If you’re ever unfortunate enough to stop at Old Street Station’s underground, you’ll hear the words “exit here for Moorfields Eye Hospital” spoken from the intercom.

Unfortunate because if you’re on the tube, it just sucks… Old Street is pretty nice actually.

Then when you do exit, few may realise (or realise why) there is a thick, green line painted on the station platform and pavement that leads out and down the road.

Now if you’re slow to registering where this is leading, the line is guiding those who are visually impaired to the eye hospital’s entrance with safety – can’t be having blind folk wandering a busy roundabout amongst the traffic.

This is an example of someone identifying who their audience is, and recognising their needs and behaviours. And this is a lesson brands should keep in mind.

I also believe there is little coincidence that on the way to the Eye Hospital there are an optician’s offices, who I’m sure would’ve in some way benefitted (more than they do already) had that line not been there.

You may well at first stab, suggest putting a gigantic, neon sign and arrow at the entrance with a marching band to welcome you in to help you stick out, but that wouldn’t do much good for those poor people travelling from their homes located miles away from the hefty, wooden doors of the hospital.

This is something most brands focus on or over-focus on. In digital we’d call it “last click attribution” – completely ignoring any touch point made before the final point of a conversion, and something I believe is utter bullshit because you’re completely ignoring your attempts to attract, lure and persuade users to fall in love with your brand – the harder work to get right, and where you should be bettering constantly. The purchase cycle begins long before you may first expect, but you’d be surprised how much effort is put into prioritising that “buy now” or “sign up” button above all else.

I personally believe the consideration phase is by far the most important, but that’s another post for another day.

And not having effective communication from beginning to end of the marketing funnel or purchase journey, you may encounter other brands pop up in place en route to distract you, like the optician’s office.

Harley Davidson holds an immense brand culture. Their adverts and imagery communication all focus on their legacy, their lifestyle, the freedom a motorcycle offers you, going solo with nothing but your bike and the winding roads, or parking your bike in line with your friends outside the steakhouse.

Their angle is to make people fall in love with motorcycle culture, and then believe you will inherently fall in love with Harley Davidson. Which is pretty interesting when you think all their advertising efforts don’t only increase Harley sales, but all motorcycle sale’s in general – including their competitors.

Their goal is to sell more of their premium motorcycles, but you could say the brand rather have people riding a Honda than not riding at all… And believe their influence along the way is very powerful in one way or another and why people spend a fortune on joining the brand narrative created.

The point is, Harley Davidson knows their audience very, very well – I was taught about their brand strategy when I was in university and with my birthday looming, I know how long ago that was, and it was very true much before then too.

Brands need to understand consumers have fallen in love with their next purchase decision well before they’re reached the till. In fact, 71% of us are more likely to make purchase decisions based on social media referrals. So wouldn’t that suggest you should be investing hugely into social influence?

I ride a Honda, but I love Harleys.

When I was 17, it’s customary to have a Matric (Senior’s) Dance. You dress up, comb your hair and shave the bum fluff growing from your chin, and by extension, you arrive in style. I think everyone believes limos are super shit, so they didn’t feature as much as our American counterparts make us believe, but it was common for couples to arrive in classic cars with hood ornaments or their dad’s single friend’s 5-year-old Porsche.

Parents took photos and everyone watching the gorky guys and young ladies step out the vehicles gave a cheesy cheer as they entered the hall.

I arrived at my small-town High School Dance on a Harley, revved the engine so loud that people who were creeping forward with cameras around their necks rather stepped back, and the bored fathers in the background instead perked up (walk the average bloke past a revving Harley and then on a different occasion past a revving Porsche, and tell me what captures the attention more… that’s branding).

So yes, I ride a Honda, Honda was the optician in this scenario, but that story is pure brand love for Harley Davidson. It embodies the little devil in their brand personality and rebel in us all. That’s because they spoke to me at the right time – probably on the tube at Old Street Station?

Author Valentine Mick

Ad man and basic fuckwit

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