Saturday, February 03, 2007

Need a New Rebel Brand

Down here in Florida, where it's pretty much motorcycle riding weather year round, we see an overabundance of a certain breed of enthusiast out on the weekend, riding very nice and expensive bikes and decked from head to toe in shiny matching leather outfits. The bikes are pristine and well-cared for and the riders are very carefully groomed as they try to affect the dangerous mystique that riders of their particular brand of bike had in the glory days of Outlaw Bikers.

But you can see behind the fake grimaces the perfect teeth of the well-paid upper middle class. When they park their bikes, they get out little cloths and wipe them down. "Oops. Water spot on my tailpipe." The cloths are emblazoned with the logo of their bike manufacturer.

Nearly 5 to 1*, these weekend pretenders prefer a particular brand of motorcyle. They wear boots from the same maker, as well as jackets, chaps, headscarves, t-shirts, gloves and I'm sure, underwear and socks.

I don't ride a bike yet. But when my time for mid-life crisis comes and I'm feeling the need to make loud noises on the highway with the wind in my hair, there is no way in hell I will ride one of those bikes. The original rebel has turned rebellion into a style all its own - and it's lost all its edge.

Which is why I am watching with interest the resurrection of Indian Motorcyles. They've got a perfect built-in brand builder: America's First Motorcycle. The logo is nice too. They recently bought a plant in North Carolina and hope to be manufacturing bikes mid-year. I will want one. And I want to work on this account. To make a dent in a market completely dominated by a certain Milwaukee bike maker would be fun. And I would pitch the rebel angle.

Suburban street. Clean-shaven dentist sits idling at a red light on his sparkly ego-booster, checking his teeth in the mirror, fixing his hair, pulling out a grey one. Up comes a couple on an Indian, male and female, (try to get Sam Elliot and Andie MacDowell) who idle alongside. Their bike is not clean, neither are they. Glances exchanged, slight smirk crosses Sam's face. Tight shot on gas tank logo. Roar off. Logo and tag: America's First Motorcycle.

You're only selling a mystique, and the mystique of the competition has vanished in market overload. You're selling rebellion, and an army of matching suburbanites riding the same bike doesn't speak of dissent.

I see HD riders trading their bikes in for Indians real soon.

*Ratio is completely made-up and reflects the author's disdain for the overhyped bikes of Milwaukee.

UPDATE: No sooner do I post this and Touchstone Pictures announces the soon coming "Wild Hogs." From the studio: A mis-matched group of bored suburbanites longing to escape the stress of their daily lives and embrace the freedom of the open road finds that it takes more than polished chrome and leather jackets to truly experience the biker lifestyle in this revved-up road comedy starring John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy. Upon trading the comfort of the couches for the thunderous rumble of their two-wheeled street machines, these four adventurous riders cross paths with the notorious Del Fuegos - an authentic biker gang that doesn't take kindly to the weekend warrior type.

Well, good. I hope Travolta and company all get their asses kicked. But my guess is there will be a bunch of HD product placements in this movie.

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  • Someone must have gotten Barbie drunk because she would hella never wear anything like that. Would she date biker Ken? Maybe.

    By Blogger Maulleigh, at February 3, 2007 at 1:04 PM  

  • "Some people wear their rebel on their sleeve. The rest of us just ride past."

    (Sorry, was just working out the radio for Sam.)

    Good post.

    Funny, working on BMW motorcycles a few years ago, they always were worried about that even though their actions never addressed it. It was this fear that they didn't have biker street cred beyond the Euro race circuit, even though they had the brand history.

    I thought they missed a great chance to capture street cred after this little gem was discovered:

    Hell's Angel leader/founder Sonny Barger once said after riding a BMW that it would be the only other bike he would ride besides a Harley. I would've promoted the hell out of that for an American market to kick off a 'rebel' approach and change the mindset that BMW only made cars.

    You also see Harley and how they've become an apparel brand who, oh, by the way, also make motorcycles. The damn retail stores are mega-accessory outlets now.

    By Blogger Make the logo bigger, at February 3, 2007 at 2:07 PM  

  • Nah. Pootling around on Lawrence of Arabia's old Brough is infinitely cooler.

    By Blogger FishNChimps, at February 5, 2007 at 7:38 AM  

  • I'm a little offended by the mid-life crisis remark...I own a bike (BMW F650csa) and I can assure you, though I don't rub it down like a horse when I'm done, there is nothing like having the wind in your helmet! But I do agree that half the people that own Harley t-shirts have never even seen one, let alone ridden one!

    By Blogger greencan, at February 5, 2007 at 11:17 AM  

  • BMW is an entirely different breed altogether, and not favored by the mid-life crisis crowd.

    Helmet. Bummer.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at February 5, 2007 at 11:36 AM  

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