Its a simple concept, goes by the name Luxury. Yep, that is the single most important factor involved in getting the LiveWire pushed through to production, oh you thought this was about motorcycles, innovation, technology or some environmental ideal, sorry, this conversation begins and ends with branding.
Best part, I bet its not even the branding you were expecting. Whats the common narrative, LiveWire is for greenie weenies and hipsters? Yes thats easy, now sit down, this is for rich white people. Livewire is for the current Harley clientele not yet in existence. What I mean is that a younger clientele cannot identify with the Harley brand yet because they have not reached the signifiers yet.
Hipsters are not old, YET, they don't have upper middle class incomes and commitments, YET, but what they do hold consistent is self definition through signs. Livewire lights up those signs in EXACTLY the same way a Sportster lights them up for the the middle manager, slick corporate jock or middle aged lawyer.
To bring this back to branding...
Pay attention to how Dean brands himself, even when he's speaking about HD he's projecting himself onto the product. "This is Smart" as in I'm smart so obviously I can identify with this, "Take a photo and post to everyone I know" Extending sign value, people will know I'M SMART because Harley is Smart and I'm associated with Harley. The most important though is the last, "if Harley is doing it, its viable" which really means if Harley is doing it people will recognize the brand, its not just some obscure e-Bike maker from the backwaters of Portland, this is the ORIGINATOR. Hashtag Trust.“Businesswise, this is smart,” said Dean, 31, who stopped riding after he got married three years ago and is starting to feel the itch again. “I’m going to take my photo of me sitting on this and post it to everyone I know. I’m not going to post me sitting in a Toyota.” While the idea of an e-hog has risks, he said “if Harley is doing it, that means it’s a viable thing.”
The reason branding like this works overwhelmingly well is because if A is strongly associated with B, and B is strongly associated with C, then A is strongly associated to C.
But you don't believe me do you, I can tell, fine...
The first sentence is there as a qualifier, it NEEDS to be there or else we would get suspicious, its the common narrative needed to mask the real story, Electricity is Luxury. It used to the tremble of a 1200cc V-Twin, or the fuel consumption of a 6.3L V8, but thats too ostentatious and if Luxury branding were allowed to continue down that path the people would demand socialism. So instead we shift the branding to electricity, what can you complain about now?The company views electric power as a way to reduce emissions and prepare for a time when petroleum-based fuel may be more scarce. It’s also a way to appeal to younger, affluent consumers who want a clean way to get around in style without dropping $100,000 or more on a Tesla Model S.
Look at the above quote and compare it to this, "It’s also a way to appeal to younger, affluent consumers who want a clean way to get around in style without dropping $100,000 or more on a Tesla Model S." So the shift is from wealthy middle aged white men to affluent young (white) people. Essentially its the same target demo, we're not talking parents to children generation gap, we're talking 10 years difference, MAYBE.For much of its 111-year history, Harley sold choppers as fast as it could to riders it knew well: wealthy, middle-aged American white men. The recession shook that up.
Don't get it confused the LiveWire carries the same inherent value as a Street Bob or a Sportster, sure the propulsion is different, but both offer the same sign value for propagation. This is about ME , and YOU seeing ME being ME.“E-mail and social media gave HOGs a louder voice and more access,” Erik Gordon, a professor at the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, said in an interview, referring to the motorcycle maker’s enthusiasts. “To Harley’s credit, they see that as an asset, not a threat.”
Thats why the Livewire won't just be produced, but thrive. It poses no fundamental threat to the Harley brand, the value proposition hasn't changed, simply who values it. The system continues unharmed, unchanged and we get to believe something has changed. Oh they'll toss in a shiny new bike as well...