Brand Collateral Damage
For me, Gawker is one of my daily guilty little pleasures. I'm not into the gossip, but I do enjoy a little political muckraking every so often. They should win a Pulitzer for their coverage of the Conan/Leno/NBC saga. There are also days like today when Gawker posts something that makes me think about an issue that is completely unrelated to the topic at hand.
Gawker posted a quick story about a video produced by the Dove World Outreach Center, which is gaining notoriety for its pending "Burn a Koran Day" on 9/11. Needless to say, this video centers on the use of the N-word.
I'm not about to get into a debate over the content, but rather I want to point out that pastor Terry Jones is wearing a Harley-Davidson t-shirt. It would be foolish of me to place any blame for this on Harley-Davidson, because they can't control who buys their merchandise.
However, what has me wondering aloud is if something like this can potentially hurt Harley-Davidson's brand? Keep in mind that they're not any old brand. They're an icon, and as a corporation, it diligently works and spends tremendous amounts of money on its image. It's one that people love (or hate) so much they do foolish things to associate with it. In fact, since he got his Harley, my brother has outspent the GDP of Croatia on merchandise.
Like Mercedes, Playboy and Apple, for example, Harley-Davidson has established its brand so deeply into our psyche that one can associate a specific type of person with the brand. Those people are proud to be defined that way as well. Try calling an Apple fan an "Apple Snob" and see what happens.
Will there be a full on protest of Harley complete with the proverbial Facebook group? No. Will they lose a tremendous amount of sales? No, but if you are a pending Harley-Davidson buyer would something like this make you think twice? Even if you're not, could Harley-Davidson be hurt by this?