Marketing & advertising are in a period filled w/ uncertainty @ Harley-Davidson
Steve’s breakdown: That headline is a quote from the H-D management. And consider this: Marketing budgets are going up. The head marketing guy is out. The company seems to want to change but tradition is getting in the way. I think this is a must call situation.
MILWAUKEE, WI: Harley-Davidson Inc.’s top marketing executive has left the company less than a month after Harley announced that it was beefing up spending in marketing and product development — both areas aimed at boosting sales for years to come.
Mark-Hans Richer had been senior vice president of marketing since 2007. Previously he spent nine years with General Motors in various divisions.
As part of the management changes at Harley-Davidson, Sean Cummings, who was hired in 2014 and most recently led the company’s Latin America region, has been promoted to senior vice president of global demand.
In his new role, Cummings will lead the Americas, Europe, Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific regional teams, as well as the go-to-market functions, principally marketing, retail excellence and sales operations, Harley said.
He has more than 30 years of international experience in the power sports and recreational products industry, according to Harley.
Richer and Cummings could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
In a statement, the company said: “In his time with Harley-Davidson, Mark-Hans was instrumental in achieving our transformational goals, including expanding our reach to both core and outreach customers, and we thank him for his contributions. The changes are an important piece of the company’s recently announced plan to build on its leadership position in the market and grow demand, with a key objective to lead in every market.”
In October, Harley said it planned to increase spending in marketing by about 65% in 2016 and spending in product development by 35% — about a $70 million increase in those areas.
The changes come as Harley has experienced intense pressure from competitors, including Japanese motorcycle manufacturers and Minnesota-based Indian Motorcycle Co.
“We expect a heightened competitive environment to continue for the foreseeable future, and now is the time for us to dial things up,” Harley President and CEO Matt Levatich said in an Oct. 21 conference call with analysts, following disappointing quarterly sales and earnings.
At that time, Harley also said it planned to eliminate about 250 salaried positions, largely by the end of the year, across the company.
Still, Richer’s departure caught some people by surprise, including Chaz Hastings, a former Harley-Davidson corporate employee who now owns Milwaukee Harley-Davidson, a motorcycle dealership on the city’s north side.
“Mark-Hans has done what the dealers have felt was a remarkable job. He was well respected by the dealer network,” Hastings said. “There have been some people who have left Harley recently who have decades of tribal knowledge inside the company.”
Some of the company’s long-term issues include the need to keep its legacy customers satisfied while, at the same time, attracting new people to the brand.
Brands must not neglect the “growth market” of older consumers to focus solely on youthful audiences, Richer was quoted as saying in October at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“I’m going to go heretical on you, and say that youth does not own cool. Youth does not own growth. Youth does not own innovation or disruption,” Richer was quoted as saying in an exclusive report from Warc.com, an online service that offers insights into the advertising industry.
Marketing and advertising are in a period filled with uncertainty.
“We don’t consume television, newspapers, and the printed word the way we used to. So I am not surprised that a long-standing company like Harley, with long-held traditions, could be challenged by what’s going to work,” said Genevieve Schmitt, publisher of Women Riders Now, an online publication aimed at female motorcyclists.
“Mark-Hans did a tremendous job while he was at Harley, but perhaps it’s time for someone new, with some new ideas that will be more in line with these new marketing avenues,” Schmitt said.