MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — It was the last sentence in a magazine review of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that caught Clyde Fessler’s eye. The reviewer described riding a Harley as like riding a hog through a doorway.
Not a flattering review. But as Fessler likes to say, “If they turn right, we turn left.” He took that reference to a hog, created a Harley-Davidson piggybank called the HOG and sold more than 35,000 in a year.
Fessle joined Harley in 1977 and helped guide the company through a near-death experience — bankruptcy — into an iconic American company. As director of marketing, he took that image of a hog and later turned into the Harley Owner Group (HOG) that now counts more than 1.2 million members.
As the first keynote speaker at the annual Bicycle Leadership Conference, Fessler said that Harley’s image after World War II was one of riders who were bent on “rape, pillage and burn.” The 1950s classic, The Wild Ones with Marlon Brando, didn’t help.
By the mid-1980s Harley was on the ropes. Quality was dismal. Prices were high. And Japanese competitors — Honda, Suzuki, Yamaha and others — were killing them in the market. They were …read more