Harley Davidson – Building A Tattooable Brand

Harley Davidson - Building A Tattooable Brand

Harley Davidson – Building A Tattooable Brand

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How do you create a powerful brand
  • The Harley Davidson brand
  • Standing out from the crowd
  • Seth Godin’s Purple Cow
  • Finding your tribe
  • Inspiring lifetime loyalty

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Inspirational Quotes



How do you create a brand so powerful and beloved that people are willing to tattoo its logo onto their bodies? How do you create a brand that customers are willing to pay a premium for and evangelise to others about?

Hi, it’s James Taylor here, keynote speaker on business creativity and innovation and founder of C.SCHOOL. Last weekend I attended a Harley Davidson motorcycle festival in Brechin, Scotland. Now I should point out I’m no biker but what blew me away was how committed this tribe of Harley enthusiasts were to the brand. It got me thinking about how other companies, thought leaders and entrepreneurs build their brands.

Most companies and creatives focus solely on building products and services. Some take it a stage further and try to imbue what they build with a set of values; from quality and excellence to fun and frivolity.

However there exists a much smaller band of brands who elevate things to a higher level. Harley Davidson is one of those. Not only are they able to create brand loyalty and higher margins, but they transform their customers into advocates and word of mouth promoters.

Every industry and niche has a Harley Davidson in it. A brand that stands outs from the crowd. That some might even call a ‘cult’.

Writers like Seth Godin talk about these brands in his book Purple Cow. These brands are truly remarkable…you remark to others about them. What is that brand in your industry or niche which has this cult-like status?

As I walked amongst the Harley Davidson owners the one things that struck me was that they felt like a tribe. They had their own language, they dressed alike, they wore the same badges on their leathers, they liked many of the same things. In fact they shared a similar worldview which can best be summed up by Harley Davidson’s mission, which is “to fulfill dreams of personal freedom”.

The bikes are just the products of the company. What Harley Davidson really creates is a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a tribe who love the freedom that the road offers to them.

This idea and the values of this tribe are so powerful that its members are willing to tattoo their bodies with the Harley Davidson logo. Think about that for a minute…

I’ve had the good fortune of advising brands and music artists which have that ‘tattoo’ factor. Years ago I managed the career of a rock band that inspired such loyalty that fans would show me their tattoos of the band logo or song lyrics.

Does the brand you are building inspire this lifetime loyalty. I’m not saying you rush out and get a tattoo. But are your customers even willing to put a badge with your logo on their laptop, fridge or car window never mind their skin?

To create a brand like this it requires that you go beyond thinking about how to make the best product. It demands you build a community and a tribe around a core set of values and experiences.

There are two things you need to do if you want to build a tatooable brand.

First, you have to be really clear about what you stand for and what you stand against if you want to inspire any kind of brand loyalty. Almost go out of your way to pick fights with those vested interests you are against.

Then you need to find a small group of people who are just as crazy about these things as you are. Every leader has their band of brothers and sisters at the start, their disciples. Every brand has it’s passionate early adopters. Find them and cultivate them.

Brands like Harley Davidson transcend their products. Fans of cult bands are willing to follow them even when they make that difficult third album that isn’t a hit. Why? Because they are believers, not in the individual up on stage or in the CEO, but in the values and mission.

Thanks for watching.



creativity blueprint

creativity blueprint

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