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Best Brand Building of 2014 – Indian Motorcycle

2014 President’s Picks: Best Brand Building - Indian Motorcycle
2014 Indian Chief

Best Brand Building- Indian Motorcycle

Harley-Davidson is not just a global brand, it’s one of the best known global brands. And to make inroads — serious inroads — into their stronghold takes some doing.

When Polaris bought the most recently bankrupted-version of Indian Motorcycle, someone at Harley must have slapped his forehead and said “doh!” very loudly. That Harley didn’t buy the brand themselves and either produce a model of motorcycle or simply lock it away from prying eyes is beyond me.

But they didn’t, and they must be regretting that now. The brand — and considerable heritage — of the Indian Motocycle (as it was known then) Company was purchased by Polaris of Medina, Minn.

With nearly $5 Billion per annum in revenue these guys have the financial horsepower to go head-to-head with The Motor Company—and boy, have they ever! It’s hard to believe, but the first (new) Indian motorcycles didn’t even arrive in dealerships until October 2013—less than a year ago.

2014 President’s Picks: Best Brand Building - Indian Motorcycle
2014 Indian Chief Classic

The first Indian was unveiled at Sturgis 2013 with a stunning “Chief” model that had enough styling cues to pay serious homage to the history, and yet enough modernity to make the bike a clear evolution of what an Indian likely would have become, had they remained uninterrupted.

Just to hammer the point home, Indian actually launched three models at once on that same platform — and it had buyers salivating in anticipation.

The last year has seen a savvy marketing campaign with Indian telling enthusiasts that “now there is a choice in American motorcycles,” and although that must have Polaris’ own (and now competing) Victory brand employees looking on with some chagrin, nevertheless it’s a resonating message that hits home. A particularly smart TV commercial that saw a Harley owner polishing his bike lovingly—and then placing a For Sale sign across the windshield, must have had a lot of people grimacing even more than they were already.

But there it is — Indian has been purchased, it has been re-worked mightily impressively, and no motorcycle enthusiast is in any doubt that these beautiful machines are here, and here to stay.

Steve Menneto (VP of Polaris) admitted in an interview with Forbes magazine that “we’ll continue to sharpen those brand positions, with one (Victory) being 15-year-old modern, more bold and aggressive, and one [Indian] being 112 year old, more American heritage and classic styling in some of the bikes.”

2014 President’s Picks: Best Brand Building - Indian Motorcycle
2015 Indian Scout

Now in 2014 and one year later, Indian again used the gathering at Sturgis to launch a new model, and The Scout was unveiled to great fanfare and enthusiastic reception.

The smaller, faster, lighter Indian again stays true to the heritage — and with 100 horsepower from its V-twin motor it redefines the mid-weight cruiser category in performance terms for sure.

So Indian has a very bright future. A savvy team of designers, engineers and marketers, all of whom are genuine motorcycle enthusiasts, have caught the Indian fever and lit up the American-iron class of motorcycle.

They’re very well funded, they’re working smartly and with due reverence, and perhaps best of all, they are clearly having fun. This isn’t corporate mumbo-jumbo we’re listening to and Kool-Aid we’re drinking.

In a category that’s been stagnating because it was dominated by one player, Indian Motorcycle is making real and spectacular progress – and that’s a very good thing.

About Ultimate MotorCycling 2014 President’s Picks:

As President of Ultimate MotorCycling, I am a fortunate individual. Not only do I get to ride a huge variety of machines, I am also privileged to be a part of this fascinating industry that so intensely fuels our passions.

As 2014 draws into its last quarter a picture has emerged of various developments that have happened in the past year. Don Williams, our Magazine Editor, has already published his Top Ten Motorcycle Picks and somewhat naturally I agreed with him. When Ron Lieback, our Website Editor, challenged me to come up with picks of my own, I naturally gravitated more towards the industry happenings, although I do have some machinery opinions as well.

I find myself interested in those manufacturers who have the best feeling for the current motorcycle buyer; those who are trying to listen to market demand and not just thrust their latest whizz-bang machine at us; those who are trying to encourage new and returning riders to the fold; those who are trying to make the pie bigger.

So this is what I’ve come up with. It goes without saying that these are my personal picks and you may or may not agree with me; of course you may feel I’ve left something out. Respectful discussion is very healthy and I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion—good, bad or ugly. Thanks for reading and being a part of the Ultimate MotorCycling family!

To read the others, visit 2014 President’s Picks.

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