans and innovation. Harley-Davidson has long fueled a tremendous passion among our fans and we now have a massive creative outlet at the ready.”

While the Creativity Model starts with the customer-generated results from Victors & Spoils and concepts chosen by Harley-Davidson, it then moves to what Harley-Davidson calls “The Scrum”.

This is when other expert agencies from Harley-Davidson’s current roster will guide the concept through their specific expertise, such as newly-appointed Starcom which will be responsible for creativity coming through media.

Other experts, depending on the challenge, will also be engaged. These teams come together around the idea and expand upon it, and there is no lead agency or “agency of record” as in a traditional model.

“The Harley-Davidson brand has always represented the individuals who aren’t afraid to go against the grain,” said Richer.

“Today, we’re excited to announce that we’re building a new road to ride. This is a bold approach, and while this might intimidate some marketers, we’re proud to be living our brand not just through what we do, but how we do it.”

Harley-Davidson will continue to rely on its current marketing partners and engage them in this new process for other aspects of its business.

The new work from Harley-Davidson will debut in early 2011.