Reframing brand experience: The experiential meaning of Harley-Davidson
Beyond branding as a differentiation strategy, branding theory now recognizes the significance of social, cultural, and political relationships relating to brand consumption. In focusing on the consumer's experience of the iconic brand of Harley-Davidson, this work reports on more than three years of ethnographic research undertaken in Australia. The outcome is a description of the experiential meaning of Harley-Davidson for Australian consumers. The findings confirm and extend previous research (Martin, D., Schouten, J., McAlexander, J., Claiming the throttle: Multiple femininities in a hyper-masculine subculture. Consum Mark Cult 2006; 9 (3): 171-205.; Schouten, J.W., McAlexander, J.H., Subcultures of consumption: An ethnography of the new bikers. J Consum Res 1995; 22 (1): 43-61.) investigating the Harley-Davidson subculture. These findings are also particularly informative regarding the consumer's brand experience. The article argues that personal experience of Harley-Davidson embedded in a collective social act (in this case, the Australian HOG community) is a spectacular (postmodern) symbol of freedom, where the rebel image of the bike and the brand is consumed by (predominantly mainstream) consumers, thus highlighting the co-construction of the consumer's brand experience. Recognizing this co-construction of brand experience enables brand managers and marketers an opportunity to manage and market brands from the fundamental level of what a particular brand means to consumers.
Journal of Business Research