Fostering Relationships: What Harley Riders can Teach us About Motivation

There are over one million loyal Harley Davidson motorcycle riders stretching from coast to coast.  These people are not just customers, they are fanatics.  I have a friend who waited 8 months for her special order "Hog". This product is the genesis for a family of people who ultimately only have one thing in common - they absolutely love cruising the open highway on their Softail, Dyna, Sportster, Touring or VRSC Harley Davidson motorcycle.

So, what is it about this bike that makes it such a communal product?  More importantly, what lessons can leaders glean from this commercial phenom to help their product, company, team, etc. produce such rabid loyalty?  The following seven qualities of the Harley experience not only give insight to why Hog lovers act like they do, but it also digs deeper into core human needs that just might transfer over to your world and help you understand how to inspire a stronger and more authentic bond with your people.

Why riders love their Harleys:
  • Easily recognizable. We all have a need to belong; to connect with other humans. A motorcycle is a visual product. When one rider sees another rider on a Harley, they instantly cut through the chatter and know they can connect.
  • Not everyone can or wants to do it.  A Harley Davidson can cost anywhere from $9,000 to $35,000.  They aren't cheap.  And motorcycles obviously are not for everyone.  This taps into our desire to be involved with something rather elite, private, VIPish. When you ride a Harley, you are a member of a club.
  • There's a rebel feel to it.  Ever since rules were invented, humans were breaking them.  This rebel banner flies on Harleys every day.  The mild-mannered CPA by weekday suits up in black leather and a red bandana and speeds through the weekend.  This sense of collective rule-breaking or rule-bending unites riders in a very unspoken way. Movies have even immoralized this act.  The Wild Ones with Marlon Brando.  Hells Angels on Wheels with Jack Nicholson.  And Arnold Schwarzenegger as The Terminator.  
  • Different types of people come together. We have a need to belong.  We also have a need to bring people together.  Even though Harley riders enjoy their "superiority" over other bikes, they also relish their inclusiveness.  A pack of Hogs cruising down the road is probably an eclectic group of doctors, lawyers, mechanics, bankers, etc.  It does help grease the wheels of your growth when literally the only qualification needed for acceptance is the machine you are riding.
  • Involves travel. We are nomads at heart. We love to travel.  When you are on the back of a Harley speeding down the highway, you have a feeling of freedom and movement that you can't get any other way. It's more intimate and exhilarating than any other form of transportation.  
  • Involves masks. Especially those riders who really only have their Harleys for weekend rides or special trips, you can become someone else on a Harley.  Its all suits and ties during the week and then its leather and boots on the weekends.  Humans have a desire for anonymity. This desire is fulfilled to a certain extent on the back of a Hog. 
  • Recognized as a cool group.  Harley riders think Harleys are cool and so do a ton of other people.  When you own a Harley, you are in the cool kids club.  Everyone wanted to picked first in dodgeball in grade school.  Everyone wanted to have a great date to the prom.  Everyone wants to be involved in some type of cool group even as adults. It helps shape, define and express our identity.

If your staff, team members, customers and/or volunteers are under-motivated, try cross pollinating this list with your set-up. If you aren't providing opportunities for travel, risk-taking, anonymity, elite status, inclusiveness, etc. then you shouldn't be surprised that you aren't creating loyal fans.

1 comment:

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