News Column

Online Photo Wall Kicks Off Harley's 110th Anniversary

Jan. 24, 2013

Rick Barrett

Harley-Davidson Inc. wants your photos, thousands of them, for a social media project launched as part of the company's 110th anniversary celebration.

Wednesday, the company said it was looking for photos "with attitude" of people and their bikes on epic adventures or depicting lifelong friendships based on motorcycling.

Since last summer, Harley has been promoting the 110th anniversary that culminates in Milwaukee over Labor Day weekend with a party that's expected to attract more than 100,000 people.

Some 125,000 bikers attended the company's 105th anniversary bash that dominated Milwaukee's lakefront in August 2008 and featured a Bruce Springsteen concert.

This time around, Harley has made the celebration more global with events on six continents and two major parties in Rome, Italy, and Milwaukee. On an international scale, the yearlong celebration is Harley's biggest ever, according to the company.

All of this is prime material for the virtual photo wall on Harley-Davidson's website.

The idea came from Harley enthusiasts and the company's 4.5 million Facebook fans.

There's no limit to the number of pictures the wall can accommodate, said Dino Bernacchi, the company's North American marketing communications director.

"The wall is just going to get bigger and bigger," Bernacchi said.

Increasingly, companies are using digital photo walls as an inexpensive, effective way to connect with consumers, said Felicia Miller, assistant professor of marketing at Marquette University.

With Harley-Davidson's wall: "Every single one of these posts is a mini endorsement for Harley. Frankly, it's efficient. Just think what it would have cost the company to go out and capture these kinds of stories," Miller said.

Social causes and charitable groups also have created virtual photo walls, including one for Vietnam veterans in Washington, D.C.

Such walls take the standard blog or Facebook page to a new level by connecting people with the message in their own way, according to Miller.

"It's self-initiated, and therefore it's heartfelt, genuine and authentic. And it's incredibly persuasive to other consumers because they're talking to each other through the photos," she said.

In another 110th anniversary promotion, Harley-Davidson has enlisted individuals from all over the world to take a single black leather jacket on bike rides and to share their stories online.

The jacket will pass from rider to rider and visit dozens of destinations around the world before it comes home to Milwaukee for the Labor Day weekend celebration and for display at the Harley-Davidson Museum.

The jacket's journey was launched last August when Mark-Hans Richer, Harley's chief marketing officer, wore it during a ride across the Tibetan Plateau in China to help kick off the 110th anniversary.

At a stop along the ride, Richer asked a local Chinese man who was painting road markers to paint something on the jacket to symbolize what he thought about Harley-Davidson. The man painted the Chinese character for "freedom."

Since then, it's been known as the Freedom Jacket, Bernacchi said.

Thus far, the jacket has been worn by motorcyclists in Austria for European Bike Week and at the starting line of the NHRA Pro Stock finals in Pomona, Calif. It has been in five countries, has resulted in six online videos, and there's a lot more to come, Bernacchi said.



Source: (c)2013 the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Distributed by MCT Information Services


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