Essays on Harley-Davidson Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Analysis Case Study

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The paper "Harley-Davidson Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats Analysis " is a great example of a business case study.   The Harley-Davidson (H-D) brand has been in existence for over a century and has over the years succeeded in creating a brand that has a cult-like following, but also one that has gained a customer base that transcends the geographical and cultural boundaries. Watching the video case, one gets the impression that the brand has managed to create some form of consciousness in the H-D owners since they appear to have a sense of belonging, which is acquired through owning the H-D motorbike.

There is also evidence of traditions and rituals that surround the brand, and which understandably play a vital role in enhancing relations among riders who form the brand community. Such traditions include the riding tours held in different markets where the H-D has gained considerable market share, the publications and other avenues that enable customers to interact amongst themselves. Such characteristics of the H-D consumer community form a subculture of consumption that is defined by Schouten and McAlexander (1995) as a “ ... distinctive subgroup of society that self-selects on the basis of a shared commitment to a particular product class, brand, or consumption activity” (p.

43). Case Issues Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis on the H-D brand reveal the following: Strengths: H-D has a network of riders who claim the brand as their own. In addition, the brand’ s longevity could be interpreted as proof of reliability. Further, the brand community and the perceived ‘ good time’ they have promoted brand recognition all over the world. Brand consistency is also a factor that has served to promote the brand’ s image to new and existing customers. Weaknesses: The bad ‘ boy’ image created in the movies or advertisements portray H-Ds as bikes for hooligans and the risk-takers (Howe, 2003).

Moreover, with H-D being an international brand, the company has not succeeded in creating marketing plans that serve the multi-cultural market. Opportunities: Bike riding is a growing sport especially among the non-traditional market segments, which include women and young people aged below 45 years. Further, the brand’ s diversification of operations into apparel and general merchandise presents it with opportunities for new businesses. Threats: There is increased competition from existing or new entrants into the motorbike manufacturing industry especially considering that H-Ds are comparatively more expensive than other motorbike brands (Howe, 2003).

Brand hijack by the consumer community as expressed by Schouten and McAlexander (1995), who state that consumers can take control of the ideology, use or persona of the brand hence denying the brand owner any freedom to change or modify brand aspects. Discussion on the SWOT analysis Based on the SWOT analysis, the factors identified in the weaknesses and threats sections form the issues that H-D should deal with in order to safeguard its brand in the future.

The intensity of the issues, however, differ based on the amount of threat posed to the brand, and some like the ‘ bad boy’ image identified in the weaknesses section does not seem to have much effect on new consumers’ willingness to purchase the brand. This is especially because as stated in the video case, the company has countered the ‘ outlaw’ image through advertising messages that have made H-D brand more palatable to a wider audience.

The company’ s failure to create a marketing strategy that effectively serves the international market does not seem to affect its sales to a great extent as has been observed by McWilliam (2002). As such, this essay identifies (in order of priority) the possibility of brand hijack by the consumer community, and competition from other market players as the two main issues that the company has to deal with.


Howe, R. F. (2003). Wild Thing: for 100 years, Harleys have fuelled our road-warrior fantasies. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved October 11, 2011 from

McWilliam, G. (2000). “Building stronger brands through online communities. Sloan Management Review, (Spring), 43-54.

O’Guinn, T.C. & Muniz, A.M. Jr. (2005). “Communal consumption and the brand”, in Mick, D.G and Ratneshwar, S. (Eds), Consumption: Frontiers of Research on Consumer Motives, Routledge: London, pp. 252-72.

Rust, R., Zeithmal, V., &Lemon, K. (2000). Driving Customer equity: How customer lifetime value is reshaping corporate strategy. New York: Free Press.

Schouten, J.W. & McAlexander, J.H. (1995). Subcultures of consumption: An ethnography of the new bikers. Journal of Consumer Research, 22(June), 43-61.

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