Harley-Davidson forgot all about fear, spokesman says

Harley-Davidson has survived a sour world economy by forgetting fear and reaching out to customers of all ages and cultures, its global chief marketing officer said Tuesday.

Mark-Hans Richer rode into the Sioux Falls Convention Center banquet hall on a customized Harley Roadking before a crowd of about 550 people. The theme of his message related to a common occurrence for any driver: It’s better to be the windshield and have a plan than it is to be a bug who is “splat” on someone else’s plan.

“You definitely would rather be the windshield if you’ve ever hit a bug at 75 miles an hour,” he said.

Richer, introduced by J&L Harley-Davidson co-owner Jim Entenman, spoke at the annual Visitor Industry Luncheon put on by the Sioux Falls Convention and Visitors Bureau. The group’s 2010 Visitor Industry awards also were given to five individuals, businesses and groups.

Mayor Dave Munson said the group has done great things for Sioux Falls. The agency counted 1.5 million visitors to the city last year – guests who spent $207 billion in the city.

“There’s no doubt that the CVB plays a major role in selling our city,” Munson said.

Richer showed two corporate ads, one from the beginning of the recession and one more recent ad that captured a rebel attitude that most Harley riders share, he said.

The first ad started with, “We don’t do fear,” and ended with “Screw it. Let’s ride.” The second said, “The other side of fear is courage,” and ended with, “Screw it. Let’s ride.”

“Those convictions are as strong for us now as it was then,” he said.

More young people are buying motorcycles than the generation of baby boomers did, which bodes for a strong future for his company, Richer said. Harley-Davidson’s Iron 883, a bike introduced at $8,000, has been a hit for young adults in particular, which make up half of its buyers.

The company has gained market share since 2007 in the United States, Europe and Japan, Richer said. once the company has a customer, it works to maintain that relationship by selling fun through company events, including their largest event each summer in Sturgis.

“We see it as a lifelong relationship that never ends once you get into the Harley family,” Richer said.

While social networking might have become popular because of computers, the company has been networking in the form of the Harley Owners Group for more than 20 years, he said.

“It has nothing to do with computers. It has everything to do with customers having experiences and having fun.”

Reach Brenda Wade Schmidt at 331-2321.

visitor industry award winners

Harley-Davidson forgot all about fear, spokesman says