August 6, 2007
Harley-Davidson Provides a Window into Sturgis

For those who are interested in the mixing of brand planning and content distribution, brand exemplar Harley-Davidson shows once again how to make open content a meaningful part of the brand experience and to engage proselytism in the process.

It all hinges around the big bike rally in Sturgis, which--despite my uber-masculine lifestyle--I had forgotten was even coming up until a storyline on As the World Turns saw a kidnapping plot move toward Sturgis, as the kidnappers might be headed to the big bike rally.

Of course I should have remembered that this time of year equalled Sturgis from those terrible Road Wild pay-per-view wrestling events that WCW used to put on, held live from Sturgis and featuring a crowd full of bikers who both didn't pay to be there and didn't really have any product knowledge...Oh, and the 1998 Road Wild was one of the worst PPV events I've ever seen, especially with Jay Leno in the main event.

But that's a tangent. My point is that, while WCW didn't seem to get anything about Sturgis culture at all, Harley-Davidson has found another way to tap into that American cultural milestone in a way that meaningfully extends its brand.

Harley created a gadget that can be incorporated onto anyone's Web site that both featured a live feed from Sturgis, with the window branded by Harley-Davidson, as well as a variety of packaged videos from the motorcycle rally as well.

Todd Cunningham sent me a link to David Armano's Logic+Emotion blog, where he points out that such examples of brands getting into content distribution and then making it be so distributable. He writes:

Brands need to get serious in this space--content distribution/dissemination is smart because it can go where the traffic and conversation is. And guess what? It's usually not your corporate site--especially if you've opted to go with the "flash orgasm/glorified brochureware" approach which offers no reason for a user to visit more than once. I'm also a big fan of the video actually covering an event vs. it being the contrived "viral effort". Harley owners who can't be there get to feel like they are still a part of it and those who aspire to own a Harley can ogle at the brand and lifestyle.

His first statements echo sentiments I expressed in an entry not that long ago about how the aesthetics of a site often cloud what people actually want to see and do with content.

But I think this seems, at first glance, to be just the kind of way a brand can get involved with content, be open with it, and capitalize on an already-existing phenomenon by providing a branded portal into it, such as Harley has done through an organic extension with the Sturgis rally.