Are you selling the category or the brand?

Metaphors are often used in ads, but sometimes they do a better job of selling the category than in selling the brand. The breaking out of the cage metaphor in this Harley Davidson spot does exactly that.

Since no other brand of motorcycle is shown in a cage,  then all motorcycles brands offer the same level of freedom.

Please let me know if you disagree, but meanwhile I’m going to get on my Chinese-made BMW R71 pre-war replica and ride!

About Robert Moss

I write ads: traditional, non-traditional, interactive, edutainment, story-based, broadcast, and experiential marketing events. Sometimes I write about ads and the business of advertising. Sometimes I write about other stuff. The views expressed here are solely my own and don't reflect the views of my employers. I also published a novel called Descending Memphis that's getting great reviews on Amazon. see
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2 Responses to Are you selling the category or the brand?

  1. Tom Eriksen says:

    Just a reminder on how positioning works:
    When you are the market leader you can actually push the whole category. Especially if you want MORE people to jump into owning that bike/broadband connection/fax machine/gym membership etc. IBM did this with much success in the 70ies. Their ads focused on the problems in corporate america and how a computer could smooth out the chores of office work. They acted as a responsible, grown-up market leader. Of course that attracts a lot more business.

    Now HD is not the market leader, I guess that honor falls to a Japanese company. BUT they own the #1 position among americans as THE motorcycle. Hence pushing the whole category may not be so bad. When eventually new customers think of buying a bike the #1 in their brain will always be considered.

    • Jim Canino says:

      First, you make an apples to oranges comparison. IBM, as a market leader in the 1970s, was able to profit the most from a rise in category demand. But Harley Davidson is not the current motorcycle market leader even if it has top name recognition.
      Second, as you point out, the Harley Davidson spot may encourage more first time motorcycle buyers. But they’re more likely to buy a cheaper, entry-level bike. Maybe in several years they may graduate to a Harley Davidson or they may remain loyal to Honda or another brand. But that’s a lot of “mays” and “ifs” and all a long way off.

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